Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why did the chicken cross the road?


"Why did the chicken cross the road?"  the long-established riddle asks.  And amid the elaboration of creative answers, the original stands firm, that which states the obvious, "To get to the other side."

This past week, we explored yet another public playground with two of our grandchildren.  On such a hot and sunny day, an enormous tree held out its arms as a welcome refuge, shading most of the space, a prevailing breeze swirled around us, and the children ran up and down through the wooded structure, designed like a fort.

At one point, our four-year-old grandson, not more than ten feet away from us, stood on a strong beam a mere foot above the ground.  The beam was designed as a bridge of sorts, leading from one part of the structure to another, the literal way and means "to get to the other side."

With one hand on the support post, he took a few steps.  When he had to let go, he realized his vulnerability.  He was on his own.  There was nothing to hold onto.  He looked at us, not for direction, but for deliverance.

"Take one step, buddy."  And he did.  "And now, another step."  Which he also did.  He was making his way across.  One step.  And then, another.  The steps became smaller, until a single step began the smallest of shuffles.  At that point, instead of keeping his eyes on the beam or looking to us for direction, he looked down.  Big mistake.  That short hop to the ground appeared as an abyss to him.

Instead of taking another step -- which would have been the easier thing to do -- he balanced himself, bent his knees and reached down to grip the beam with his hands.  He crawled  the rest of the way.  And that was ok too.  He made it.  Steps, shuffling, and crawling, but he made it to the other side.

Oh baby, I thought, learn to trust God when you are only twelve inches off the ground and when you can see the other side five feet away.  Because not if, but someday, your lifeline will be trusting God across a literal tightrope when the outcome is not so obvious.  Someday you will be a long way up on a slender thread into unknown territory and that seems to go on forever.

Trust God on your beam in the playground.  Trust God with this.  This experience is not an end in itself, but a chronicle of His faithfulness to you... and exactly what you are going to need in your skill set in the years to come.

No matter the impossible difficulty ahead of you today, look to Jesus.  Eyes on Him, staying faithfully on His path for you, even the hard stuff, even that which may make no sense to you at all.  That's what trust is made of.  It may appear to look like devastation, but that is when His power and His grace break through. Take one step, no matter how tiny it may seem.

The first step of a long obedience in the same direction
       is simply that:
                  a first step.
God is faithful.  He will direct your path.

A couple of years ago, we were faced with some huge changes.  What do we do?  It was as if God whispered to us, "Take the one step in front of you."  And then when we did, "Do you trust me with the next?"  We were quite literally inching through the dark.  And even shuffling counts.

When we trust Him, it is not for our glory "Look at me!!!  I did it."  But for His glory,"Look at Me."  Because that is exactly how we get to the other side.

It is not necessarily that God takes us to another place.  The other side may just be a deeper intimacy with him. God enlarges our vision that we may see differently right where we are.

You gave a wide place
             for my steps under me,
and my feet have not slipped.

                         Psalm 18. 36

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not the same person


It is a story about transformation.  It is a story about new affection and new direction.  It is simply a new story for two people who desired change and who changed their desires.  For all intents and purposes, most people would say that they are not the same people, and yet, they have become even more of who they really are.

They haven't lost anything, but have gained new life.  The pictures say it all.  You can read this story of change here.

The transformation is obvious.  But it made me think about other, even more profound, changes in lives, changes in desire, changes in the trajectory of so many lives.

Lee Strobel, the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, was an atheist who sought to prove God wrong.  In the end of his investigation, God changed the course of his life.  His journey is documented in Strobel's book The Case for Christ, which was recently chronicled in a movie.

But what still brings tears to my eyes are a couple of paragraphs, hidden in the last few pages in his book.  As he continued his spiritual journey, now with Christ, his life began to change before his eyes.

Strobel wrote:  "Maybe that sounds mystical to you;  I don't know.  Not so long ago it would have to me. But it's very real to me now and to those around me.  In fact, so radical was the difference in my life that a few months after I became a follower of Jesus, our five-year-old daughter Alison went up to my wife and said, "Mommy, I want God to do for me what He's done for Daddy."
    "Here was a little girl who had only known a father who was profane, angry, verbally harsh, and all too often absent.  And even though she never interviewed a scholar, never analyzed the data, never investigated historical evidence, she had seen up close the influence that Jesus can have on a person's life.  In effect, she was saying, "If this is what God does to a human being, that's what I want for me."
     "Looking back nearly two decades, I can see with clarity that the day I personally made a decision in the case for Christ was nothing less than the pivotal event in my entire life."

Nothing will ever be the same.
That would be your heart.
That would be your life.

The world says you are stuck
    and that you can never really change.
But God says to the contrary,
    God shows to the contrary.
God specializes in changed lives.

Therefore,
if any one is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has passed away,
behold, the new has come.

                2 Corinthians 5. 17

Sunday, May 14, 2017

All the grand blunders of being a mom


All the great blunders I have made as a mom through the years,
the enormous shortcomings,
the large selection of "what was I thinking?"
the "I was not going to make that mistake again,"
the regrets,
the "I should have's"
     and what I did instead,
the D minus days,
an insensitive heart
        and that would be all mine,
the "I had no idea,"
my myopic vision,
the nonreturnable words
     -- final sale, no exchanges--
my downright sins,
the justifiable selfishness
     which is never justifiable,
all these blunders,
          gaping potholes of my own making,
      are just a reminder
that God is God
            and I am not.

I need God.
He is faithful,
    even when I am not.
O LORD, have mercy.
And when I offer up to Him my life
       -- even my mom guilt--
God redeems.

Even that.
Even now.

And as God's Word says 62 times 
           in the book of Ezekiel:

"...and you shall know
          that I am the LORD."

I cannot rewind the past,
but I don't have to dwell
      in the miry bog of deep regrets.
I can repent.
And God can redeem.

I can't do anything about the past,
    but God gives me today.

               
 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Love you Mom


Every year in mid-May, I would stand in front of the racks of Mother's Day cards, pulling out one card and then another, none appearing to be a good fit.  My mom was a different kind of mom -- even more so than I could realize at the time.  I just wanted a card to say, "I love you, mom."

Last week, I stood in the store, buying a card for my precious mother-in-law as well as our two oldest daughters who are both now incredible moms-of-four.

As we checked out, my husband looked at me and said, "What's the matter?  Did we need anything else?"

"I wanted to get a card for my mom too," I replied.  He nodded and gave me a hug.  "I can understand that," he said.  She has been gone for twelve long years in the redeeming place on the other side of life.  I rejoice because someday, I will see her again.  I do not grieve as one who has no hope (1 Thessalonians 4. 13), but I still miss her.

What I wouldn't give to have a cup of coffee with her, to catch up, to listen a little deeper than I ever did before.

What I wouldn't give to be able get her a card for Mother's Day to let her know how much I love her, how much I still love her, how much I always will. 

The ten commandments really boil down to only two:  love God and love people.  The first five commandments address our relationship with God.  The second five are headlined by our relationship with our parents.

Honor your father and your mother,
that your days may be long in the land
which the LORD your God gives you.

                           Exodus 20. 12

What if we really took God up on that promise?

Because how I treat my mom
                           sets the pace.
How I speak of her even now that she is gone,
      those indelible marks of grace and forgiveness
              impact everyone around me
              and even the children yet unborn.

Honoring one's mom
has nothing to do
with her performance as a mom,
                       but grace.
My relationship with my mom
is Exhibit #1 of God's redeeming.
It is what love looks like
        in ordinary ways
        on the most ordinary days.

Mother's Day is designed not to remind your mom
                that you love her,
but to remind you.
The rest of the year is designed
                            to show her how much.

And even deeper than a mother's love is this:
      the LORD loves you even more.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion
               on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
              yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have graven you
   on the palms of my hands...

                             Isaiah 49. 15-16

We may not all be moms,
        but we all have one.
   If yours is still available,
                         call her for me.
Make her day.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Pack your bags


My husband is an avid cyclist.  Even as I write this blog, he is watching on his computer the famed Giro d'Italia bike race, today in its seventh stage.

As the British journalist reported on the event today, the words served more than a description of the riders, but spoke to my own heart.  These cyclists are pushing themselves to the limit in a race.  And we, each and every one of us, struggle with something, sometimes an entree that changes by the day.

"84 km to go and the break are starting to dig deep into their suitcases of courage.  I hope they brought more than just carry-ons.  They'll need the full allowance of 20 kg per person.  And then, of course, you have to pay extra if you bring too much courage and go over the said limit.  "Did you pack this courage yourself, sir?"

Digging deep into their suitcases of courage. I love that.  Because that is exactly what it feels like in a race when you don't feel like you can go another step.

What have I packed? 

What have I been training for?  Life itself.

The cycling news resonated with Psalm 108 that I read earlier this morning:

With God we shall do valiantly;
it is He who will tread down our foes.

                       Psalm 108. 13

God does not promise that we will win,
                       but that He is with us.
The outcome itself
    may not be the triumph,
success may not be the point at all,
but His strength in the journey there.

Dig deep into His strength, my friend.

John Wayne once said, "Courage is being afraid,
and saddling up anyway."

God says, "Don't be afraid.  Trust Me."




Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Go MAD!


When our girls were young and leaving the house for school in the morning, we would tell them how much we loved them, and then often, we would say, "Go MAD!"

Don't just stumble through the day,
don't just do the minimum to get by,
and not just what not to do,
        but what to do.

Go Make A Difference.

We think of making a difference
in HUGE actions and decisions
and that which is recognized
                  as "significant,"
but the biggest changes in this world
are made
    by ordinary people on ordinary days.

That would be you.
That would be me.
We have no idea
   what profound things
   hang in the balance.

What has God put on my path today,
who has He put on my radar,
listening, hearing, and heeding
       "This is My way in this..."

In a take on the tune Home on the Range,
we live in a culture,
"Where seldom is heard
         an encouraging word."

And that is within the power
      of every one of us.

We will never fully realize the difference
        that can make in a life,
often in those deep crises
that are invisible all around us.

No word of encouragement is ever forgotten,
no act of kindness is random.

Plan good.
Look for the opportunity
to Go Make A Difference.
To stand in the gap,
to stand by someone's side,
to do something
     however puny it may seem.

He has told you, O man,
what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

                         Micah 6. 8

What does that look like today?

I cannot solve all the problems of this world,
nor fulfill every need,
but I know in my own life
how an unexpected phone call,
a kind word from the sidelines,
a simple "praying for you!"
     has strengthened this flagging heart.


Do not withhold good
from those to whom it is due,
when it is
in your power to do it.

              Proverbs 3. 27

Monday, May 1, 2017

Suspended in thin air


When I arrived, the parking lot was mostly empty.  But over the course of the next hour or so, women arrived from many seasons of life, taking out of their cars duffle bags, suitcases, and pillows.  They showed up at the YMCA camp for our church's women's retreat.

And with their arms full of necessities, each one brought needs below the surface:  heavy hearts, deep wounds, weariness, desperations with all kinds of disguises, a hunger to belong, and a strong desire to hear from God.

I am not a "retreat person," but I know from experience that I need to seek out the stitches of spiritual formation in daily ways, the weekly gathering of God's people, and those opportunities to listen, to ask, to go a little deeper in relationship with Him.  I have found those times are not just something else to put into my already busy schedule, not the things that tie me down, but release me and cause His strength change my heart degree by degree.

On my way to the meeting hall, I passed the zip line, which looked even higher this year.  Done that once.  No need to repeat that particular fear, I chuckled to myself..

But on the last afternoon, chatting with a new friend, and passing that skyscraping zipline tower as we headed back to the dining hall, she turned and said, "Come on, let's do it."  My reluctance rose up like a shield around me.

No, no.  Can't do it.  Not my skill set.  Not my idea of fun.

Amid that litany of very fine and legitimate excuses, I heard a whisper inside me, "This is not about fun."  but something much deeper than that.

We climbed up to the lower platform.  I can back out at any time, I reassured myself.












A young woman clipped us into the harnesses.  You need this, and this, and this, as she handed us the pieces of equipment, piece by piece, things that I have no idea why, or what, or how they work, not to weigh us down, but to prepare and equip us, and to free us to do the task staring us in the face.

Be strong in the Lord
and in the strength of His might.
Put on the whole armor of God...

                Ephesians 6. 10-11

We had pretty much all that armor, it appeared.  And then, she didn't just hand me a helmet, but tightened the strap and made it secure.

And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God.

                Ephesians 6. 17

We were ready, so equipped, that essentially we didn't even have to hold on by ourselves.  So far, no big deal.  We were, at the time of this picture, a whopping ten feet off the ground.


















We began to climb the tower stairs, winding our way, up, up up, to the higher platform, the place for which we had been equipped.  With each stair tread, my courage decreased.  And then, I caught a glimpse of reality.  Whoa, it is a really long way down.

"I can't do this," I said to the young woman at the top who was strategically positioned to encourage me and to slip me onto the cable.  I thought about how many times in life God has placed people -- sometimes strangers -- who handed me a word of courage when I desperately needed it.

She just smiled gently at me.  She hears those same words hour by hour, day by day.  She hasn't lost anyone yet.

I stood paralyzed, looking so far down.  I simply could not step off that manmade cliff.

"Look out not down," she said, "and if you sit and rest on the harness, it will carry you."



Lowering myself, resting on that harness, I began to roll forward, slowly and gently, beyond my own strength, into a new dimension of trusting God.  Resting on that harness.  That's all I had to do.  And instead of FRIGHT in capital letters, a cool breeze rushed past my face, the world opened up in front of me, high above the trees, and a few friends down on the ground cheered as fear lost its grip on me.

Analogy aside, God was carrying me.  I didn't have to know where or when this wild ride would end, but it was an incredible sense of being held secure in an impossible place, an awareness of just being held, where my feet didn't touch bottom, beyond my control, exceeding my puny idea of strength.

As soon as I reached the end -- and I did not die -- God impressed on me that there have been and will be things in life a lot harder than that.  I need to do things like this zipline.  Because someday, I won't be harnessed in.  Someday there won't be a strongly attached cable with a definitive endpoint.

But there is God.

He's got this.
He's got me.

I need to know not just what trust feels like,
    but God's faithfulness live streamed.
I need to know Him
                  like that,
resting on that harness,
         and let Him carry me
                      into His wonders.













Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Going forth into the day

There is a schedule for the day, big rocks to navigate, appointments in place, some of which I cannot yet see.

But God......

Even what is unknown to me is already in His hands.  There is not fear in the unknown, but sheer wonder in the supernatural....

......because I do not travel alone.  God never intended me to.

And Gideon said to him,
"Pray, Lord,
     how can I deliver Israel?
Behold, my clan is weakest 
                 in Manasseh,
and I am least in my family."
And the LORD said to him,
"But I will be with you..."

               Judges 6. 15-16

His Presence 
         makes all the difference.
There is always victory
          in obedience
sometimes in ways
    beyond our understanding,
sometimes just realizing
            God's faithfulness 
       in impossible places.

"But I will be with you..."

How does that reality change
                my vision in this situation?
How does God 
             change my heart?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Who is this all about?


A couple of months ago, in the midst of seeking God in this crazy season of life, I had been praying about the next step.  And then, it arrived.

I received an unexpected email from the coordinator of the women's spring church retreat.  She presented a need for cabin leaders at the event.  Would I consider being one?

I moved onto the next email, hoping somehow it would disappear, buried in my inbox.

I was not even sure I wanted to GO on the retreat.  But being a cabin leader?  Ahhhh... a dozen immediate excuses lined up in my mind. Outside of my skill set.  Not on my list of gifts.  Not on my life.

I am willing to serve and support in any capacity, fill any need behind the scenes.  Serve?  Sure.  Lead?  Off my radar. And so, this was an easy request for this introvert to pass on to another woman more outgoing, one who bears the extrovert's dream of directing the troops, someone who loves to lead and be in control, more gifted than I, organized and hospitable.

The tsunami wave of excuses gave me pause.  Whenever that surge of justifications floods my thoughts, I know that I am in a losing battle.

God doesn't nag.  God doesn't harangue.  Those are the tools of the adversary.  But God....God continued to lay the opportunity before me.  "Consider this."  

What if....He really wanted me to do this?

I have seen too much to question God in this.  I have witnessed, I have experienced that even one little step of obedience impacts lives we never would have expected.  God opens up something different, not just a new door, but deepens my heart and vision right where I am.

God never operates in singular dimensions.

Last year, a good friend pushed aside my reluctance and signed me up for her cabin at the retreat.  I discovered divine appointments there that I would have missed that have enriched my life and enlarged my understanding of God.

And so, when I received that email, I found myself for a couple of weeks, skirting around that request, like walking around a pair of boots left in the hallway, out of place and gently drawing my attention to "what are you going to do about this?"

As I often pray, "LORD, give me peace, or give me direction."

I accepted the challenge, and God gave me both.

...until the middle of last night.

I awoke when our two-year-old granddaughter cried out from the room down the hall.  She turned over and went back to sleep.  But I didn't.  And all the anxieties about being a "leader" this coming weekend came out of the woodwork.

But before they could gain a stranglehold, I asked God again for peace and direction.

And I felt like God was asking, "Who is this all about?"

"Would you do this for Me?"   

God has placed on my path an opportunity, a need, divine appointments, deep encounters that I cannot possibly fathom, something beyond my own strength, that may not be about me at all.  And probably isn't.

Following God is rarely convenient or comfortable.  The issue is not the outcome or even my lack of abilities, but my own willingness to love Him back.

In reading Scripture this morning, a little piece of a verse stood out to me as if highlighted in neon orange, "and the leader as one who serves... I am among you as One who serves." (Luke 22. 26-27)

It is true that there are many good things that I can do,
         but there is no substitute for His call.
Only one thing is needful:
      Have I followed the LORD in this?

This is not about leading at all, but serving.
Not about being successful in the outcome,
                    but being faithful in the doing.
Not about me at all,
        but all about Him.



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Evidence


I am convinced of the resurrection. Not just by the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection, but from what happened afterwards.

The disciples were sure that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Indeed, the word Christos is the Greek word for Messiah, or Anointed One. And here, their leader had just been killed in a horribly painful and humiliating death. This was not at all what His disciples expected. And so, they huddled behind locked doors, terrified that they would be next.

The disciples thought that was it. Let’s hide until things settle down. At this point, the missing body had caused quite a stir in Jerusalem, to the point that in an effort at damage control, the Pharisees spread a rumor that the disciples had stolen it (Matthew 28. 11-15), further imperiling the disciples.
But that was not the end of the story. The tomb was empty, the grave clothes cast aside, a huge stone rolled away, and the Roman centurions guarding it were shaking in their boots. And Jesus appeared. Over and over and over again. He was alive. He had risen from the dead. Christ was who He said He was.

Nothing would ever be the same. And this raggedy group of cowards were empowered and transformed from a state of fearfulness and despair into those who were fearless and bold. In the ensuing years, with one exception, each one died a martyr’s death after spreading the love of Christ like wild-fire to the uttermost parts of the world.

The disciples were changed. These men who cowered behind locked doors now stood before kings and tormentors. They were transformed. Men will not die for what they know is a lie. But they will give their lives for what they KNOW is Truth. They were eyewitnesses. And nothing could stop them.

What makes the difference is that God is supernatural and life is eternal and Jesus is alive. Death is not “game over.”

That, to me, is the reality of the Resurrection: transformed lives. It still is. I see it all the time. Lives are turned right-side up with no other explanation than realizing the amazing grace that we know as Easter.

He is not here,
for He has risen,
        as He said.

          Matthew 28.6

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Overtaken


The last time my husband Bill and I took this wandering road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was in early December last year.  The forest had just been devastated by a huge fire that engulfed 11,000 acres of the heavily wooded mountains.  Thousands of huge trees lay on the scorched black earth, like so many gallant soldiers fallen in battle, the other towering trees stood vigil, wounded gravely and imprinted with deep scars from the flames.

It was like traveling through a black and white photograph of a war long lost but never forgotten.  The acrid smoke lingered with a sadness and a grief that was hard to breathe.  The air smelled of death.

Late last November, two teenage boys had been "horsing around," one account said, flicking lit matches one by one, laughing as they dropped them into the dry brittle leaves along a wooded trail, an area already stressed from a long-abiding drought.  Huge devastation always emerges from even what would be considered small rebellions.  Sin is never small.  And it always impacts others.

A few days later, the anger of the flames was caught up by hurricane-force winds.  Within a matter of hours, the raging fire spread to Gatlinburg, filled with tourists for the Thanksgiving weekend.  Houses burned swiftly to the ground, tragically killing at least 14 people who, surrounded by the inferno, struggled to evacuate, and leaving homeless thousands of those who made it out with just the clothes on their backs.

But even then, even as the winter rains and snow fell, even in that deep greyness that looked like despair, the redeeming had already begun.  Because even in how God created the trees and the foliage, He designed inherently in them the stuff of resilience and restoration.

God redeems.  We know that.  But this weekend, Bill and I saw the evidence.

We drove along that same road, noticing that the grey barrenness was now showing the beginnings of tender green on the singed forest floor, as an old photograph hand-tinted.  We pulled into a picnic area that had been closed due to the fire.  A trail we had taken in the past was now opened. 

We prepared our hearts for the worst.  We expected a cemetery, a solemn walk, a wake of sorts for the dead, for what had been and what had happened.

But as we emerged up the short ridge from the parking lot, we were speechless, but not from devastation.  We saw what resurrection looks like.



















What appeared as beyond hope, that which was dead or dying, had been overtaken by green, the great bursting forth, not just of hope, but the reality of the God of breaking through and a vision of God's faithfulness.

And He who sat upon the throne, said,
“Behold,
       I make all things new.”

                      Revelation 21. 5

If God can renew, restore, and redeem a dying forest, oh, what He can do in our own devastation and despair.  He brings us impossibly back to life.

Biologists already know that in the aftermath of a tragic fire, newness follows close behind.  The first sign of renewal is the rapid spread of grasses, plants, and a proliferation of wild flowers that are oddly nourished by minerals and  nutrients left behind in the soil by the fire.

 

















What God designed was an emerging carpet of deep green and blossoms as far as we could see, overtaking the scorched areas.  Indeed, even tree seedlings have already begun to spring up out of the ground.  One particular species, the Table Mountain pine tree, which only grows in this mountainous area, actually depends on fire to reproduce.

In some areas where the canopy of large hardwood trees had been opened by the fire, sunlight now penetrates to spur on the growth of young trees and other plants.  And as a result, wildlife has returned to those areas, providing a new and fresh source of food for woodland animals, both great and small.

God redeems.  There is not a person on this earth who has not been affected by this fallen world.  But even in the struggle and the suffering, God provides the strength to get through.  God has already designed the way out, the way through, the way to newness.  He did not just leave hope behind in the ashes or even in what we can see coming up from the ruins.  He gives us hope on which to stake our lives.

We are surrounded by the devastation of wrongdoing, we are consumed by the blight of our own selfishness and that of others, but stronger still is God’s forgiveness to us.  It comes at a cost.  And that is why God sent His Son Jesus.  

To bring us back to life itself – the way God meant us to be -- overtaken by His love and grace.

"They would see with their own eyes, and touch with their hands, the evidence that God's power is greater even than death -- they would know that nothing, and no one, can ever be ultimately lost when God acts to rescue and restore."   -- Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak (2016)




Friday, April 7, 2017

And wouldn't THAT be incredible?


A week ago, we were dog-sitting our daughter's dog Lo.  At one point that afternoon, she dashed out the back door into our fenced yard to "greet" the neighbor's pair of golden retrievers.  A great barking festival ensued, each dog trying to out-bark the other.  When Lo totally ignored my pleas to "come," I ventured into the yard to get her attention.  Together we ran back and forth along the fence as if playing tag, until the other dogs went back into their house.

About an hour later, just minutes before our small group arrived for supper, I noticed in the mirror that one of my earrings was missing.  I scoured the floor inside the house, glanced over the boards on the deck, and reluctantly realized that my little loop earring must be hiding somewhere in the grass.  I looked in the area where I was chasing the dog, but I could not find it.

In the seven days since, it has rained several times, and the lawn has been mowed.  But this morning when I opened the back door, I ventured again into the yard with the wild idea:  "Wouldn't that be incredible if I were to find it now?" I thought.  "It would be so evident of God's hand if I suddenly spotted it in the grass -- something amazing that only God could do."

Even as I looked closely, my hand moving back and forth across the deep shaggy carpet of green and searching between the blades, I was thinking about what a great story that would be, if it suddenly appeared before me.

And as I searched, I thought about many other times when I tried to write a script for God, prescribing what would bring God glory, if He were to fulfill my great idea. "What if God did this...?"

I remembered one particular time long ago in a different season of life and a different city, remarking to Bill when we were on the brink of yet another corporate relocation, "That would definitely be of God, if He moved us there,"  I said, specifying a familiar place.

We were driving in our minivan with three young daughters in the back, and I was pregnant with our fourth.  Even after all this time, I can pinpoint exactly where we were on that winding road, because God nudged me, "And wouldn't it STILL be from Me if I didn't move you there?"

God had greater adventures in mind than I could have ever imagined, most often in places I would have never chosen and in what appeared impossible ways.  What we would have missed is staggering.

Over and over, it was not what I knew, but what I didn't know that proved God's faithfulness and His inconceivable purposes, divine appointments, and strategic encounters -- even in what I cannot yet see, even in what I may never recognize, even what looks like a failure, a huge loss, a bad mistake, or a big fat unresolved mystery, even if it doesn't make for a grand story, even if the earring remains buried in the yard.  All of the above.

"Trust Me."

And wouldn't THAT be incredible?

Now to Him
who by the power at work within us
is able
   to do far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think,
to Him be glory...

                 Ephesians 3. 20-21







Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Less is More


Faithfull,
fruitfull,
selfless.

Woven together without seams.

Enough said.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In my own handwriting


Too many times I have stood --cart in hand -- at the entrance of the grocery, saying out loud, "And what was it I needed to get here?"

I have tried little mental tricks to remember those necessary things like counting the number of items, alphabetizing the list, fooling myself that, of course, I will remember THAT when I get to the store.  I can remember most things, but I nearly always forget something.

My sure-fire method now is to keep a running list on my cell phone.  I may forget a paper list on the counter at home, but I almost always have my phone which I can access, and even add to the list as I go about my day.

And often, just the act of writing it down engraves those things in my mind.

In a recent Bible study, my teacher and dear friend introduced me to the ancient practices of the Old Testament scribes, the early Christian church, and now in countries where it is often illegal to even own a copy of the Bible.  These people for thousands of years hand-copied Scripture, word for word, word by word.  They had their own copy of the Scriptures because they wrote it out by hand -- God's Word in their own handwriting.

And like the grocery list, what we write down, we are more apt to remember.

Despite crazy seasons of life or demanding schedules, this is something every one of us can do.  Pick a book of the Bible.  In the case of my study group, we are focusing on Philippians. Take a spiral notebook, a journal, a piece of notebook paper, and each day, copy out a few verses from God's Word. Copy the entire book, verse by verse,  a few at a time, day by day, word by word, not just sorting through for the big stuff.

When I read Scripture and write it out, a verse, a particular word, a passage, a little piece of a verse gets stuck in my head for the rest of the day.  Think about those things, linger with them, take them with you.  Let your soul marinate in God's Word, deeply emerged in an entire book of the Bible, written out word by word, not just a few familiar verses.

And then, pick another book.

Personal guarantee:  These words will not just be written on paper, but the passages will resound in your thoughts in whatever you are doing.  These same words will slow-cook in your mind and heart.  And you will be changed by God through them.

I don't know if it is the physical action or mental engagement, but writing something down keeps me from forgetting it and engraves it in my life.

Scripture hangs out in your thoughts and does a number on your heart, comforting, directing, and changing the trajectory of your life.  It is not just about information, but all about transformation.  The Bible is not a collection of platitudes made up by man, but the very Word of God.

And there is nothing more powerful than that.

Your Word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light to my path.

                      Psalm 119. 105

Write it down.
Take God's Word with you.
It will change your life.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

By All Appearances


I recently read a book where the author wrote about a time she was the keynote speaker at a meeting.  As she spoke, she looked over the faces in the crowd.  Things always look very different from the stage.  People may have been listening, people may have been changed or energized by what she was saying, but they certainly did not give any appearance of being engaged.  Blank faces and empty expressions seemed to be the common denominator.

Except for one woman ... whose countenance glowed, whose eyes were on her, who had a pen in hand and a notebook on her lap, taking notes, nodding occasionally, smiling as if in recognition of a truth expressed.  Her facial expression reflected an earnest heart.

In her book Pursuing the Intentional Life, author Jean Fleming notes the impact our countenance has on others:  "My body language and expression telegraph signals to those around me.  What message am I sending?"

What message am I sending?

Is the expression on my face being misunderstood as critical or uncaring or irritable?  Is that the feeling I intended to send?

Has my face caught up with my heart in this situation?  Yes, I am listening to you.  Yes, I am concerned.  Does that show visibly?

As Jean Fleming challenges her readers over and over again, an intentional life does not just happen.  Who do I want to be when I am older?  It takes effort.  My heart and my countenance at age thirty will not suddenly be changed when I am seventy, she writes.  The reality then is based on what I am doing towards it now. 

If things are going to be different, something has to change.

This morning I read, "And as He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered..."  Luke 9. 29

It is not that others can tell that I have been spending time with God by how I look, but that by spending time with God, He changes me.  And even in these situations and relationships that I lay before Him, God may (or may not) change the circumstances, but He always changes my heart, my attitudes, my actions, how I see Him, how I see others, how I see the situation, how I see myself.  Even my facial expressions.  And I don't even need a mirror to know that.  There is something different there... an alteration!  And that would be Him.

My time with God cannot help but change even the message my countenance is sending to others. God changes me.  Right down to the laugh lines on my face.

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.

                           Proverbs 31. 25

Through prayer, God drains the despair and fills me with His Spirit.  What is a burden or a heavy load -- and we all struggle with something -- is transformed not by weight but by His strength.

...it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God...

                           Psalm 73. 16-17

What message is my countenance sending today?
          Weariness
          or His Presence that gets all over everything?

 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Shelter in place


...in the place which the LORD will choose,
to make His name dwell there.

                      Deuteronomy 16. 2

As I contemplated the day before me, and sought the LORD in His Word early this morning, this verse popped out to me in the first couple of sentences I read.  A good reminder, I thought. Where should I go today?  What should I do?

I had underlined those words before. As we were raising our family, we were like a nomadic tribe as my husband was transferred to many places for his job.  There were dates jotted down in the margin.  One date from 1987 had the words next to it "news of another move."  I remember that place. At that time, I could not wait to get to the next location.  I guess I had claimed this verse in anticipation of pulling up our stakes yet again.  A new place?  Sure, LORD, when do we go?  I'm ready.  Get out the moving boxes.

As I thought about that date, I realized that in real time, we did not move for another two years from then.  I was ready to go, but God was not.  He had other purposes in mind.

And this morning, as I continued to read the chapters in front of me, I read the same words again and again and again, as if God was making sure that I didn't miss them.  Indeed, the same phrase appeared nine times in two chapters. 

A Bible teacher once pointed out to me that when the same word or phrase is repeated two or three times in a short passage, God means to highlight these words:  Don't miss this.  But repeated NINE times?   Did I get what God was saying yet?

As I wrote out the verse in my journal this morning to engrave it into my mind and my day, I thought about where God wanted me to go and where He was leading me, "the place where He will choose."

And the thought stopped me cold, "Why do I always think that is someplace else?"

I am thinking about going.  God is talking about dwelling.

"Shelter in place" is a term that is used in light of danger and disasters, such as finding a refuge in the face of an impending storm or tornado.  Don't go anywhere.  Stay right where you are.  Stop focusing on another place, the next thing, that other pasture, what someone else is doing.

Dwell here. Not just in my physical location, but in my mind, my heart, my attitudes, my vision.  And wherever I find myself today, as Henri Nouwen once wrote, "Bring the name of Jesus there."

God has deep purposes right where I am, His faithfulness all over it.

O LORD,
help me not be distracted from the present
by what is yet to come.
Fulfill your plans for me
              right where I am today.

Shelter in place.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pockets of time


Even so long ago, in the busiest seasons of my life, God made me aware that He invented time, 24 hours in the day. How was I going to use those precious minutes?  With the blessing of four young daughters, working from home, running the household, I was often overwhelmed not by what I was doing, but by how much was still left undone at the end of the day.  At that point in my life, I felt like when I woke up in the morning, I was already trying to catch up.

One of my favorite people at that time was a mom who had seven children.  She got things done.  She had time for people.  She served faithfully at the church.  She appeared to have margin in her day for what God would bring on her path.  She did not seem frazzled.  She gave the impression of not being overwhelmed at all, but overflowing into the lives of all those around her.

And so, I watched, as it says in the Bible to "mark those people," the faithful ones (Psalm 37. 37).  Watch who they are, what they do, how faithfulness to God is stamped on their days and in their lives.  How did she do it?

My friend did not have huge swaths of time allotted to her, her hours were no more than anyone else.  It was just how she viewed them. Time was not a battle, but a sweet gift from God. And from her, I realized her "secret sauce" was being aware of pockets of time -- and being ready for them.

God was not just a priority in her life.  He was not just prominent.  He was preeminent.  "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1. 17)  Notice in the space of one sentence, "all things" is repeated twice.  "All things" in the original Greek means "all things."  Even now.  Even in this.

And so she saw all of life from a different perspective.  She rolled with opportunities that I would view as interruptions or dead ends.  And she was prepared and ready when a pocket of time rolled into view, no matter how few minutes came in the package.

Once when I asked for time to talk with her, she said, "Great.  Get in the van."  And so, we had a heart-felt conversation for a whole precious hour while she went about her day, picking up one child from school for a dental appointment, taking a meal to someone else, and picking up that same son and taking him back to class.

Between the front seats of the van, I noticed a briefcase.  That, she said, was her "office."  When a few minutes presented themselves, waiting in the carpool line, waiting in a doctor's office, or for someone to show up, in the face of delays, cancellations, disruptions, instead of getting stressed out or irritated, she was overjoyed for a few minutes to get something done.

She carried around with her a Bible to make sure she had yet bathed in God's Word for the day, first things first, and even to refresh a passage of Scripture she was memorizing.  She also carried in that briefcase:   bills that needed to be paid, correspondence to be answered, preparing a Sunday school lesson to teach, lists of people to pray for, the latest book she was reading, and her children's schedules lest she forget practices, appointments, or a kid waiting in front of the school.

She did not waste time.  She used it.  She knew the value of pockets of time, the treasury of hidden minutes.  And when they appeared in unexpected places and in the busiest of days, she was ready.  "If I have to think about what to do," she advised me, "I've already lost the time."

I had one of those occasions this past Sunday afternoon.  There was not enough time to go home between a church meeting and a baby shower, leaving about a 20 minute gap.  I took my things with me, sat in the car where I needed to go next, and prepared my lesson for Bible study this week.  It was not much time. I was not able to get it all completed, but I am already this week 20 minutes ahead, instead of 20 minutes behind.

Pockets of time.  God is faithful.  You can never comprehend how much you can do -- how much God can do --with the gift of a few minutes lodged between the big rocks.  Those minutes are deeper -- and more profound -- than you can imagine.  Go forth prepared.  And keep an eye on your radar, not for if they come, but when.

But I trust in You, O LORD,
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in Your hands...
       
                        Psalm 31. 14-15





Friday, March 24, 2017

Whatever it is


I went to bed anxious last night.  Not a good thing.  Because anxieties are never singular.  They travel in an unruly mob.  I lay stiff, wounded, and not knowing what to do about a particular situation.  "O LORD, give me peace, or give me direction," I prayed.

I was internally hoping God would just evaporate my feelings and let me get some rest.  But instead, two words kept a unending loop in my thoughts, "forgive and love."  And as I pulled up each feeling, each infraction, each wound, the same two words, over and over again.

Forgive and love.

Despair was getting me nowhere.  It never does.  But those two words, forgive and love, softened me.  And I was reminded how, earlier yesterday, I had encouraged someone to bring forgiveness to a toxic relationship and an impossible situation.

And it was like God was saying to me, "Your turn."

I can't say that those two words lulled me to sleep, but they began unraveling the tightness in my heart.  And remarkably -- this woman who like David in the Psalms is awake in the watches of the night -- I slept until my husband's alarm, so deeply that I couldn't figure out what that noise was.

God granted me the peace.

And then, through reading His Word this morning, God gave me direction.  As I read my passages for the morning, I was amazed at the words in this ancient book thousands of years old, as if each verse this day was written personally for me.  Because it was.

Verse after verse was applicable to my situation.  Verse after verse encouraged me not what to do, but how to trust Him.  As hard as it is to figure how to work something out, it is even harder to trust Him through -- to follow Him in this, and not with my own patched together solution.  Because while I want to fix it to avoid the pain, God wants to heal it and redeem it for His glory.  And the only way to the redeeming is by my forgiving and being forgiven.

And as I have often quoted my friend Crawford Loritts, "The only thing harder than waiting on the LORD is wishing that you did."

I read in 2 Chronicles 20. 12:  "For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You."

My eyes, my heart, my mind, my attitude.  Help me to follow Your slender scarlet thread through these volatile places and be prepared for the storms that don't even appear on the radar.

And immediately I saw God's reply three verses later:  "Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's."

I don't need to fight this.  I need to follow You in this.

There is always a lot more going on below the surface than I can ever know ...or need to know.  If I don't respond with "forgive and love," I will always be in the midst of a battle.  Battles never end well.  Forgiveness always does.

Give me Your peace, O LORD,
      and give me Your direction.

Trusting God takes me to a different outcome, leads me through the thicket, and creates a path for others to know Him, and let His glory unfold.

I have no idea what you may be facing, and we all struggle with something.  But whatever it is, forgive and love.  And let God proceed with the redeeming.  He is faithful.  Always and forever.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick and his shield


This is a story -- the real story -- about St. Patrick that I posted two years ago.  It bears repeating.  I remind myself every year there is a deep reason for this holiday.

Marvel Comics are not the only ones with super heroes.  I write today about one who lived an adventure of intrigue, narrow escapes, and who conquered hordes of adversaries, armed with only a shamrock and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

I am posting this account about St. Patrick because your kids need to know -- indeed we need to know-- about this man of faith who lived passionately for God in the face of palpable adversity.  His incredible story is not just great and exciting; it is true. 

St. Patrick (389-461 AD) was kidnapped as a boy and taken to Ireland as a slave.  Years later, he miraculously escaped, but compelled by God, he returned as a missionary to tell the Irish people about Jesus and literally change the course of the world. 
The famed shamrock we associate with his holiday has nothing to do with luck, but everything about Christian doctrine.  Patrick used the shamrock as a visual aid to teach about the Trinity in a way that people could understand, the three in one, the one in three. 

As the Bible reminds us, if we do not pass on to the next generations the true life stories of the faithful, they will soon be tragically forgotten.  These individuals are not merely historical characters, but people of faith who spelled out the reality of God across the centuries.  This is what a relationship with Christ does to a person. This is what redeemed looks like, living what would be impossible if it were not for God.  Christ with me, Christ within me.
Patrick spoke with great gentleness about the grace of Christ to everyone around him for more than thirty years. In the year 433 AD, he composed a prayer which came to be known as "Patrick's Breastplate," a cry for protection in a time of certain hostility and opposition.  Patrick was not naturally courageous. The LORD was his strength.

I had never before heard the powerful words of Patrick's prayer, and it was read responsively at church on Sunday.  The phrases appeared on a screen, recited by five hundred voices strong in unison, and the lyrics washed like a deep current over us, the words no longer belonging to a distant past, but invigorating and fresh. 

Let the words of St. Patrick's ancient text surround and challenge you on this holy-day.

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One,
      and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith,
      Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on the cross
       for my salvation.
His bursting from the spiced tomb;
His riding up the heav'nly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God
            to hold and lead,
His eye to watch,
            His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide,
             His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heav'nly host to be my guard.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poison'd shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation:
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.


For a more detailed account of St. Patrick and his impact on the world, I suggest reading the book How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, or check out "Wearing of the Green," posted on Nightly Tea on St. Patrick's Day 2013.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Show me what it looks like


The door opens and lets in the wintry air.  Shy individuals walk into the large room, the struggling families, the small children, war-torn fathers, grieving mothers, young adult men and women who have known nothing but living in displacement camps, indeed many of them born there.  They troop through the doors of the clinic for their initial health screening in this country.  To them, they expect just another clinic, the lines, the long waiting, the grey strangeness, the enduring, the impersonal --the things they have come to face living as a refugee, without a familiar place, without a home, and treated too many times as a person, it seems, without a name.

I see it on their faces as they enter the reception room.  They see the tables and the molded plastic chairs.  They already look tired.  And it is only 8 in the morning.

But there is something different here.  A gentleness, a peace, some have said, a place where everyone is welcomed by name.

The room is crowded with the senses -- the colors, the smell of weary travelers, the flowing scarves, Hello Kitty t-shirts, new shoes that don't quite fit, many languages blending into a symphony, and here in this place, kindness is the main interpreter.

I have come to love Monday mornings when I volunteer at the refugee clinic.  These people from many nations around the globe have suffered so incredibly much.  They are easy to love.  I am not a medical professional like so many others here who are volunteering their time.  I only weigh these new friends and mark down their height.  And I check their eyes, using a chart taped to the wall 20 feet away from a blue line on the tiled floor.

Because of the language barriers, the many different alphabets and unfamiliar letters, we use a chart where our friends can simply point in the direction of the figure:  to the right, down, up, to the left.  No reading is necessary, no speech, just pointing... until they hesitate just a bit where the figures suddenly fade into just a grey line.

Image result for snellen eye chart

Some use large sweeping motions with their arms to point in the appropriate direction, some just subtly tilt the palms of their hands , and the shy ones, use a barely perceptible index finger pointing in the right direction.

Some refugees are familiar with the procedure, having done it before. For many, the interpreters give instructions.  And for others, well, a lot of instruction can be communicated simply by hand signals and smiles.

Yesterday, a shy little six-year-old girl from the Congo stood on the blue line.  I indicated for her to cover one eye.  And then, I pointed to the figure at the top of the chart.  It was obvious that she had no idea what this was and what to do.  I asked an interpreter to give her some instruction.  He spoke to her.  We tried again.  She did not understand. The chart meant nothing to her. The translator spoke to her again, this time a little louder. He was frustrated and ready to give up on her.

"Perhaps," I suggested, "perhaps, if she watches someone else do it, she will understand -- if someone can not just tell her, but show her what it looks like."  The interpreter motioned for her brother who was a year or two older to stand on the line with his sister beside him.

The boy had already watched his father take the eye test.  And this little boy marched right through, pointing like he was a general, directing his troops.

He finished.  And the little girl took her turn, now easily pointing her way through the chart.  She understood.  She just needed to see how it was done.  The directions were, in a sense, translated into a language she could see and understand.  It was like a light bulb had turned on in her head.  "Oh, so that is what it looks like."

And I thought about so many people around me to whom the name Jesus means nothing to them, and Christianity is just another religion, a different culture, and even something it is not.  They don't understand my worldview any more than a chart of figures that doesn't make sense or spell out words at all.  They don't understand the radical grace of God that Jesus came to reveal.  It is like a foreign language to them. 

All I have to do is stand next to them and stand with them to show what the gospel looks like, revealed in what I do, in kindness, gentleness and grace.  It comes from Christ and how He has changed me.  What love is.  Who God is.

Speak the gospel in words, with the Word, in stories, and in kindness.
But show the gospel, what the love of Jesus looks like, not just in deeds, but by loving others.

 "Show me what it looks like."

"Lord,
when did we see You hungry and feed You,
or thirsty and give You drink?
And when did we see You a stranger
                      and welcome you,
or naked and clothe You?
And when did we see You sick
     or in prison and visit You?"
And the King will answer them,
"Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one
of the least of these My brethren,
         you did it to Me."

                   Matthew 25. 37-40



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cutting the shore line


I awoke in the night, surrounded by so many proverbial pre-schoolers vying for attention, prodding me awake.  I came to the surface of sleep, opened one eye to catch the time 2:38 a.m., (insert "groan" here), but I was not quick enough to feign sleep.  And the entire crowd of phantoms cheered, "She's awake!"

It was as if there was a rather large disturbance in the universe -- at least on my side of the bed -- while my husband slumbered away, undisturbed.

Of course, there are always the familiar fears that lead the parade, terrifying situations and the usual notorious suspects that I thought I had tossed out the front door a long time ago.  "Surprise, we're baaaaack!"  Hurt feelings, rejections, harsh words, sprinkled with razor-sharp bits of panic.  They were all there, along with their first and second cousins, some of whom I had not yet met.  Over and over, they churned around me with their accusations and bullying cries.

"O LORD," I prayed.  "Give me Your peace, or give me direction."

The hours ticked by.

As I turned over one way and then another, listening to the wind howling outside, waiting for the first shadows of dawn, the disturbance continued.  But now as each word and situation came to the surface to testify against me, instead of fighting against them, trying to justify, trying to forget, trying to go back to sleep for even a few minutes before the alarm rang, I felt like the LORD was whispering, "Forgive it.  Forgive it and let it go."

I would pull up another fear or anxious thought.  "But what about this?"  Forgive it and let it go.  "But what about THAT?"  Forgive and let it go. "Even that?"  Even that.

Forgive as you have been forgiven.

Forgive them back.  Forgiveness starts the healing.

After two hours of tossing and turning, I sneaked out of the bedroom, made the morning coffee, and this is what I wrote down, the words spilling over each other in my journal:

Forgiveness doesn't have to wait for someone to ask for it. I can go ahead and in my heart forgive the person, forgive the offenses and the wrongdoings, and the harsh words meant and unmeant, and not keep accounts.  Forgiveness is not saying "Oh, that's OK," condoning the storm, but letting go of the bitterness before it metastasizes like berserk cancer cells on a campaign of their own, before the hurtfulness hardens into ammunition for another battle, before it builds an impenetrable wall in the way of relationship.

Forgiveness means you are more important to me than anything.  Forgiveness acknowledges that we all mess up, all we like sheep going AWOL.

Forgiveness is not snapping a plastic shield in place to keep from being hurt again. It is not like the non-stick coating on my frying pan that gives the appearance of "I don't care."  But instead significantly, forgiveness forms the stickiness of relationships.   

"Confession and forgiveness are the concrete forms in which we sinful people love one another," stated Henri Nouwen in In the Name of Jesus.

Forgiveness is the highest form of love.  I love you no matter what.  My love for you is not based on you performing to my standards, not based on your lack of perfection or mine, but just because you are you, and I love you.  Just like God loves us.

On my bathroom mirror right beside my ragged typed out passage from Romans 12. 9-21, I scribbled on an index card another quote of Henri Nouwen from his thoughtful book Home Tonight"But constantly forgiven, we have power to love others more." 

I have read those words and repeated those words and engraved those words in my heart for the past three months.  Because I am forgiven, I can love again.  Constantly forgiven, I can love even in this.  I can love.  Because He first loved me. (1 John 4: 19)

But after my reluctant "conversation" in the middle of last night, I feel like I need to add, "But constantly forgiving, I can love others more."  Again.  And again.  And again.  Forgive and let it go.  Not time to move on, but time to stop picking at a wound already forgiven.

I DID ask forgiveness.  I don't know if I was forgiven.  "Doesn't matter," I felt like God was saying, "Forgive and let it go."  Before their asking, before even recognizing the wrong, before acknowledgment of the hurt, before realizing what was done -- maybe even without EVER realizing the devastation that was caused --.  forgive it in my heart and let it go.  Start the healing,.  "IT STILL HURTS," I cry to God.  Yes, I know, says my Savior who died for me.

There are no small forgivenesses, nor any too big for God to redeem.

Am I the one in need of asking God's forgiveness?  For not forgiving others, or asking their forgiveness?  For even my "5 percent of fault" in what escalated, or how I responded, or to what I am still clinging?

"Our agony comes through the willful stupidity of our own heart.  We won't believe, we won't cut the shore line, we prefer to worry on," notes Oswald Chambers in his classic My Utmost for His Highest.

Forgiveness cuts the shore line.

Am I the one not letting go?  To let it heal?  To allow God to redeem?

After all that time last night, it turns out it was not fear or anxiety that kept me from sleeping.  It was not the adversary's accusing rant.  It was God's still small voice and some unfinished business with Him.

Be kind to one another,
tenderhearted,
forgiving one another,
as God in Christ
               forgave you.

          Ephesians 4: 32

Forgive
       and let it go.