Category: Writings (Page 1 of 8)

Reflections in a Clouded Mirror, 2nd edition

Hey all, I am happy to report that I have finally finished republishing my first book as an updated 2nd edition with additional content—introduction, acknowledgements, preface, and table of contents. Please check it out at Amazon: click here or on the front cover image below. Thanks bunches for your support!

No Substitute for Time

In the process of preparation, there is no substitute for time. This is true, whether you are preparing a meal, preparing for a journey, or preparing for battle. I thought it this morning when I was trying to clean my cup from yesterday’s breakfast. To get it truly clean required that I let it soak in soap and water for a time. I tried to speed up the process by using boiling water from the coffee maker, but that only speeds it up some. I still had to let it sit for a bit. That’s when I had the thought, There is no substitute for time.

The addition of heat, or pressure, to the process can help it along, but without enough time, preparation will be inadequate. If you don’t let the turkey cook long enough, then it won’t get cooked all the way through. If you don’t take time to plan your route and prepare your suitcase or bag, then you will either have trouble finding your destination, or you will have insufficient changes of clothing. If you don’t gather enough supplies or train properly, then you will probably lose the battle you have to fight.

There is no substitute for time. When God makes us wait on things we don’t want to wait on, and we can’t figure out the reason why, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason. It simply means we can’t see the big picture. All these long months (or years maybe) of waiting have their purpose, even if the only purpose is to test our trust in God. Building character is something that cannot be done in a hurry. Learning patience only comes about through having to wait on the Lord. Beyond that, we have to realize that our finite understanding cannot comprehend the mysteries of God… like, why do I have to wait for my husband to get a job? As Jeremiah put it, why do the wicked prosper? Why can’t I have “___” when I think I need it now? Why did a perfect man like Jesus Christ have to suffer and die for other men’s sins? Why do children suffer?

These are unanswerable questions in the realm of reason. Sure, there’s the problem of original sin and how God is waiting patiently waiting for the wicked to turn to Him (Ez. 33:11); but, honestly, how does my waiting affect the world around me? I am reminded again that in the preparation process, there is no substitute for time. Time is probably the most important ingredient in any recipe, journey preparation, or in getting ready for any kind of battle. Perhaps, this time of waiting will produce a savory meal suitable for my God’s table, or maybe the next season will be one of change and travel… or maybe the next season will be a season of war, and I need to be spiritually prepared.

Whatever the reason is for waiting, Paul said, “I have learned in all things to be content. (Ph. 4:12)” This means that even in the times of waiting, he learned contentment. Truly, truly, it’s a long journey that we travel in this life. Sometimes we have to stay in one place. Other times we have to race as fast as we can to the next place. Wherever we are at on the journey, in the process, or whatever terminology you choose to use, there is no substitute for time and the only way to pass through time with any degree of contentment is to trust that God really does know what He is doing.

*I ran across this piece that I wrote in the fall of 2009. As far as I can tell, I’ve never published it anywhere, so here goes… 🙂 Maybe it just needed to percolate on the back burner for the past few years so I could really appreciate it, thus proving the point. I did make a few minor editorial tweaks, but for the most part, this is as it came out of my head in the first place.

True North

One’s moral compass should not be calibrated by the socially acceptable or civilly legislated standards of the day. True north is always, always God’s standards set in His word. When the Sanhedrin told Peter and John they should stop preaching Jesus, Peter’s response still holds true, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20) My experience, my heart, my changed life, tells me over and over and over again that I can trust God, that He is a good God, that His love shapes me for my ultimate good. Thousands of years of believers stand testament to this, so WHY would I have any interest in conforming to make others more comfortable?

Truth is supposed to make you uncomfortable; otherwise, you would have no reason to change. The goal is to become more like Christ—not some fictional, socially acceptable, wimpy Jesus—but like the Jesus who stood up to the Pharisees of his day and said, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:6-8)

Governments may legislate; Churches may decree standards (by democratic vote! …and where is that in scripture?); but God’s word reaffirms that when we stand before His throne, we will not be able to excuse our behavior by saying, “But they said it was okay!” We are accountable to God, and to God alone, for our own choices and our own actions. I leave you with the words of Christ in Matthew 10:

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell…. 34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

How can I be a child again?

When I think about my childhood, all I can remember is trying to be older, more adult, part of the grown-up crowd. I spent most of my time listening to the grown-ups talk or reading to escape my childhood.

I’m sure I must have played sometimes. I had toys and games, favorite dolls and stuffed animals—although those last were mostly because I felt I needed comfort. I was happiest deep in a book, far away from my environment. I had no idea how unhappy I was, though I remember long periods spent staring blankly, without thought or focus.

There was the interlude when my brother and I were on the local swimming team. It got me out of the house and into something competitive and physically challenging, but after less than two years I lost interest and stopped competing.

By the time I was a teenager, I became conscious of my unhappiness. My first remembered bout of depression came when I was somewhere around age 13 or 14. My parents had left for the Sunday evening church service, and I was waiting on my ride to youth group. I recall standing in the kitchen, staring at the oven, and thinking I could just slash my wrists with a knife and be done with “it.” In all honesty, though, I’m not really sure what “it” was. Thankfully, I did not act on the impulse, and it passed.

School was actually a good place for me. I enjoyed learning things, even though I hated the homework assignments. What kid doesn’t hate homework? I mean, like all kids, I preferred controlling my own free time. But, I was a loner, a thinker, and an outsider for the most part, at least as far as I can remember it. Middle school and high school band offered me a new outlet…music. Music came to me like breathing, and I dove as deeply into it as I ever did into reading, because it was another escape from my home environment.

Still, being a child is not something I remember ever really “being” in all truth. Moments, yes. Brief interludes, yes. Childhood…no. What was that? I had to take care of my younger siblings from the time I was between six and seven years old. I had a depressive, suicidal mother and an abusive father. It is interesting to me that when I think of my childhood, I have this sense of everything being overlaid with a brown-colored filter, like a sepia photograph. It speaks to me of fear (of my father), sadness, uncertainty…hunger.

These last few years as I have begun exploring more spiritual experiences, one thing that has stood out for me is the Lord’s repeated references to the joy of being a child, to playing with Him—on the beach, in the fields, and on the clouds. One of the most powerful experiences happened this spring (2016) when He took me to a place in the Spirit…and I was nine years old again. I don’t even remember all the intimate details of what He talked with me about, only that I found myself weeping in some kind of inarticulate grief for something of myself that I had lost.

I would like to think that I can find childhood again somehow, even if I am in my late forties now. All this adult, super-spiritual thinking about resting in the Lord seems to point back to the attitude of a child that Mom and Dad take care of everything. Good parents do, after all, put the food on the table and the clothes on the bodies of their children. They provide protection from people that pose a danger to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of their children.

In actual fact, God is the ultimate parental role model. Father offers love, protection, and provision. Holy Spirit offers comfort, guidance, and encouragement. Jesus is our best friend, our oldest sibling, leading by example in His reliance on the Father and the Spirit. I’m trying to figure out how to stop trying to figure things out all the time. I want to rest and be a child in His presence who trusts without question, but I keep banging my head up against this internal wall of intellectualism, fear, and an overwhelming desire to escape reality again.

Please, Lord Jesus, help me to trust without question and rest in Your presence again. Help me, Lord, to be a child again.

Being Me

There really is no way to quantify, or qualify, the struggles I have been so deeply entwined inside the core of my being, my very selfness, so to speak. Sometimes words help. They used to help a lot more. These days…not so much. I find it difficult, almost impossible if I were honest, to articulate how deeply I have been torn, confused, unhappy with myself, while all the time wrestling my own soul into an acceptance of God’s immeasurable grace. Even just saying that to you only highlights to me the inadequacy of language.

I feel, at times, buried under the deepest seas, feeling the weight and burden of sustaining my life with all its practical demands (food, sleep, clothing, and hygiene) and the added burden of the necessary interactions with family, friends, coworkers, strangers in the marketplace, etc. When I feel overwhelmed to that degree, all I want to do is sit still in my house in the dark and withdraw from the world.

Then there are those moments, and most of the time they do only feel like moments in retrospect, when I feel confident in my place before the Lord—sustained and lifted by the Spirit into the unseen reality so that I am comprehending more fully all of what is happening around me and experiencing the fullness of Spirit life until it boils out of me in tears. I cannot tell you whether those are tears of joy and gratitude that I am once more participating in what God is doing, whether they are tears of sorrow and frustration for the difficulty that both I and those around me have in letting go and letting God, or perhaps a combination of the two extremes. I only know that I weep in some visceral response that I have no control over and no desire to control.

I find myself reaching for things out of years and years of habit:

  • books to read, that once I start reading I lose all interest in;
  • food to eat, which has little or no taste appeal anymore and makes me feel physically less well in various ways;
  • alcoholic drink, which no longer really tastes quite right and doesn’t make me feel any better;
  • music, that I also lose interest in quickly once I start listening;
  • physical activity, which I find I have no desire to attempt and no strength when I attempt it anyway;
  • and even sleep has no appeal and seems pointless.

It is at this point that I am just beginning to recognize the tastelessness of my current existence. This also seems paradoxical. I don’t feel in the least bit suicidal, which might be the obvious conclusion an observer would make. “Being” me just feels gray. I love; I laugh; I cry; I get angry; I talk and banter with others; and it all appears to my observer’s mind to just be external. Maybe I have not physically shut the door and turned out the lights, but on the inside, I’ve turned off. I feel no connection.

Oddly enough, I know this to be a lie. I am very connected with my loved ones and friends. We pray together, and I see the truth of the spiritual realm around me. If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to say that the reason everything feels so gray and disconnected is because I keep searching for the ultimate connection with the Life inside me, yet I cannot seem to find it.

It’s there. God’s there. He’s there beyond a shadow of any doubt. I know this only because I know this deeper than words can articulate. I’ve always known His presence in my life. I cannot conceive of life without. I think what I’ve been struggling towards is some way to let go of all the things I reach for and simply sink into the Person of God, the Holy Spirit, already indwelling me.

O Lord, may you give the ability to quit striving and rest in You.

unmerited favor

In my own weakest moments, I have never wondered if God exists. I have never ceased being grateful for all the things He has already done for me. But I do frequently wonder why He loves me, and I am often convinced that I do not deserve any action by Him on my behalf. Then I realize all over again that I have never “deserved” any of the blessings I have received. I could never earn, have never earned anything. The most powerful work of God in my life is His grace—absolute and unmerited. He gives me life because He loves me, and He loved me “while I was yet a sinner (Rom 5:8)” and “while I was alienated and an enemy in my mind by wicked works (Col 1:21).” Once I realize the magnitude of His grace and love towards me, I can once again approach the throne with boldness to ask what I need—healing, provision, encouragement, or protection. I can have absolute confidence that He is more than able to say yes to my needs, and if He chooses to say no, then I can trust that there is a greater good that needs working through.

Holy God, Maker of the Universe, let me never hold the false belief that I have “arrived” spiritually. Let me always strive for more of You in my life, more of Your word in my heart, more of Your Spirit moving through me so that I can come to know You better…every single day.

Grace

Author’s note: I don’t recall ever feeling quite so reluctant to share one of my poems before. I know this is quality stuff. I read it at church last week and a former English teacher practically gushed about it. Still, for some reason…I dunno. I’m mainly doing it because I feel I ought to, and I sincerely hope that it helps someone. Please read S.L.O.W.L.Y.—as in one or two lines at a time so you can take it in properly. Then sit quietly at the end. You might even be able to hear Holy Spirit speaking to you when you are through…

We all run around like crazy…

Our moral compass kicks in,
So we try desperately to do and say all the right things,
And avoid saying and doing the wrong things.
We think if we DO,
We’ll feel better about ourselves…
Feel closer to God,
Feel more like what we assume we should feel like
(Whatever that may be)—
More pious, more humble, less prideful,
More happy, more peaceful, less anxious.

Then we worry about the relationship maze:
Making the right impressions,
Ignoring or paying attention to people around us
In an effort to balance our private lives,
Our family lives, and our social lives—
Including all those random encounters.
Do they love me, like me, or hate me?
Do I care what they think?
Is all this relationship stuff really necessary???

Those things, of course, are beyond the basics,
Our need to survive—
To eat, to drink, to sleep—
And our need to have some sense of aesthetics
Just for the sake of mental health—
The beauty we see and the order we need.

It’s all ridiculously jumbled together into
Jam-packed 24-hour time slots,
Where the clock keeps beating us over the head with,
There’s not enough time!
There’s not enough time!
There’s just not enough time!
Tick…Tick…Tick…Tick…Tick…

Then one day, time stops for us.
We die.
This could be literal,
Or it could be one of those rare moments
When just for an instant our brains and hearts
Find some kind of suspended equilibrium.
There’s suddenly mental space in our heads
Where just for a moment we realize,
We just ARE…
Until the chaos in our lives takes over again—
Mainly because we LET it!!!

Just. Stop.
Breathe.
Unfocus from the insanity.
Embrace grace…
God’s compassionate grace.

Trust the Holy Spirit to let you know
When to be concerned with
Our thoughts, our actions, our motives,
And how to interact with others,
But above all,
Trust God to help you know
When to DO,
And when to BE
…And when to be still and know
He. Is. God.

Anvil of God

Men’s souls are shaped on the anvil of God under the pressure of circumstance. It is only by bathing ourselves in the fire of His presence that we can become malleable enough to be molded into the shape He designed for us from the very beginning. Being hammered upon without enough heat to enable change will only break us to pieces in the end.

Seek God in the glory of His goodness as Moses did, so we can display His unspeakable Love by our submission to the process. He designed all the happenings in our lives for each of us to be conformed to the image of Christ that is unique to the shape within our own DNA and brought to completion only in Him. It is not about shaping us into something unnatural, but is about bringing who we are intended to truly be out of our hidden core and into the Light for others to see. Only then can we be the perfect implement for His hand to wield…whether a sword in battle or a plow to till the field.

Posted on LinkedIn as a response to a recommendation to read

I’m a pretty avid reader (think 3-5 books a week), and I have been since I was five years old. The thing that trips me up about that is that I have found my time consumed by books that DON’T MATTER in the grand scheme of things, primarily because my favorite reading material is sci-fi/fantasy with mystery/thriller/action books a close second. Those things are just stories about fictional characters, and it’s just another kind of addiction/method of escapism. I know this. I have known this for years and years.

I do read non-fictional books as well, although not as many. 98% of those are Christian in nature. When I do read those, I find God speaking to me in a lot of different ways… but even those have not helped me as much as the people recommending those books thought that they would, or that I thought they would (help me, that is).

What I have found, though, is that reading the scripture gives me an almost tangible sense that God is breathing new life into me. Even if it’s something I’ve read repeatedly hundreds of times in my life time (Psalm 23 for example). When I’m desperate for a touch from the Lord, I don’t pick up a book that some really anointed (no sarcasm at all here!) spiritual leader has written. I do go back to the basics and reread the book of Genesis, or Isaiah, or various Psalms, or the gospels, or some of Paul’s letters, or even Revelation (especially when I need hope).

I realize the value in reading, and it is a sorely neglected skill. DO read. Do read recommended books. Maybe something that spoke to the person making the recommendation will speak to you. But first and foremost, READ THE BIBLE. It was my favorite storybook when I was a child, and that’s exactly how I think people forget to read it. We’re always looking for something from God in a verse that we want to speak to us, relevant to our situation. We’re usually studying it to dig out deeper meanings or to find support for things we feel God has put on our hearts.

How often, though, do we just sit down and simply read HIS story? It’s the story of His glory… how often He showed up and moved or spoke or breathed into a situation and changed that situation by simply being there. If you can just take it in, over and over again, then without even intending to do so by human effort, you will find yourself hiding His word in your heart.

Today was one of those days when I woke up flat on my back and couldn’t get up. I couldn’t do anything but lay there and cry for a few hours. But when I talked to the Lord, the scriptures whispered back to me. When I said, “I can’t handle this, Lord,” He said, “My grace is sufficient.” When I thought of how dark my life looks right now, Psalm 23 wandered through my heart: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” When I just wanted to scream that despair was overwhelming me, I heard, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for…” Even now, I keep hearing, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid?”

Reading matters. Reading the Word matters even more–not just to obtain something for a sermon or a song, not just to find an answer for an argument against Christianity, not just to find something that speaks to us when we’re looking for answers, but just because IT’S GOD’S WORD. When we know it well, He DOES use it to speak back to us when we need it, and He can use it to speak through us for someone else’s benefit in song, sermon, or just daily conversation.

Hope this has been helpful for someone.

Intercession

When You wake me with Your presence,
Your purpose shines in my heart like a beacon—
Drawing me onward towards Your light,
Weighing my heart with compassion for Your people…
I cannot be still!
I ache for You to reveal Yourself
To those my heart loves,
To those I have known through the years.
It feels like time is so short,
Sometimes I quiver inside with the effort.
The names and faces wander through my heart, and
I feel so desperate for them to wake
To a new awareness of Your reality in their lives!
You can move them, Lord Jesus;
You can shake them, Father God;
You can show them, Holy Spirit,
The authenticity of WHO You are!
So, my lips move in a silent plea,
My spirit aches with a fierce compassion,
Words fail me completely as I groan speechlessly
With a Holy Spirit travail inexpressible any other way—
Till at some point I feel release,
Finding rest again in Your arms.
…And Abba, I invite You to continue to awaken me, too,
Each new day to a greater awareness of You.

Romans 8:26,27

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