Sunday, August 14, 2011

Navigate By Joy

Yesterday I was speaking at a success workshop for kids. The group was comprised of 45 youth between the ages of 8 and 13 years old. I was teaching them about E.Q. versus I.Q. and the value of being able to articulate feelings. E.Q. is the quotient each of us possesses to say how we feel, ask for what we need and articulate what is going on in our hearts.

Each youth was given an assortment of colored pencils. I asked them to pick a color initially that represented their "upset" feelings. For each one it was represented by a different color. And then I asked them to pick the color that represented "happy" to them.

For me that color is yellow. Something about the color yellow ignites me, fuels me, does my heart good. It evokes images of brilliant days on the beach, sunshine, fields of happy sunflowers, drives in my yellow XTRRA, and sales at Walmart smiling at me. It makes me feel joy.

There is power in finding what brings you joy; the giggling, infectious, gotta let it out, holding your belly joy. Equally as powerful is clarifying what brings you pain.

When you find those two polar opposites there is born the ability to navigate your life in such a way that no longer depends on luck, but is guided by clarity.

Luck cannot be the fuel of your life for it is rare. And you cannot always avoid the realities of pain in the human existence.

Find your happy spot, your happy color, your joy. Navigate and fuel your life by it - and you will find your life path is truly miraculous adventure.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

God's Not A Side Dish

As I walk the halls of the ICU I can see into each room. Most of the patients are lying in the hospital beds with ventilators, beeping monitors, white gauze wrappings and crumpled non-important linens. In some rooms I catch the eyes of the visitors. Always the same look.


Usually the patients in ICU are not coherent. It is the visitor that is alert. And the visitor is suffering.

As I stop at certain rooms and sit for a while, listening to the hurts as a Chaplain, I have the profound opportunity to follow the trail of breadcrumbs into their deepest pain. Almost all of those I talk with in those rooms wish they had made God more important in their lives.

It's in those moments where we might lose someone we love that we become introspective. It's in those moments that we realize our life has been full of many things, career, money, possessions, ego . . . and that none of them really satisfy. All of the investments of time and energy truly never fill our spiritual bellies like the depth and sweetness of a relationship with God.

In those moments people realize that God is not a side dish. He's the main course.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities and go weeks without God. We have the time to buy that iPad, see that latest-greatest movie, try out that new restaurant . . . but in the buffet of life, we find ourselves too busy, too full of other things . . . and God time ends up looking like that half a peach with a scoop of cottage cheese.

Friend, I hope you never find yourself in an ICU with ventilators and beeping monitors. I hope you never find yourself sobbing by the side of a bed begging God to help you make sense of a terrible loss.

But if you ever do have those traumatic moments . . . I pray that you've feasted on God daily so that you have the spiritual strength to endure tragedy. I pray that you've gotten to know God's character, trust His power and will for you and your family, and feel His divine hand in your life.

In those moments big and small, I pray that you've made God the main course.

You see, God's not a side dish. He's why you came to the table in the first place.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Honest-To-God Truth

None of us like to look like liars.

But we are. In big and small ways. None of us want to be seen as self-deceived sinners. But we're that too.

It's an interesting dynamic to be human. We're smart enough to hide our sins, cover our tracks and plead innocence, and we're just narcissistic enough to imagine it doesn't matter to God. It does. And, ultimately, it really does to us too.

So friend, and I'm calling myself on it just as pointedly, when was the last time you told the honest-to-God truth about your life? When was the last time you sat down with your Heavenly Father and laid out the good, the bad and the ugly?

I'm not a hell-fire-and-damnation Christian at all. I believe God to be a sweet, tender, loving Father with a plan of Atonement through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. There is a way to be forgiven for our failures, our indiscretions and even thoughts that often derail us. The first step is to have a "come to Jesus" moment.

In my Chaplaincy program I see this "come to Jesus" moment up close and personal at the hospital when people are facing death; either their own death or the loss of someone they love. In that moment even those who've questioned the existence of God, weigh in on the choices of their lives with fear,trepidation, regret and sorrow.

We need not wait til the end of life to balance the internal budgets.

The Bible tells us in Psalms 32:1-5
"Oh the joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, "I will confess my rebellion to the Lord."

And You forgave me! All my guilt is gone."

There may not be room to tell every single person in your life the truth about your journey, your sins, your weaknesses, your inner change of heart or your pain. Really, they may not care. They may not even be aware of your turmoil or self-deception. However, God cares. And in all honesty, you care.

If you were sitting alone in an emergency room, saying goodbye to your parent, your child, your spouse . . . or if your life were to flash before your eyes in a car accident today . . . what flashes would you see? What negatives would you want to NOT see?

Every minute we are alive we are given the grace to approach the throne of God in prayer and tell the honest truth. God promises us that nothing can keep us from His love and forgiveness.

So today . . . let it be that day . . . the day to tell the honest-to-God truth.

Go ahead. He's listening.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Power of a Mother's Spit

I'm one of those moms that out of instinct I lick my palm and swiftly pat down the unruly stalks of blonde hair on my son's head. Of course, he immediately backs up and with disgust rebukes me, "Aww mom! Geez Louise! When are you gonna quit doing that??? I'm eighteen now!"

Ya. I'm that kind of mom.

And I still threaten to take my kids over my knee if they don't behave. Even my son who towers at 6'1 KNOWS I'm dang serious. Well, at least in principle. : )

He knows I mean business. When I say no tattoos if you're living in our home, I mean it. If I say not a drop of alcohol in our house, I mean it. If I say get your butt in gear in your Math class, I mean it.

It's not that my kids are perfect. And I'm not a perfect mom. But I come from a long line of mommas that mean business. I've seen the power of a mom that spits on her hand and doesn't let her kid go out in public without taking responsibility for themselves.

Years after my own mom wouldn't hesitate for a second to wash my mouth out with soap for a bad word, pull inappropriate posters off the wall with a vengeance, or hunt us teenagers down at a party if we'd snuck out the window . . . yeh. My mom did all those things. And thank God.

We always knew my mom was serious when she said something. Just a look had us scrambling.

As I watch the news and hear about road rage, theft, violent teens killing or hurting their parents or young people vandalizing religious buildings, I'm grateful for my mom's pure grit.

I'm thankful for the spankings with the pancake turner and the times we had to hug our siblings and make-up. I'm a better person directly because of it.

The next time you hesitate to discipline your child, the next time its easier to just pick up their socks or bring them the lunch that they forget AGAIN for the third time this week . . .

. . . just remember there is power in a mother's spit.

It may just be several years until you see it's fruition.

Spit on your palm and flatten the unruliness anyway.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Wanna Be A Hottie - A Hunka Burnin' Love

What's really "hot" these days?

Ads on Facebook tell me there's a new wrinkle cream, and commercials during "American Idol" coax me to buy a bigger tv screen. There's a new "Smartest" phone, a provocative steamy singles' website, and a late night wonder drug to lose weight without trying, promising to make my thighs tight and my aging buttocks super lean and sexy. So many hot products, hot ideas and hot salespeople chanting mantras into my home and my life, promising success, love, sex, prosperity . . .

And then I open my Bible . . . 1 Corinthians 1:27 "God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important, SO THAT no one can ever boast in the presence of God."

I want to know what God wants. Want to know what is top priority, what is HOT in God's perspective. Not necessarily what the world thinks is hot. I want to be a hottie, not a "hauty" . . . God says there is a difference.

Some years ago I visited the city of Orleans, France. The real place on the map, the very city that hid Joan of Arc during very turbulent times in French history. Joan of Arc was a hottie. She had visions of leading the French to victory - and as a peasant farmgirl who told of visits by angels - she DID lead the French in battles that seemed impossible. She led soldiers to battle and then to victory. She burned with a call from heaven, and with that conviction and call she was burned at the stake at the end of her life.

What do I burn for God? Do I burn with a vision given by YOU? Am I on fire with a message that You've given me for the world or do I smolder in my own weaknesses or puny ambition?

God, I want to be a beacon for YOU. I want to be part of what You're doing, a light that compels people to find YOU. Inspire me, ignite me, let me burn for truth and see Your victories in people's lives. Let my life be at stake and let me live with a call from You, not a call from Oprah, a call from a publisher, or a cat-call from the peanut gallery. Let me be a hottie in all the right places, not a "hauty" with selfish motives and agendas.

Help me burn the ships, burn the bridges, burn the avenues of retreat that keep me going back to weakness, playing small, and robbing my life of the effectiveness and victories YOU have for me.

1 Corinthians 1:18 "I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds . . . but we who are being saved recognize this message as the very POWER of God."

God, make me a smokin hot hunka burnin' love - and burn with the kind of love that comes from being on fire for YOU. Whoot! Whoot! Watchout world - girl on a fire comin' through!

Monday, March 14, 2011

"I Can't Breathe" And Other Yoga Affirmations

Glancing quickly around the room I knew I was doing it wrong. Trying to collect my thoughts and realizing "I am truly a dork", I caught the smirk from my 14 year old daughter. It was our first yoga class ever, and here she was already chuckling at me. I had to laugh too.

My legs were now in a pretzel and my hands, palm to palm, pressed together vertically, parallel to my nose . . . I felt like a poser . . . my newness like a beaming neon light. "Breathe in," the instructor said in a calming voice. "Breathe in a breath of victory, breathe deep down filling up your lungs like your heart is smiling."

Hmm. Breathe in victory? Can I do that?

My mind wandered while I gripped the mat with flat hands and raised my bum in the air like an upside down "V". Hey, V for Victory. That's right. Victory breathing. Am I breathing??? Then back down to a child's pose. Ahh much easier.

Victory thoughts . . . what victory memories do I have that I could breathe in? My mind traced back through the calendar to . . . oh yes. Holding my babies for the first time. Each one a victory. My first book . . . I remember flipping through the pages and realizing that was my name on the front cover. Breathe.

And now into a push up, then hold. And keep holding. Oh my gosh my arms are shaking like spaghetti. I can't hold this position. Oh my gosh! And then down. I can't breathe, I can't even catch my breath!

Victory breaths. And then I remember the day I thought about suicide. That was a dark day. I didn't. I chose life. HUGE victory. And the day I chose to quit drinking. White knuckling. Shaking but determined. Another huge victory. And the day I chose to try yoga even though I knew I would look ridiculous. With that, I breathed in a HUGE smile. Today is another great victory. I'm alive. I'm sober. And I'm doing yoga.

Sweeping my arms around like two big windmills into the prayer position in front of me . . .

Ya. I'm a beginner at yoga. But man, do I know victory.

(now if I could just get my legs out of this dang pretzel . . . : )

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's All In How You See It . . . Or Don't.

The other day I was making homemade noodles using an old family recipe. I've made it a hundred times, rolling of the dough, cutting the noodles, laying them out to dry. In the process I touched my eye. A tiny speck of wheat flour landed on my lashes and found its way under the eye lid and onto my eye ball.

The speck of irritation became immediately annoying. I rubbed. I teared up. I rubbed more. I blinked. No luck.

Within hours my eye was red and puffy like I'd been on the losing end of boxing match and still . . . I could not get that speck of wheat flour out. Now if you've ever seen ground wheat flour it is like sawdust, like sand, like, well, a small little curse of metal shavings basically on my ever sensitive eyeball.

How could such a tiny particle of wheat flour do so much damage? I could hardly see, was perpetually winking at people in the market, on the road, even hours later as I talked to my children. Ridiculous really.

It was so irritating. Yes, that is what is was. Irritating. And I was irritable.

As I looked up the synonyms of irritable:

1. snappish, petulant, resentful. Irritable, testy, touchy, irascible are adjectives meaning easily upset, offended, or angered. Irritable means easily annoyed or bothered, and it implies cross and snappish behavior: rude and hostile; Impatient and irritable, constantly complaining. Testy describes the same kind of behavior or response, particularly to minor annoyances: always on edge, testy and sharp in response; testy and petulant, resenting any interruption. Touchy emphasizes oversensitivity and readiness to take offense, even when none is intended:

I've always believed that things that happen physically often are a mirror of what is happening emotionally. The sooner we get the emotional lesson, the sooner physical symptoms can resolve as well.

Yup - that has been me for the last while. Irritable. And over the tiniest of things. Snappish. Testy. Resentful. A speck of dust, a flaw in someone else, an imperfection, an obstacle that keeps me from seeing clearly.

I was so grateful when the wheat flour speck found its way out so my eye could heal. And I was grateful to see clearly without being irritated.

Oh the lessons life gives us - it's all in how we see it isn't it?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Crystal Clear

I had an amazing experience the other night. A chance to try a new sport, well, new to me anyway. Snowshoeing.

For years I've dreaded winter, dreaded the snowfall, dreaded the cold temperatures. I've rolled my eyes as the avid skiiers in Utah would cheer for the white powder, they being elated as the snow pack increased. The more it snowed, the more they cheered. And the more I stayed inside and became depressed.

Seriously. I found no joy in winter - not inclined to stand on thin sticks with pokers in my hand and speed down a hill of ice. Not interested in the broken leg, the concussions, the crowds. Nope, not interested.

But then, the other night, I found snowshoeing.

Strapping on the funny tennis racket looking contraptions, I took my first steps. And then, out onto a beautiful blanket-covered golf course. The moon was out, bright and glowing on the pristine rolling hills and it was silent.

One foot in front of the other. The back of the snowshoes kicked up a light chilly powder freezing my calves, while my body warmed with the exercise. Beautiful. All I could feel was my heart enlarging in my chest and being so enraptured in the love of snow. I love this snow. Oh my goodness. I LOVE snow.

Funny how our paradyms change in an instant when we find the right fit. The right expression, the right setting, the right stretch. Crystal clear.

And all I can think today is I'm excited for winter. This winter. Next winter. And the one after that. Just THINK the places I can snowshoe!

I may never ski a Black Diamond run, may never enjoy the wind in my hair seated on a chair lift, may never see the top of the mountain, but I'm excited to say that I've found something I LOVE. And whenever you find something you LOVE, life gets that much sweeter.

Would have never thought it before - but I'm absolutely digging snow. Me of all people. Makes me smirl a little. And here I thought I had myself all figured out. That's funny. Thank heavens for the new things in life that keep reminding us we're works in progress.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bitterness - Bringin' It Home Baby

I came down with a nasty headcold and sore throat this week. It's slowed my run to a crawl, and fogged up my thinking. I haven't been as productive as I've wanted, spending many hours curled up in bed fighting chills.

Saturday night was a doozie.

Had a prescription called in, headed to the pharmacy, and my car broke down. It was dark by then, I felt awful, aches and chills, and now my car wouldn't start.

On my drive there, I had been listening to an Anthony Robbins CD as he interviewed Steven Covey about following your life's gift. And there I sat. Freezing with a fever, and now in tears, realizing I had a new crisis to solve. I felt very very alone and overwhelmed. Who do I call? I'm in unchartered waters here.

The CD player was dead too, but Anthony Robbins' voice kept repeating in my head - all of the positive mumbo jumbo hype he talked about so elequently seemed in such dramatic opposition to what I was experiencing.

This is where the rubber meets the road friends.

I realized sitting there I could get madder and more bitter and self-pitying than a one-legged man in a butt kickin' contest, or I could get humble. Either, or, but not both.

It's Monday morning now. I'm following up on my car in the shop - having been able to get it there safely. I had a sweet weekend in spite of my car loss, in spite of feeling under the weather, in spite of the Steelers losing the Superbowl : ) I feel more clear headed and am hopeful this week is going to be a good one. I wish my car wasn't in the shop, but, that's part of owning a car isn't it?

A couple of verses hit me this morning in my Bible time that seemed to ring true to my car drama.

Romans 5:6 "When we were utterly helpless Christ came at just the right time . . . "
Helpless moments are our most transparent moments - in moments when we are at the end of ourselves, we are able to acknowledge just how dependent we are. That's not a bad thing . . . ugh . . . not a comfortable thing, but not a bad thing. Christ did not fix my car, but trusting Christ fixed my character in that moment.

Ephesians 4:31 "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words . . . instead be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving . . . "

In those moments where life really does a number on us, we choose. Either, or. Instead. Bitterness OR tenderness. Rage, anger, OR forgiving, kindness.

That decision is 100% up to us personally. That truth is upsetting at some moments, empowering at others.

When the rubber meets the road, bitterness is an option. Peace of character is too.

Pick one.

Life will continue to be life, with its car breakdowns and all. That will never change. Thankfully God has given us the opportunity every single day -

Either - OR.

You choose.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain"

I remember the first time I watched The Wizard of Oz. I was so upset when I realized the Great and Powerful Oz was simply a grey haired man behind a curtain. In my young heart I was devastated for Dorothy and her friends who had travelled so far and hoped for so much . . . I was disillusioned right along with them.

As I've been reading and learning and searching and praying about bitterness the parallel is a powerful lesson.

Bitterness is big and loud, a mean face with colored smoke and thunder - The Great OZ - it shakes you where you stand so you back up and don't come any closer. It intimidate and scares, it threatens and attacks our peace of mind and confidence.

Yet in reality, behind the big, ugly, loud, mean bitterness (in others and in ourselves) is small fear. Puny in its form, but ashamed, small, and cowering.

Let me show you. Trust me for a minute. I want you to see something.

There is something in your heart that you're bitter about. Oh, you've called it many things, but it's bitterness. Maybe towards some one, some thing, some situation . . . and it gnaws at you. It's angry, ugly, jealous, contempt . . . maybe something you've never even shared with anyone . . . but it's bitter.

See the colored smoke whirl around it, the loudness, in fact, let it get as big and mean as it can possibly get. Let it take its true form, as ugly, spiteful, vengeful, angry as it can get. I hope you'll even turn up the volume and let the words and thunder explode and shake . . .

Ok now. Look to the side and see the small curtain. Carefully pull it back. And let the production, the smoke, the big ugly image, the noise . . . let it stop.

And see what's really behind the curtain.

The big production of bitterness is simply the distraction of our own heart and mind - to distract us from our greatest fear.

"What if its true? What if I really am broken?"
"What if I really am unloveable?"
"What if I really am too far gone?"
"What if I'm really a loser?"
"What if I really am . . . blank . . . "
"What if I really have sinned too much?"
"What if I really do need help . . . "
"What if what they say is true?"
"What if that person never loved me?"
"What if I really did deserve this?"
"What if I can't ever succeed?"
. . . add your real fear here . . .
"What if I really am these things . . . and people really knew . . . "

Bitterness is our minds way of rerouting us away from our real pain. Our real fear.

Now look at that fear - look at it for what it really is. A scared, shaking, big-eyed, lonely hurt.

THAT question is what you take to God Himself. You don't take it to your friends, you don't take it to your ex, you don't take it to Anthony Robbins or Dr. Phil, you don't take it to your old boss who fired you, you don't take it to your church . . . you take that very real fear to God.

You take it to the Bible and find out what God says about it. You take it to God in prayer and listen for an answer from Jesus Himself. You take it as a handwritten letter to the cross and nail it there for Jesus to read and reply . . . HIMSELF.

Only then will the smoke, the thundering, the anger, the production of bitterness disappear from the stage of your life.

The production and ugliness of bitterness is a decoy - to fool you so you won't feel what you really feel anyway.

Bitterness yells, "Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain" - closure says, what's behind the curtain fuels the whole production.

Heal what's behind the curtain. Then bitterness in all its ugliness can disappear.

And what would your life be like if there were sweetness, closure, and peace?

Click your heels together. Come home to yourself. Come home to what's really hurting you. Come home to God and the bigger things He wants to do with your heart.

Face the fear behind the curtain and come home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recipe For Bitterness

I have a flour dusted, oil spilled, warped 3 x 5 card that bears the recipe of my mom's famous chocolate chip cookies. That's a recipe everyone begs for. They are delicious, time tested, unforgettable.

Just this morning I came across a recipe for bitterness. Not sure how many will beg for that on a 3 x 5 card, but I hope by sharing it you might see it when its being stirred up in your own life.

Bible: Ruth 3-4 The story of Naomi. It's really the story of Ruth and how God blessed her and kept her, but it's also about Naomi and the recipe for bitterness.

Long story short. Naomi has several sons. They marry and the entire clan moves to a new area. The sons all die. Naomi tells her daughters-in-law to go on with their lives and find new paths. Ruth (one of the daughters-in-law) chooses to stay by Naomi's side and go back to Naomi's homeland with her.

When Naomi goes back to her hometown she is so devastated at how her life has turned out that she tells her friends to call her by a different name. "Mara" - which, interestingly enough, means "bitter mountain".

Naomi says, "The Almighty has made my life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why should you call me Naomi (which means pleasant) when the Lord has caused me to suffer and has sent such tragedy?"

So, we see a recipe for disaster that could apply to us too.

Step 1. Start with Loss of identity - losing our identity in our hurt
Step 2. Add Blame - blaming God (and others) for our losses - never ourselves
Step 3. Mix in the "Has Been" feelings and the "I had it all once . . . " self-pity and sprinkle in the feeling of being robbed unfairly -
Step 4. Bake on high and seal with a victim mentality of "suffering and tragedy"

Naomi was right smack dab in the middle of her own bitterness - a recipe she cooked up out of her own pain. Sadly, she stayed there for a long long time.

She would not allow her heart to feel joy. She clung to how right she was about God being so wrong. She wanted people to know that she had suffered, that she deserved her agony, and that she was a victim.

I know people like this.

I also know people who have had terrible, tragic circumstances play into their lives and they have chosen to claim their divine God-given gifts and callings, have chosen to focus on giving and serving, and have developed an inner gratitude that is magical. They are contagiously happy, warm, loving and encouraging.

They choose to bake up something different in their lives - something sweet, something worth savoring, something they can scoop up in spoonfuls with their children, that fills their home with an aroma that is remembered forever.

Now that? That's a recipe worth having.

* the day following this blog on bitterness I watched my friend Katie's YOUTUBE video. Katie is one of our Heart 2 Home volunteers and comes out on every project, working right along side everyone else in the dirt, paint and chaos. She's a no excuses kind a gal. I've been inspired by Katie and her choice to pursue sweetness. Watch this video and you'll see exactly what I mean. She could have cooked up some fine tasting bitterness in her life and been justified, but instead she created sweetness - and it blesses EVERYONE around her!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Driven By My Sweet-Tooth

Yesterday the pastor on TV spoke of bitterness. He spoke of the damage it creates in our hearts and the pain it creates in our lives and our perspective. It really hit home for me.

Things haven't gone the way I'd planned in many areas of my life. It would be easy to slip into bitterness, wrap myself up in it like a cocoon and close up, feeling absolutely justified. Life can make you very bitter if you let it.

But, I see there is a very simple driver in my heart that won't let me.

It's my insatiable craving for sweetness. My God given sweet-tooth.

The Bible says that "for the happy life is a continual feast". There's just way too many sweet things in life to stay bitter.

Laughing with my kids in the kitchen making "tohhh-st" (thank you Nacho Libre), holding my grandbaby and watching her smile in her dreams, my puppy jumping on my bed like a teenager left alone for the weekend, the excitement watching my girlfriend on QVC for the first time . . . it's so so sweet.

I'm driven by my sweet-tooth and completely compelled to spit out the bitterness. Compared to the joy, the laughter, the beauty, the light, the clarity, the satisfaction . . . well, there is no comparison.

I carefully peel back the cupcake paper liner revealing another helping of relationship, thankful for the goodness, the kindness, the sacredness . . . and glad I've learned this about myself. I believe life was meant to be sweet.

No matter the road. No matter the trial. No matter the possibility of bitterness.

Thank you God for giving me a hunger for sweetness. It keeps me ever vigilent for the next sweet fix and always grateful for the moments I am able to revel in it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Snotbubbles and Grace

There's something about snotbubbles and grace.

In struggles we fight the tears, we fight that we're right, and we fight our position. We wall up, clam up and shut up to maintian our ground and maintain our dignity.

And then, something clicks in our hearts, God sprinkles some kind of magic fairy dust, and for whatever reason grace comes crashing in. Past the walls, past the fear, past the "rightness" of our position and perspective, past the dignity . . . and sure enough . . . there's the snotbubble.

And then you know.

Weird how that is.

But you know God lives, He has a plan for your life, even though that path takes you to hell and back, and you know you are desperate for His grace.

Nobody wants to surrender. Nobody wants to admit wrong or lose dignity. Nobody wants the snotbubble moment. There comes a point when you must. For your own good.

Right there in the middle of the snotbubble and grace you start hearing in the back of your mind that age old Journey song "Don't stop believin . . . hold on to that fee-leh-innn".

Amazing how God gives us signs that make sense only to us.

Journey, snotbubbles and grace.

The perfect combination for surrender.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Outside The Boat Thinking

When we're in the thick of a problem its hard to see the answer among the variables before us. Our own human pathology got us into our crisis, our dilemma, our storm, and that same pathology lacks the missing link to get us out. We've got to think "outside the box" or as I like to say "outside the boat".

In our emotional and spiritual storms the waters rage around us and we're tossed about, fearing all is lost. We don't have the answers. Surely this sad foresaken ship is bound to sink.

The disciples were in the same situation. Storm raging, waves crashing, thunder and lighting tormenting. Nothing inside the boat could calm the storm, right the rudder or shelter them from the whitecaps. They were adrift with no escape and they feared the worst.

From the mist a voice called to them. The voice of the Master.

A voice that stilled the winds and the waves. A voice that answered their greatest fears.

Christ approached the vessel miraculously walking on water, and the storm was over.

The answer came from outside the boat.

As you survey the storms around you today, know that the answer you need is not inside your human toolbelt somewhere. It is not inside your reasoning, your box, it is not some new strategy, it is not some hype or drug. The answer that will bring peace is not inside your circle of friends, not on Dr. Phil, and not in the latest greatest Og Mandino chant. Although those things may open your heart and help you ask deeper questions, with deeper insight, the real answer, the ULTIMATE answer will come from "outside the boat" thinking.

So in your storm pray for the answers you DON'T have, the answers you've NEVER had before, the revelation you are DESPERATE for. Not the answers you've used before to simply plug holes and bail water to stay afloat.

The POWERFUL, storm-calming answer will come from "outside the boat" thinking.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To Bite Again - Or Not To Bite Again - That Is The Question

Over the last couple of years there's been an explosion of teen vampires in movies, paperback, hardback, and literally on backs (in the form of t-shirts). The theme of being bitten for love, and even the theme of eternal love, has been the romantic premise for the bat-like fangs and pale white skin. Once bitten one can never go back. The act transforms the human into vampire being, now destined to live forever in the darkness and be tormented by the need for more blood.

Thank heavens that is not real life. And thank heavens that God has a bigger plan than the life of a vampire.

The word "remorse" actually means "to bite again" from the latin word "modere". And sin, yes, has a bite. It is painful. Our guilt has us feel that bite over and over and over and . . . well, you know . . . you've been there.

When we make awful, rotten, human mistakes - even huge ones, shameful ones, ones that sting - there is forgiveness. Not just a little forgiveness. All the forgiveness.

We wish we could go back and change our decision, but we can't. Thankfully even with our biggest, most painful bites, God can still transform our nature. Not just for now, but for eternity.

While God forgives us immediately, we must also forgive ourselves . . . and not allow the phantom sin to bite again.

Remorse is one part of guilt. And it's not the healing part.

The final scene is that of wholeness. No guilt. No two-pronged vampire bite scarred on our necks to forever remind of us a wretched past. "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Really. The atonement covers all. End of chapter. End of book. End of sin. Forever. Period.

The hopeless romantic in me just found hope again. What a great ending to the greatest love story of all.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lost In The Fog

As we pursue the path of our lives it is essential that we evaluate our motives. What are the driving forces behind the decisions that we make? What are the investments we are making along the way, and what do we hope is our final destination?

At times, and in certain seasons of growth and change, we feel lost in a fog. We feel paralyzed to move forward, incapable of seeing past our own feet, and trapped in a suffocating blanket of uncertainty. We have no vision, limited hope and perspective.

Author Susan Forward in her book "Emotional Blackmail" speaks to this FOG. When we are controlled by Fear, Obligation and Guilt, especially when we are in relationships that use that pattern to motivate outcomes, we cannot see our true path. Relationships that put us in a "fog-like" mindset are disabling and paralyzing.

Reading the Old Testament I am reminded that the children of Israel were led by a fire in the day and a cloud at night. The right path for them was clear when they followed those two signs.

It is an interesting connection then the image of fire, often trite sayings refer to having "a fire in my belly", passion, light, excitement, drive. When we have a "fire under our behind" we have a renewed energy and focus to complete it.

And clouds...clouds inspire creativity, looking up heavenward, imagination, and beauty. Our path to God, our path to happiness, and our path to our divine mission in life must be led by both passion and creativity, drive and hope, conviction and vision.

So in your life are you being led by passion and vision or are you stuck in a FOG? Do you dream freely or are you bound by unhealthy patterns?

God is the God of clarity, passion and big vision. FOG can lift, and the path can be made clear if you have the courage to address the FOG for what it is. Keep your eyes up and follow the clouds . . . even if you just watch them for a few minutes at a time . . . there is more possible than you ever imagined. God is the God of clarity and can find you even in the thickest FOG.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Even Mother Teresa Wasn't "Mother Teresa"

There are days when our best efforts fail. Days when we simply don't measure up. It hurts . . . and we feel undone, unworthy . . . hopeless.

"I can't do it," we whisper to ourselves, bowing our heads in defeat. "I'm no Mother Teresa. I'm just me."

We compare ourselves, in fact, we compare our weakest selves, to an image, a standard, an epitome of what we believe God wants. What we believe others want. What WE want. What we expect of ourselves. Falling short of that image, that expectation is crushing. The yearning in the gap is soon filled with shame, frustration and self-loathing.

A book opens, tattered pages, dirty, smudged ink . . . a line can be read . . . "Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God — please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain — I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for?"

A journal found. Could this be your journal?

This journal was written by an elderly woman dying of heart failure. A woman whose life changed the world.

You see, Mother Teresa felt she'd failed. She felt her best efforts to be trivial, empty, rejected. Her concerns, her yearning in the gap, she wrote about in journals and she shared fears with her spiritual leaders.

Mother Teresa never saw herself as THE "MOTHER TERESA". She saw herself as simply Teresa _ underscore. Not Mother Teresa, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, legend, relief to the millions of dying, rescuer of the unborn, global epitome of compassion and mercy.

The woman we revere as having the most noble and strong heart, died of a weakened heart . . . and with heavy personal fears of failure before God.

Her writings were to be destroyed by her wishes. She felt her failings and flaws would hinder others, not inspire them.

Seeing her "real-ness" does just the opposite. Knowing that Mother Teresa wasn't even "Mother Teresa" reminds me that perfection can be a pursuit that undermines true strength, true beauty, true faith. Our own perceptions and expectations can blind us and rob us of joy and any feelings of fulfillment about our lives and our passions. A standard that breaks us is not the standard or expectation created by a loving, kind, compassionate Father in heaven.

A Savior and Redeemer would not be needed if sheer perfection through drive could be achieved. It can't.

Let God fill the gap between the ideal and reality. That gap is only as wide as His outstretched arms on the cross. It has been covered. Bridged. Trust that.

Even Mother Teresa wasn't "Mother Teresa".