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".