Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Confessions from an Over-Thinker

Sometimes I take myself WAY too seriously.

Please raise your hand. Tell me I'm not alone?

Sometimes I over-think (okay, I always over-think) Everything can be FINE. Good, even. And then, somehow - I'm sucked in. Sucked down. Mood change sweeping in like a cloud cover. Dark gray, swirling mass, for no real reason at all. Fear of this, fear of that. Regret from this, ache for that. Worry over the future that crowds out the joy of now.

It's so easy. That swirling dark mass of mood comes and hovers and lingers and casts long shadows of lies. Lies that don't even make sense when you really break them apart. What's wrong? NOTHING.

Yet somehow, everything.

And then I think about people that have "real problems" and guilt seeps in like rain soaking deep. It just makes the mass thicker. The sun is up there. Somewhere. But that mass refuses to let the light of Truth penetrate.

Raise your hand?

There is nothing on this earth that truly satisfies outside of God. It sounds so preachy, but cliche truth comes from truth anyway, and it's there none the less, and until we really grasp that fact, we'll be swinging aimlessly at clouds that refuse to surrender to our wispy-thin blows.

No relationship, no friendship, no thing, no object, no item, no song, no feeling, no financial figure, no car, no routine, can satisfy for more than a short time. And those who believe that somehow they can, are constantly fighting to obtain that next thing. And then the things take over, and the swirling mass becomes thicker, darker, heavier...heavy with all the things. And we're swinging at clouds that won't dissipate, wondering what on earth is wrong with us, and it's just us, and we're alone in the gray madness.

Raise your hand?

See. We're never alone. All these struggles...they're not new to man, and they're not new to Jesus. (such grace there). The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9) No new struggle, no new mood swing or bad day or failure. We all fail, and fear, and regret, and ache, and long, and strive, and struggle, and carry things not meant for us. It's so easy to take it all on and instead of enjoying the beauty of now, we glimpse and then focus on that one potentially dark cloud on the horizon. Just the acknowledgment of that cloud makes it grow.

What-if's develop so, so fast. And are far more dangerous than a hurricane.

I'm reminded lately of James 1:17. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows..."

God gives us good gifts. Good relationships, good friendships, good music, good family, good feelings and food and provision. I can attest to this. These are gifts from Him. All is grace. But He is still the ultimate gift. He never changes. He never fails. He never lets go. He loves. He gives. He provides.

The Father of the heavenly lights...

The only Light that can break that swirling mass of mood-clouds, the only Light that can penetrate Truth through the dark places of fear. That can pierce the hovering what-if's.

We don't have to keep swinging wild to break up the clouds. We can rest. And His light burns that fog right away, and we bask in His light. His love. It's the only permanent Thing, the only real Thing, that can help us to enjoy the beauty of the things He gives.

Count your blessings today, count your gifts. Count the beauties of now, and get your eyes off the horizon clouds that might or might not even make it to you.

And then watch the Light start shining through.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It's Time To Wake Up

Someone asked me several months ago if I'd ever written or recorded a spoken word. I hadn't. Had never even thought about it. 

Until this evening, when God put a phrase in my heart during worship time with my local ministry group that wouldn't go away. I started scribbling like a madwoman. He gave me another snippet on my way out the door, and another when I got home. I sat down at my computer, and the rest poured right out. 

I can't even read it without crying. I hope the Holy Spirit uses it to urge your heart as well.


A Wake Up Call

As a nation we’re overworked and overwhelmed
We’re overachievers, we’re overwrought because we’ve overlooked and overpaid
But if we can’t be overcome by the presence of God
Then our nation will just be over.

Jesus is coming in a cloud of glory, and we just have our heads in the clouds.
We’re focused on what’s been and not what’s coming.
We’re looking behind in the rearview
And that picture is larger than it appears,
And it’s blocking our view
Of what’s ahead.

We’re dragging around chains that Jesus already broke
We’re holding parties in our jail cells instead of walking out our freedom.
We’re not walking in faith, we’re walking with blinders.
Blinded to the poor and the hungry, the orphans and widows
We’re so caught up in how we look to others we’re not looking at what’s in front of our face
We’re so blinded by social media and our latest clever status
That we miss society dying before our eyes.
Dying for a faith we won’t fully own.
Dying for truth while we’re peddling lies.
All in the name of religion.

We’ve forgotten the name of Jesus.
The name above all names, the name that is lifted high,
the name that will one day bring every knee low.
We’ve forgotten the authority we have in Christ,
Trading in our blessings for bowls.
Substituting temporary pleasures and feasts
While our souls and the souls around us starve.

We cast judgments on what we can’t control
We’re afraid to be real.
Afraid to bleed in public, afraid of the mess
While the walking wounded stumble around us
Believing they’re alone.

We’re a weary and broken generation.
We’re holding the shards of our hearts
And He’s holding the glue
But we won’t be still long enough
To let it set.

We’ve got to wake up.
We’ve got to stop hitting snooze and put our feet to our faith
We have to be the hands and feet of Jesus
We have to not just believe His word but obey it.
Our nation is in trouble.
This isn’t a game
Yet we’ve rolled the dice too many times
The get out of jail free cards have run out.
It’s time to wake up.
This is real life with real people, real souls, a real heaven and a real hell
 If we don’t put our feet to the fire
We risk losing our family and friends to eternal flames.
If we don’t stand up and step out
We’ll just keep walking in circles.
It’s time to risk it all.
At the sake of failure
At the sake of rejection
At the sake of poverty
At the sake of humiliation
It’s time to choose a side.
The crossroads is before you
Life or death?
Get right or get left.
God spits out the lukewarm. Get hot or grow cold.
Let your heart blaze with passion for the things of God
Or let your heart freeze over right hard.

It’s time to wake up.
The clock is ticking minutes we don’t have to spare
Passing seconds by the hour and our days are numbered
Numbered like the hair on our heads,
Like the stars and descendents God promised Abraham.
We’re numbered. And we matter. But if we don’t treat others like they matter
They’ll never recognize their worth.
You can’t save someone on your own but Christ in you might be the only Saviour someone sees.

It's time to wake up.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A letter to Satan

Dear Satan,

Well played.

I have to admit, you manipulated that round well.

You've successfully twisted the mind and thought processes of the majority of the human race. You manipulated and sold the lie to millions, if not billions, of searching teenagers and lonely adults. You've managed to use social media, peer pressure, school curriculum, Hollywood, and even Christian leaders to embed a lie so deep into the hearts of the human race, that the truth seems almost laughable.

You've convinced mankind that your way is better than God's when it comes to sex.

Somehow, despite God's Word, the Holy Bible, being exceptionally clear, obvious, and concise, you and your crew have managed to get millions, if not billions, of born-again believers to hide their sexuality away in a box and compartmentalize it away from the rest of their Christian walk. You've managed to convince them that God is an over-achieving, fun-hating, rule-stickler who wants nothing more than to control and make them miserable when it comes to their sex life. You've managed to convince them that your way is more fun, more fulfilling, and more obtainable than God's way.

So, because of you, because of your lies, because of your manipulation, millions if not billions of people, yes even Christians, are tangled up in undefined, confusing sexual relationships. They're trapped in suffocating, heartbreaking, soul-aching webs. Webs that confine, bind, and torment. No one knows if they're together, dating, "talking" or just friends. No one knows if they are committed or casual.

When all the time, both parties typically want the same things - security, love, friendship, commitment. Yet no one speaks up to set the boundaries. Men don't take the lead anymore because of their insecurity, because of their fears and doubts. So they follow the woman's lead, which is incredibly dangerous, because a woman caught up in this web is typically damaged, broken, searching and desperately longing for a man to be a man.

So they follow each other in an unending circle, stumbling, bleeding, each seeking something from the other and trying to provide it until the well runs dry. Trying to provide water from a draining source that should have never been utilized in the first place. Not without a ring, not without a ceremony, not without a commitment of the heart and soul.

Because of you, Satan, because of your sticky, long-reaching claws into Hollywood, media and entertainment, you've convinced millions, if not billions, that it is completely normal, even expected, for marriage to come way after sex. If even then. Well played, Satan. Well played.

You've convinced the masses that marriage is simply extreme dating, that they can bail anytime they'd like for any reason they'd like. You've convinced them that once they've been divorced, that God's wisdom on sex is no longer applicable to them...that they can sleep around as they please to mask the pain of rejection. That they're adults and it's different now than when they were signing True Love Waits pledge cards in church. You've convinced them that God doesn't really mean what He says. You've convinced them that it's normal or amusing to sleep with someone on the first date, not shameful. That it's completely acceptable to cheat on their spouses, live in an open marriage, or become swingers to spice up their marriage. You've convinced even more still that adultery and pornography aren't one and the same.

Well played.

But personally, I'm tired of your lies. I'm tired of a romantic scene in a movie being displayed as the man proposing in bed after a raunchy night. I'm tired of tears from women who don't know if their boyfriend cheated on them or not because they aren't sure if they're even in a relationship in the first place. I'm tired of commitment being a 4 letter word. I'm tired of couples taking each other on a test drive before committing, as if sex defines a marriage or as if they don't believe God is capable of giving them the chemistry they need. I'm tired of the false image of God you've broad-casted that forbids sex and makes it dirty and something to be hidden. God created sex, Satan, and you distorted it. You can't create anything, you can only try to twist and maim what God made perfect. Every good and perfect gift is from above, Satan. What you've done is thrust your distorted views up from below.

You've convinced believers to dance on the edge. You've convinced them that bending the rules isn't the same as breaking them. You've convinced them that because of the magic church-y word, "grace", they can do whatever they want with zero consequences.

You're right. They sure can. Grace does cover all of a believer's sin. Every last one. But there are always consequences. And what you know that they don't, Satan, is what I'm starting to realize too. That God doesn't make rules for His children because He's a control freak. He makes rules to protect their fragile human hearts. To avoid the confusion, pain and heartache of an undefined sexual relationship. To spare them of the guilt, shame and other wretched morning-after feelings that come from playing in the web. To give them that commitment, security and love that they so badly desire from someone who is ready to give it, from someone who will treat their heart like a grand prize rather than a honorary achievement.

You've convinced too many souls that being alone is worse than being with someone who treats them horribly. You've convinced those who have waited and are growing weary that their dream will never come to fruition, that God can't be trusted with their love story, and that they better hurry, pick up the pen and get busy writing their own.

Well played.

But even though you're a master of darkness, even though you're an expert at twisting God's Word and principles into lies - you can't smother the light. You can't snuff out the truth. And if everything I wrote above is a lie you've twisted, than the opposite is true. God's Word IS true. God's Word CAN be trusted. God IS good. His way IS worth it, even if it's temporarily hard or lonely. He knows what He's talking about, and He tells us these things for our own good. For our protection. For our joy.

Your get rich quick mentality might work on some, Satan, but it's not going to work on me. And I pray that it won't work any longer on those reading this post, who are tired of the confusion, the heartache, the pain, and the tears. Tired of the exhausting undefined sexual relationships. Tired of giving permission to those taking advantage of their hearts, souls and bodies. Tired of never knowing where they stand with those they love the most. Tired of playing house with a bare ring finger. Tired of feeling as if there isn't anything more or better for them.

I'm praying their eyes will be opened, and any ground you've gained here in this battlefield will be lost in Jesus' name.

You've won a few battles. But the war isn't over. I've read the last page, and it doesn't go well for you.


Friday, December 12, 2014

That Time You Were Miraculously Healed in Bass Pro...

I didn't want to be That Mom.

The one who avoided certain situations or places post-divorce because of the pain or the memories or the throat-grabbing fear of both.

But when my daughter asked if we could go to Bass Pro, I was That Mom. I said no. I was afraid. Afraid that simply walking in the doors would set off a bomb in my heart. Terrified I would be mentally and emotionally sucked into a time warp, hurtled around a vortex of memories of past family outings and daddy-daughter dates and Christmas shopping and birthday-scheming for my husband and laughing over Sonic lunches and hide-in-seek in the camouflage jackets. Memories of some of our best times as a family, pre-divorce.

Terrified I would go in and not be able to fully come back out. I didn't want to visit that vortex. That vortex hurts. It beats and rolls and tumbles your heart like an exotic super blender that could put anything on Bed Bath & Beyond's shelf to shame.

How do you explain that to a six-year-old?

Yeah. You don't.

So you're just That Mom. That Mom with no explanations and zero reason they can comprehend. That Mom who hides behind "because I said so" when there really is no "so" other than the fact that you aren't brave enough.

Sometimes the truth hurts, and sometimes the truth is inappropriate, and sometimes there is a middle ground between the two, and who can ever determine that when it comes to Divorce and six-year-olds and confessing your own fear, when all along you make her quote Bible verses every night after her own bad dreams?

That Mom.

Until last night.

Last night, I wasn't even thinking. I told Little Miss to come on, we're going to Bass Pro. "Gotta get a gift card for your cousin." I was in Christmas mode, planning mode, checking-off-my-list-because-I've-checked-it-twice-and-there's-three-things-left-to-buy mode. We needed the gift card. Plain and simple. It was next. It was an item on my list begging to be crossed off.

I wasn't even thinking.

It was raining. We ran inside, dodging rain drops and laughing soggy. We warmed up by the cozy fire near the front door. Watched the fish swim laps in the giant tank. Took a photo with Santa and played all the Christmas toys and games set up in the back of the store. Target practice and video games and rubber bow and arrow shooting and remote control truck racing.

I had just shouldered and squinted down the sight of a laser BB gun when it hit me.

I was in Bass Pro.

I waited. With increasing amounts of dread. Waited for the shock-wave of pain, waited for the whispering of a pity party, waited for the tsunami of memories to flood with waves of sadness and wash away my joy. Waited for the heart-wrenching twist of the knife. Waited for the inevitable rush of regrets and remorse and "what if's". Waited. Waited. Waited.


I shot the laser BB gun and took out a beaver.

And it was a true Christmas miracle.

I was fine. Not only fine, I was having FUN with my daughter. At Bass Pro. We were there, making our own memories, laughing, shooting suction-tipped arrows at ducks and missing by a mile and buying chocolate pretzels and Starbursts and playing with the stuffed version of Elf on a Shelf and oohing and ahhing over the decorative can of Snoopy hot cocoa.

Now I'm That Mom. That Mom who isn't afraid. Who is brave enough to take the risk and face potential hurt head-on and give all the glory to God when that dreaded fear doesn't dare show it's face. That Mom who is learning to glance at the past and tip my hat in brief acknowledgment, all while laughing at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25) That Mom who still can't shoot a rubber arrow to save her life but gave the remote control truck a run for it's money and scared the heck out of some laser-targeted deer and beavers.

That's the Mom I want Little Miss to know. To trust and believe in and remember.

One day I'll tell her the ugly truth - tell her how scared I was, just so I can tell her how God came through. How He healed her mama right there in the middle of Bass Pro with a toy rifle on her shoulder and instilled hope once believed impossible this side of Christmas.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Comfort Zones & Other Things That Go Bump in the Night

A very wise woman said something to me in church yesterday, something that keeps darting around the fridges of my mind, like a tiny caged bird with a secret. An important secret. 

She was talking about her own experiences, yet revealed a principle that applies across the board to anyone who has ever been hurt in a relationship. (and who would that leave out?)

She said (not verbatim, but the gist) "I want to be healed from my divorce, so when I am ready to date, I am whole, and healthy, and can bring wholeness and health to my next relationship."

Basic advice. Good advice. You've heard that before.

But then she said:

"You know that feeling you get, when you're with someone, and you're so comfortable? So familiar? You might have just met or not known each other long, yet there's that part of you that meets this need in them and completes them and that part of them that helps you and fills the gaps in you..."

I'm nodding. Yes! That was what I wanted! She got it! 


I didn't get it. 

"That's not healthy. That's finding your worth and completion in each other instead of in Christ, and keeps you broken. That's your broken meeting their broken and there is no wholeness there for either of you."

Mind. Blown.

Because that's exactly what I've been doing. 

I've been searching for that element of familiar with someone, that level of comfort with someone because I thought that implied it was a good choice. A wise decision. A smart match. 

Not realizing that my broken, like a magnet, was still simply attracting more broken.

Sometimes comfort can be a bad thing, familiar a dangerous thing. I've confessed my temptations and failures so many times to friends and counselors because of one truth - the fact that to a broken heart, familiar--even bad familiar--is more appealing than the unknown or the fear of nothing. 

Sometimes, comfort can be a monster under our bed, waiting to snatch and grab and claw. 

There's good comfort, too, of course. The comfort that Jesus talks about in 2 Corinthians 1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort  those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Did you catch that? It comes from God first. Not another broken soul.

That sense of security and safety that our shattered hearts seek? That's not to be found in a person. Because they have their own cracks and their own issues seeping through, and the broken can't heal the broken.

At the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the month, the end of the money, the end of the marriage, the end of the job, the end of the relationship, the end of the loved one's life, we all need comfort from God first.

I believe one method God uses to comfort His children is through His other children - but this typically happens from someone who is healthy and able to minister from the other side of the storm. 

I'm re-evaluating my comfort system, my definition of familiar, and my idea of safety.

It might just mean our comfort zones turn out to be one of the most dangerous places for healing hearts to be.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Worst Kind of Collision...

I was almost in two different car accidents this weekend.

The first was Saturday afternoon, returning home from errands and luncheons and all things post vacation-related. I was driving in the right lane, passing a Raceway gas station, thoughts drifting...and suddenly, the SUV in the lane next to me decided to come over. No warning. No blinker. No indication. Fast and hard. They were simply in the left lane, and then they were simply in my lane.

I yelled. Yanked the wheel hard and propelled us onto the shoulder in front of the gas station, swerving, grateful for the driveway, grateful no cars were coming or going out of the station's driveway. Grateful the shoulder was there and was clear.

By then the SUV had realized it's mistake and gotten back over, so I could get also back on the road where I belonged.

I drove home, shaky, adrenaline laced, and alert.

Twenty minutes later, the entire incident was but a distant memory.

Until it almost happened again -  this morning, on the way to work, merging from one highway to another heading into downtown. I was driving, thoughts drifting, and suddenly, the cars in front of me that were merging suddenly were no longer merging. They were slamming on their brakes.

Once again, I darted out of the way, yanking the wheel to the left this time to avoid ramming the car in front of me, who had somehow managed to avoid ramming the car in front of them, while somehow the car behind me managed not to ram me as well.

I drove to work, shaky, adrenaline laced, and alert.

And God opened my eyes to what that was all about.

It wasn't about me not paying attention - I was, clearly, and my instincts were sharp, or else I'd have been in two wrecks this weekend if not for His grace. No, it wasn't a wake up call to drive more defensively or a reminder of how fragile life is, though there are always those lessons to consider.

For me, it was 100 times more personal.

Because God showed me the pattern. He gently reminded me where my thoughts had been BOTH times I was in those near collisions. They'd been drifting into a default pattern that He has repeatedly set me free from. I was defying my liberty and allowing myself to sink back into old habits that are no longer who I am or what I want. The thoughts were going to take me down a dusty-familiar trail I had no business and honestly, no desire, to trod again. It was a sneak attack, and it was my wake up call.

Our thoughts come like that sometimes...like express trains on a one-way track. Waiting to collide with either acceptance or denial. We choose to embrace the crash of This Thought...or we choose to dodge This Thought and avoid the collision.

Had those near tangible wrecks not woken me up and shaken me up and changed my course of thought, I'd have embraced the metaphorical wreck of old, destructive patterns.

Both times.

It's not a coincidence.

So I'm choosing to dodge those thoughts, just like I dodged those two vehicles, and avoid the pain and expense of a collision.

You have that freedom to choose, too - the freedom to take your thoughts captive to Christ and crush them with rejection, or open your arms wide to the collision of acceptance. The risk is you have no idea how hard the crash will be. What it will cost you to repair. What damage will be done.

If you don't actively put a stop to that oncoming train, you might end up with a minor fender bender...or you might end up with a totaled heart.

It's not worth the risk.

"We...take every thought captive to obey Christ..." - 2 Corinthians 10:5

Friday, November 7, 2014

How much do you want?

"All we want in Christ, we shall find in Christ. If we want little, we shall find little. If we want much, we shall find much; but if in utter helplessness we cast our all on Christ, He will be to us the whole treasury of God.” Henry Benjamin Whipple

I keep coming back there...

When I'm in church, covered in worship.

When I'm sleeping, tucked in peace. 

When I'm driving, lost in regret.

When I'm in my shower, drowned in prayer.

When I'm remembering, distracted by shame.

Wherever I am, whatever the state of my heart, I return there. To those words. To the truth of them. 

We can have as much of God as we want. 

So how much do I want? Do you want?

When I've messed up (again)? How much of Jesus do I desire? When I'm struggling with pride? How much of Him do I want? When I'm wrestling doubts? How much of God do I need? When I'm fighting fears? How much of Christ is there available?

As much as I want. 

The offer is free to me. 
But the result is somewhat dependent on me. 

If Mr. Whipple's words are true, then we get what we put in. 

I'm not referring to salvation here, which is grace. I'm talking basic principles that we overlook and overcomplicate and underestimate. The simple fact that we get what we look for. We find what we seek. If w e aren't looking/wanting/seeking...we miss it. It slips right past.

I believe there are exceptions, absolutely. I believe that Jesus comes for His sheep when they wander and aren't seeking much at all and are lost and bleeding, and caught and crying. He comes to them when they can't or won't come to Him, and He offers to carry them back to pasture. He did that for me. 

But... He also knew deep down the cry of my heart. The cry I couldn't hear anymore because of my sin and stubbornness and the howl of the wind in my storm - but He heard loud and clear. 

So yes, of course there are exceptions and God will not and can not be bound to any formula we as mere humans can attempt to chain Him to. But I have to consider this truth...The Word promises us in Jeremiah 29 that when we seek God, we will find Him. But look - 
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)

It's not a catch. It's not a formula. But it matters. It's there, black and white.
"All your heart."

So how much do you want? How much are you willing to put in? 

How much am I?

A ridiculously wise friend told me a while back that there is a duality in me that needs to be resolved. And he's absolutely right. And it's in a lot of us, maybe all of us. The age-old flesh vs spirit struggle, sure. But more than that. It's that duality of desire. I want this and believe this for my life, yet a lot of the time, my actions and thoughts portray the exact opposite. My spirit is torn between what I truly desire and what I think I deserve, between what I believe God has for me and what I'm afraid is all that's left. 

A duality to be resolved. 

Want little, find little. 

Seek with all your heart. 

I want to cast my all. Even in helplessness. Maybe because of helplessness. In spite of...even though...even so... I want to give it everything. 

Give HIM everything. 

Will you?