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 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?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dangerous prayers

Have you ever held back from praying a Dangerous Prayer because you knew - soul-wrenching, gut-deep KNEW - that God would answer it with a resounding YES?

I have.

Twice, in the past 6 months.

Once was this past summer. I was driving somewhere I didn't need to be going. Watched the interstate lines dart under the wheels of my car, flashes of white, my spirit begging me to ask God to intervene. To stop me.

I couldn't pray it. Because I knew He would. And I wasn't ready to let go yet.

But I wanted to. So badly, I wanted to.

My soul prayed it anyway, the urgent plea not verbally crossing my lips or even coherently forming into syllables within my thoughts...but my heart cried out in desperation just as tangibly, vividly, as a spoken word.

I halfway expected a flat tire.

I made it to my destination. And God intervened in a different way. A way that had me wishing for a flat tire. Instead of air leaking out of rubber, there were words hissing through unprepared lips. Instead of metal rims scratching gravel, there were claws of panic scratching at my heart. He was freeing me from the very thing I needed to be freed from. But I fought.

I started a game of tug-of-war with God that afternoon. Like Jacob, thinking I had a chance at changing my destiny. So, so mistakenly thinking I wanted to.

Like Jacob, I left that fight with wounds. Scars. Some that are still healing. Rope burns on my palms. Forever-memories of how God intervenes even when we don't have the courage to outright ask Him to.

But unlike Jacob - I wasn't struggling to receive my blessing. I was fighting against it. Terrified of getting it. Scared of how much it would hurt to take that free fall of faith.

Despite all of that struggle - God came, prepared for battle. Not to fight me, but to fight for me, and that battle took the form of a tangible argument that wasn't actually between me and the other person at all.

He answered that almost-prayer of my exhausted spirit that day in a way that yanked me off the path I'd been treading - that path constantly interrupted with flashes of white - and turned me around. Rope burns, scars, dirty fingernails, skinned knees and all. Turned me around, unlocked the chains from my wrists and told me to march. To walk in freedom.

But those chains had been so heavy, I'd grown numb. And when they finally fell off, all those nerves that grown immune began to ache. Tingle. Hurt.

There's always a price to freedom.

A few weeks ago, I prayed one of those dangerous, scary prayers again. The kind of prayer you are terrified to utter because you KNOW God will answer it.

This time, though, I had learned. And I had enough courage to force the words off my lips verbally, intentionally, with a pounding heart and adrenaline laced pulse. Because I knew it was for the best, even though the guarantee of receiving this answered prayer made my heart hurt.

And He's answering it. Just like I knew He would. With each passing day, He's answering it, and His way is so, so obvious. So obvious, it's halfway hilarious.

You know you're in God's will when you pray things you don't want to pray and get immediate answers confirming exactly those things.

It's easy to pray for blessings. To ask for favor and wealth and health. To ask for others in your life to receive the same. It's harder to pray the prayers of the trenches. The prayers that mean sacrificing your own heart, your own flesh, your own desires, as misplaced as they are...and yet that's why we do it. We KNOW they're misplaced. We know we need that sharp corner of ourselves softened and rounded and changed. Even if it hurts. Especially when it hurts. Even if it means letting go of things or people or dreams we've held tight to for a long time.

To wounded hearts, a bad familiar is still more comfortable than the unknown.

I opened my hands when I prayed this last Dangerous Prayer. Opened them up wide, to let go. Looked down, remembered the rope burns. Remembered His way is best. No more tug of war. No more wrestling.

What is your Dangerous Prayer? The one you know you're called to pray, to ask for, to seek God about? The one that is lurking in your spirit right now as you read this post, the one that's making your heart race at these words and causing conviction to knock loud and crisp on your heart?

Pray it. From one battle wounded warrior to another, I beg you - pray it.

We might have the rope burns, but He has the nail-scarred hands, and the price of that Freedom was worth far more than any hurt you'll pay getting back into His will. The transition can sting. Badly. Trust me, I remember.

But the only way to His kind of peace? Is to live dangerously.

Monday, October 20, 2014

For the blood-stained and weary stained by the Blood...


A five-letter word some unfortunately deem a four.

Deemed by those who don't know the drip of red that stains as it washes clean. Those who haven't had reason to be coaxed from the shadows into the light and stand, not appalled and ashamed, but weary and welcome.

By grace. Through grace. Because of grace.

Five letters.

One for every finger on the hand.

Every finger that instead of pointing outward, curls inward, one by one, into a fist. Pointing back at themselves.

Everyone needs grace.

Some just linger more aware of their need than others.

And in those grace-needy moments, those moments where the stained cling to the crimson garment at the foot of the cross and look up at the battle that was fought on two boards... that's where joy is found. That's where circumstances fade away, worries are cast aside. That's where checkbooks disintegrate and broken hearts mend and disease dries up and prayers are answered not because of what we try to do and fail but because of Who already did it.

And the account might still be in the red and the pain may tarry and the report linger might not be morning yet, you might still be mourning - but there is joy. Joy in the waiting. In the hoping. In the trusting.

2 boards + 1 hero = all we ever really needed in the first place.

A hero we can access because of one word. Five letters.

It all comes down to, comes back to, comes full circle to, grace.

(hit play on the video to the right for a song I've had on repeat for the last year)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Day I Tried To Open a Bottle of Wine With a Hammer

I needed communion. 

It'd been on my heart for weeks, but I'd never done it by myself. Communion. At home? Alone? 

That was reserved for padded church pews. For elderly hands passing wobbly silver trays of plastic grape-juice-filled cups. For tiny fingers plucking snippets of tasteless crackers from a doily-lined dish. For grave-expressions on suit-clad pastors and ominous undertones of the seriousness of partaking with sin lingering in your life. 

Never sat well with me. It'd been ten minutes since I'd prayed last. I'd probably sinned since then. Worry. Concern. Heaviness. How did anyone do this?

No, no. Not just sin in general. You know, just the living-in-sin stuff. The constant sin you choose to dwell in all the time. 

Huh? How is that different?

That was my typical growing up experience with communion. 

Until I attended a Captivating Retreat through John and Stasi Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries last year in Colorado. And I marched with a hundred or more other women to a candlelit stage, with a low table surrounded by pillows, a table laden with goblets of red wine and large loafs of bread, all crumbly, broken, flaking reminders of the cross.

And then I got it. 


"the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level."

An exchange with Jesus. His body and blood for my sin. His atonement for my acceptance. His death for my life. 

Not a fair exchange. And that is forever sobering. 

But that's grace. 

I needed communion. And I needed it in my house, Alone. Not on a pew. Not with women on a stage. No band or instruments softly serenading the silence. Just me and God. I needed the symbolism and the memory and the experience. Needed a realignment. 

Needed to remember.

So I dug out a single Saltine cracker from the box in the pantry, and grabbed a bottle of red wine that had been used as decoration on my counter ever since returning from a trip two years ago, where I'd snagged it from an artsy gift shop. 

There was just one complication. 

No corkscrew. 

As I'd never been particularly adept at working those anyway, I didn't worry. I'd figure it out. I tried a steak knife, at first, the idea being I could gouge a hole through the cork enough to pour out just a taste of the liquid. 

That didn't work. Flakes of cork went everywhere. 

So I tried a flat edged skinny knife, trying to wedge the flat edge between the cork and the glass, and pry it open. 

The very edge of the glass lip broke, chipped, shattered across the counter and the floor. 

(I know. This is where I should have stopped, should have realized it wasn't going to happen, and moved on. But it'd become a personal mission. I had to open this bottle. I had to have this moment and experience)

I cleaned up the glass. Went back to the steak knife. 

Then decided to Google alternatives to corkscrews. 

There were quite a few. 

I tried them all. 

Flaking cork. Frustrated words. Toolbox supplies scattered across the entire counter.  

I twisted in a picture hanging screw with a hook on one end into the cork. Tried to pry it out with pliers. 

I pounded three nails into the cork, tried to pry them out with a hammer. 

More broken glass from the lip of the bottle. 

And finally Jesus said STOP. 

(I think He was laughing) 

And I realized, then, staring at my counter littered with screws, nails, cork fragments, and enough tools to build a dog house or at least a mailbox, that I was missing the forest for the trees. It wasn't about the wine, it was about my heart. And at the moment, my heart was far from ready to "share or exchange intimate thoughts and feelings" with the Lord.

I packed up my tools. Put the busted bottle back in its decorative place on the counter. Checked once more for glass dust. Lit a candle, sat at the table with my Bible, and had communion. With a stale Saltine and Raspberry Lemonade carbonated water from a bottle. 

Nothing could have been sweeter or richer or warmer.

So often I miss the point for the specifics, the message for the minutiae, the theme for the details. I stare so hard at the speck on the horizon that I can't even see the glorious sunset around me. 

I almost missed it. I almost missed a holy experience because I spent an hour trying to open a wine bottle. With a hammer.

What else have I missed, or almost missed?

What have you?

What else have I allowed to consume my thoughts, energy, time, emotion and creativity? What else have I struggled with needlessly, when the provision was already right there, waiting for me to acknowledge it? 

Maybe - maybe - search for ways to put away your toolbox today, your toolbox full of effort and willpower and determination and indignation and just open your fridge. Get the carbonated water. Accept the provision that's already there.

Jesus' provision. His blood. His sacrifice. 

He turned water into wine once already, you know. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

For the tempted...

Temptation knocks. 

Sometimes rather politely. Tap, tap. "Won't you let me in?" Sugar, spice, everything nice. Sweetness personified. The equivalent of offering homemade cookies. The big bad wolf, dressed as grandma. 

Other times temptation doesn't bother knocking at all. Rather, it simply wafts, under and around and through the barred door, an enticing aroma promising comfort. Pleasure. Relief. Distraction. It doesn't have to knock or try to trick you into unlocking the barrier. It knows you'll willingly go to it, will remove the barrier yourself. 

And then other times...temptation doesn't knock at all. It assaults. It doesn't just wave a hint of a red flag in your peripheral, rather, it tosses an entire crimson curtain over your head and attempts to smother. Accuse. Drown. The equivalent of a battering ram beating in a door and jarring lose the lock. Bashing in the frame. Determined to gain entrance. It doesn't whisper promises, no it shouts the lies in full volume.

Oh, at times, the enemy is very subtle. Floral kerchief covering pointy teeth and "what big ears you have", lying in bed waiting to snare. Other times, the enemy is enticing, putting on the disguise of light and goodness and drawing us to him, rather than coming after us. 

And then, there are nights...there are nights when he doesn't hold back, at all. Rather, he yanks and strains and snarls until the leash snaps and he rams against our barricades and guardrails until they're right dented in. Obvious. Full out invasion. No time for subtlety, he's going for the throat. 

And we're in the fetal position, watching the door shake and quake and shudder, knowing our resolve is weakening, knowing its just a matter of time until it collapses and we're done for. 

But God.


What the enemy doesn't know is sometimes God's fiercest warriors come in semi-short packages, wrapped in friendship and toting weapons of Chex Mex. That sometimes, when our fingers ache to call darkness, we force them to call the light instead, and that light brings Coke in frosty cans and instruction and Truth. The enemy doesn't know that sometimes, when we can't pray for ourselves, we can depend on our fellow warriors to hold our arms, or even hold back our hair, and we are covered. 

What the enemy does know, because it's Scripture, is that God's most effective weapons of warfare are not carnal at all, but rather, they wage war through the tears on our cheeks and the silent prayers we can't quite make verbal  (2 Corinthians 2:10) 

AND, that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

So its okay if that door bends and contorts and dents. It's okay if the guttural snarls on the other side are drowned out only by the whimpers inside our hearts. 

That door isn't opening, in Jesus name. 

Because the Bible tells us the Word is our Sword. Sharper than a two-edged blade, piercing even to the division of bone and marrow, soul and spirit, rightly discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. We fight with God's word. 

And God's word tells us we as believers are more than conquerors in Christ. 

Psalms 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word.

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

1 Corinthians 10:13 There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.

Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 28:7-8 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.  The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

So when you're tempted, when that door is bowing and the wolf is lurking and you know you're weak, speak Truth. That barrier WILL hold under the name of Jesus and the word of God. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Confessions of a First Time Salsa Dancer

There's moments of being found.

Do you believe that?

When you come to, or become aware, of a situation or a circumstance or a progression forming before your eyes. An awakening, of sorts. A "moment".

I had a moment like that last night. I found myself at a beginner's salsa class. Me, the girl who has less natural rhythm than Elaine from Seinfeld. Me, the girl who struggles to just do Zumba every other Thursday for exercise without keeling over, found herself salsa-dancing with a talented instructor.

One two three. Five six seven.

One two three. Five six seven.

Our small group learned the basic moves. Then there were more girls than men, so we paired off and rotated. The instructor kept calling a reminder to the other male dancer to help him remember to count. "Seven is the magic number!"

Seven. The number of completion.

Well, there were definitely moments I was certain my humiliation was complete....

We kept practicing. Kept dancing. One two three. Five six seven.

The instructor taught us to follow the man's signals as to what step was next based on the slight pressure applied to our joined hands.

Then we added a more advanced step. Then a turn.

The woman next to me panicked over the idea of adding anything more complicated to the mix. After she had tried a few times, the instructor told her with a smile, "But don't you see? You're not worried about the basic moves anymore. See how far you've come? Ten minutes ago you were still trying to count to three. You were worried about the basics. Now that's all muscle memory and you're only thinking about the turn. You'll get this too."

I think that truth blew her mind.

Because it was true. We were learning. What was hard a few minutes ago was now a non-issue. We were pressing ahead.

We kept dancing.

Basic. Sideways. Basic. Sideways. Cuban Open. Cuban Open. Basic. Turn.

I warned the instructor I might step on his toes.

One two three. Five six seven.

I kept staring at my feet. Yet my instructor kept smiling, tapping my chin. Reminder. "Eyes up."
I'd forget, and watch my feet again. Watch His feet. "Eyes up." Oops. Try again.

I stumbled. I faltered. I hesitated. Then I'd nail it perfectly. Stumble. Fail. Succeed.

We learned a new step, and this time he said the women had to close their eyes. Let the male lead do the leading and just feel it. Trust it.

One two three. Five six seven.

This morning, I was struggling in my heart. Why were some of the things I've died to still haunting me? Why was THIS still so hard and why was THAT still in the back of my mind and how come I couldn't shake free of THIS that I wanted to so badly? Why was the battle to be free so constant? What steps were I doing wrong? What was I missing?

And Jesus said eyes up.

He reminded me I've been watching my feet. Focusing on the steps. Trying to get it all down perfectly. Trying to force what should be natural and flowing. Trying to dictate a formula to freedom that didn't exist.

Sometimes there aren't steps. There's just music.

I was so worried about stepping on Jesus' toes I'd forgotten that He simply wanted to dance with me. "You're going to stumble. You're going to falter. You're going to hesitate." And I sensed Him smiling. "But then you're going to get it."

He's there, keeping rhythm. He's there, leading. When I'm weak and unsure, I can close my eyes and trust and feel it. And I can open my eyes and appreciate His nearness and the fact that He has me and lean into His signals. I can stumble and falter and hesitate or perform a flawless turn, and it's all the same to Him.

He just wants to dance with me.

Eyes up.

One two three. Five six seven.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Learning to float...

I'm not the best swimmer in the world.

A fact which is possibly quite evident in the way my daughter (six-years-old) somehow managed to teach herself to swim underwater, yet panics and sinks when she attempts to swim above it.

The analogy there could drown my heart in equal measures of faith and doubt.

I went to the lake last Monday.

Labor Day.

Time to rest.

Spent several hours burning off deadline stress, work stress, single-mommy stress, emotional stress, creative stress.

Just me on a boat, with good friends and good food, floating under a periwinkle sky littered with cotton
ball clouds--and a little lizard stowaway we dubbed Marcus.

I realized something while swimming in that dirty lake water, the kind that splashes grit in your mouth and stains your toenail polish and squishes solid between your toes - I realized I am most at ease in the water when floating on my back.

A little odd for a not-so-strong swimmer. I can hold my own in the water, but it takes effort and concentration. I'm not naturally good at swimming. I was never taught professionally through lessons. I tend to get cramps really easily. It's not that I'm regulated to doggie-paddling only, but I get tired easily, and don't like being in over my head without something nearby to grab onto.

But when I'm floating on my back, I can relax. Cease striving. I can let the water do the work, and carry me with ease. I don't get tired. I don't fight cramps. I'm not spitting water out of my mouth or feeling anything unwanted between my toes.

I can let the water embrace me. Hold me up.

And I can rest.

When you float on your back, the most vulnerable part of a person - their belly - is face up. Exposed. Our stomachs hold life, our most important organs, the core of who we are as humans. It's considered the ultimate sign of trust when a dog rolls over and offers his belly for a good scratching.

Again, the analogies here threaten to drown me with equal waves of faith and doubt.

In the deep water of life - in those deep waters of deadline stress, work stress, single-mommy stress, emotional stress, creative stress - I can float.

If I stop fighting the tide...let it embrace me...carry me...

I can rest on top of it.

If I surrender my vulnerability and my exhaustion and my gifts to that overwhelming tide...

I can rest right in it.

Who controls the wind and waves?

I know Who.

Who controls the tide that laps and tugs and pulls?

I know Who.

I've got to stop fighting the stress, fighting the current of obligation and responsibility and duties, and consider it my resting place. Everything I stress over is actually a gift. Because that list would include my daughter, my finances, my job, my source of income, my friendships, my relationships, my home, my ministry - all gifts.

What am I even fighting?

It's time to stop fighting. And float.

As I said - I'm not the best swimmer in the world. A fact which is possibly quite evident in the way my daughter somehow managed to teach herself to swim underwater, yet panics and sinks when she attempts to swim above it...

When I try to rise above my obligation and responsibility and duties, when I try to master them instead of going with the flow of them, I panic and I sink.

When all along, all I had to do was float.

Let go. Relax. Trust.

The wind and waves still know His name.

And so do I.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Alice in Wonderland, the voice of lies and telling your past where to go...

There's moments when I think I'm past it all. When all of the hurt and ache and regrets fade long in the rearview mirror and it's just a glimpse into something from another time, a far removed glance at a memory. Memories that rear bittersweet and sometimes downright ugly heads and prompt me into submission. Prompt me to tears. Prompt me to condemnation.

But they're just prompts I can choose not to respond to. Just invitations I can decline and keep moving forward.

But the other moments...

The other moments sneak and slither and don't even bother tapping me on the shoulder before stabbing me fully in the back. Don't even bother with the niceties of introduction, simply assault in full force, full color, full daylight, nothing held back. No fear, no shame, no limits. Brutal.

And they come with lies. So many lies. Hoarse whispers of guilt and death and what-if's that churn and cycle like a full load of laundry. Dirty laundry. Laundry that will never wash clean.

Those are the days I feel like a failure. Those are the days I think my progress is for naught, and that I haven't moved an inch on this dusty, curved road that God is still maneuvering straight. That I'm only inches from the crossroads where I finally screamed "ENOUGH" and chose life.

Those are the days the whispers grow long like the shadows. "What's the point?" "You're still here, see?" "You're still. right. here." "Still crying. Still affected. Still sad. Still trapped. You're always going to be right here. So stop trying."

What the enemy of my soul forgets is that on this journey down this narrow road, I've learned the voice of my Saviour. I know my Shepherd's voice, and this sheep follows Him--often quite dumbly and blindly, but oh - she follows. I know with an intensity that consumes my heart in holy fire the voice of the Holy Spirit in my heart. That can't be taken away from me. The enemy can try to whisper the lies louder but that voice is ingrained so deep within, it can't be removed. We can not separate.

So I choose which voice I allow to hear loud and clear.

And I choose not to believe the lies being flaunted in my face.

I've made a rookie mistake. I've let myself believe that my bad days define me. That my moments of weakness and sadness and tears define my journey, make me somehow less than, not enough, not far along.


I'm changing my perspective. I'm going to view these moments not as failure or lack of progress, but as progress itself. Because when you exercise, you're growing stronger. Yet in that meantime, your muscles are tearing. They're straining to grow and enhance and increase and that is painful. You get sore after a hard workout. But in the next session, you're stronger. And you do it again. Work out, tear down, build up. Work out, tear down, build up.

There's no building of the muscle without it first tearing.

So the tears on my cheeks are officially the ripped tears of my heart growing stronger. Growing. Enhancing. Increasing. My tears and bad days are not an indication that I'm a failure or lagging behind on my journey forward. No. Rather, they're proof that I am progressing and becoming more.

There's a quote in the book Alice and Wonderland, the Mad Hatter saying to Alice "You used to be much more...muchier. You've lost your muchness."

That's what the enemy wants me to believe. That I've lost my muchness. That I'm less than I was before this journey. But no. No more. I've gotten so much more muchier this past year and a half, and especially in these last 7 weeks of surrender, obedience, and change. 




Monday, August 25, 2014

A time to bleed

Blood is startling. Unsettling. Makes stomachs roil and nerves turn weak and limbs shaky.

Especially when it's drenching your daughter's pillow first thing on a Monday morning.

Nosebleed, apparently, during the night. Didn't know that right away, just woke to my little's face smeared with dried blood, coating her hands, and soaking her pillow crimson red on snow white.

"It's okay, Mama." She said as I scrubbed her down in the bath, washrag turning pink in my still trembling hands. "I got it all out. All that was clogging my nose inside? It's all gone now. That's good, right?"

So many of us are so scared of blood. Yet, blood is literally life. It's beyond crucial for survival. We're just not accustomed to seeing it.

And when we do see blood, it usually means something is wrong. Because our blood is supposed to be on the inside of us.

When it's on the inside - of sight, out of mind - we take it for granted. We don't give a single passing thought to the pumping of life inside us as we go about our day and our work and our schedules and to-do lists. No, we only notice when that cycle has stopped, when the skin has broken through or the scab has pulled away and all that is life flows to the outside. Staining pillows right on through and drying fast on fingers and matting in hair.

So we stifle it. We bandage it up and clot it up and pray for it to stop. Stop bleeding. Stop pouring. Stop oozing life. We need that life inside us, we desperately want it to stay right where it is. Within. Hidden. Safe.

Out of sight. Out of mind.

But what if...

What if we all bled a little more?

What if the hope that is Christ, the joy that is Christ, the victory that is ours through Christ - our very life - bled through us and right on out and drenched everything we touched in a reminder of Calvary? What if we left behind permanent crimson stains that couldn't be ignored, that shouted LOOK HERE, that demanded to be acknowledged and dealt with?

What if we stopped bandaging our bleeding souls and got real and real honest and said "I'm hurting! I want to make it stop! But look how Jesus is turning my crimson stains into pure white right before our very eyes?"

What if today, we put away the Band-aids of denial, of distraction, of symptom-stopping inside of disease-curing, and bled? What if today, we just bled?

"I got it all out. It's all gone now. That's good, right?"

"So good, baby. So good."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Only read this if you want freedom.

There are days when the struggle is real. 

So real, you don't even need to see the warfare around you with your physical eyes, because you feel it in your soul in a way much more tangible than sight. 

We don't have to see something to make it real. 

In fact, the Bible teaches that what we don't see is actually much more real than what we do.
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

The last few days, my battle was fierce - to the point of literal, physical exhaustion. The urge and temptation to pick back up something I'd (repeatedly) already laid at the altar of Christ was almost unbearable. I had no peace. No joy. No contentment. Determined to obey, yet not sure how much longer my flesh could resist.

I was terrified of losing. 

My days were nonstop, constant battles. I would get away with God, regroup, and be steady for about 30 minutes. Then it would "wear off" and I'd have to do it all again. In my battle, I kept trying to justify the decision/action I so wanted to take, because I felt like that was the only answer to my unrest. I thought it the only cure for what ailed me, yet God wouldn't give me the freedom and permission to do it. It seemed lose-lose. I couldn't figure out why I had this desire to take an action so strongly if it wasn't the right thing to do. 

I was Jacob, wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. And I couldn't help but picture the unseen world around me - the battle, the angels holding their breath. What would I do?

I believe that, by the way. Not because I'm so important. But because we all are. We're all a part of this story, this grander scheme, this larger stage, of life unfolding around us. Your part, my part, matters. And these battles matter more than we will ever be able to fully realize on this realm. 

Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to obey, but that wasn't working either. I just needed something to hold onto. I felt like the proverbial butterfingers - my grasp slipping and sliding off everything I so eagerly, desperately, longed to hold tight. 

I was Job, questioning, confused, begging - until God finally spoke, and when He did, everything else went silent. And I was left with one clear, vivid image. 

Lot's wife. 

(If you aren't familiar with Genesis 9 and the story of Lot's wife, read it here before continuing)

God made it clear to me that if I took this action, an action that on the surface seemed harmless enough, in an effort to give myself rest, to quiet the questions in my heart...if I took that step, it was the equivalent of me looking backward. Looking backward at the past, looking backward at sin, and it would do nothing but paralyze me into a pillar. My forward progress would be hindered, frozen, turned to stone. Rendered still. 

I finally got it. I didn't want to lose momentum. If I am fleeing from a certain direction, why would I turn and look backward? That's when one trips, stumbles, and falls. Then when you  do inevitably get up and keep going, you're limping. Bruised. Bleeding. It just makes the right path even harder to navigate. 

So instead of giving me permission to take a backward action step that God knew would hinder me and paralyze me, He instead pressed it on my heart to take action in another way - a way that essentially served as a giant step forward. Only God. He took my urge to backtrack and transformed it into a way to get me even FURTHER along in the right direction. 

But it was a step I've never been able to do before. A step of faith and surrender that before, when prompted to take, I couldn't even fathom. I justified my way out of it, made excuses to avoid it, and reasoned it not logical. 

Until Sunday morning, God reminded me that partial obedience is still disobedience. And if I wanted freedom - true freedom, and peace - I had no other choice. The choice was mine. But I had to make it. Once again, He laid before me life and death, and asked me to choose life. 

Despite knowing exactly what I needed to do, I asked for confirmation in church. Five seconds after praying that request, my pastor (who hadn't even started preaching yet) randomly said in his greeting "There's things today that need to be surrendered and laid down at the foot of the cross". 

Ha. Okay, Lord. Loud and clear. 

During the sermon, which was mostly in Galatians 6, I looked down at my Bible and this verse in Galatians 5 leaped off the page at me. (I don't mean in expression or cliche, but literally, when I glanced down, it was as if this verge was raised above the others in black and white)  You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you.

Okay, Lord. Got it. 

Nope. He wasn't done.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

(Apparently, the moral of the story is, be careful what you pray for! ::grin::)

During the altar call, I prayed with a soul-sister of mine who knows my story, and she told me today I would march in victory. So that afternoon, I marched myself to another soul-sister's house and with her support, took the step I had to take for freedom. 

It was pretty anti-climatic. There wasn't confetti. Or balloons. But there was a sigh of relief from my spirit. No more wrestling. No more questioning. Peace. 

And there was this, bubbling from my heart. 

A wounded soul,
A sinner worn
Temptation's reach
Weary and torn
And all of heaven held it's breath

Fighting despair
Gasping hope
Temptation's reach
Fraying rope
And all of heaven held it's breath

Broken shards
Shattered dreams
Temptation's reach
Nothing as it seems
And all of heaven held it's breath

Nail-scarred warrior
Burning light
Temptation's reach
Out of sight
And all of heaven held it's breath

One war fought
One victory won
Temptation's reach
Vanquished by the Son
And all of heaven released it's breath