BUT WHY?

Very little is more frustrating than doing something simply for the sake of doing it. Many years ago, I attended a friend’s baby shower. I took my gift to the gift table and handed it to the gift table manager. She was quick to point out that the accompanying card didn’t have my friend’s name on it and suggest that I do that. Since there was only one mother-to-be at the shower, I hadn’t expected this social construct to be important. But in order for the gift table manager to have a fulfilling purpose beyond receiving and strategically stacking gifts, checking envelopes for names to add some value to an otherwise so-so responsibility. Or maybe she just really, really believed names should be on envelopes!

Sometimes, traditions get passed from one generation to the next. You know the story of the young mother asking her mother why she was always sure to cut off each end of the ham for dinner. Her mother didn’t really know why, so she asked her grandmother, who settled the matter saying, “Because none of my pans were big enough to hold a full ham.”

Simon Sinek examines this kind of thinking in this 5-minute short-cut version of Start With Why. And, yes, he focuses on business training, but when he says:

SINEK - WHY

When we look at it this way, our church families are challenged to determine why we do what we do.

It’s so tempting to look at mega churches and feel a twinge of jealousy when our own small parking lot and pew seats remain sparsely filled. What do we do when popular churches offer spectacles more electrifying than Hamilton and all the members are on their feet in a deafening praise, while we have a generation of grandparents and great-grandparents, a smattering of young families, and teens with a very short attention span?

The harvest Jesus talked about is still out there, always out there, until God gives the nod to Jesus that it’s end-game time. So…

whay-church-should-be-e1561400496199.jpgWhy do we have church? Why do we open the doors, call for volunteers and pay for building maintenance? Why do we have coffee and doughnuts available? Why do we congregate and sing together? Why do our pastors prepare a new sermon every week and our boards get together to plan?

Why? We aren’t a business. The offering isn’t a cover charge.

Why did the field workers who got hired late in the day get paid as much as the workers who put in a full, grueling day? Because there was still work to be done. It absolutely must be done because we’re running out of time!

People are finding comfort from the wrong things. People are living one day after another without knowing how very loved they are by the one Father that will never leave them or forsake them. People are dying without salvation.

Certainly, there is plenty of work to be done before the sun sets. There are people who need to be loved into salvation.

WHAT IF CHURCH

What if all we ever have are the members of our small church to be the hands and feet of God? Here’s what I see in my church family:

  • A generation with years of faith-building trials, heartache, blessings and wisdom that can only come from a long life. A generation that will not be here forever. Their hearts are soft enough to be pierced by the word of God; but their confidence in a good God is heard in their fervent prayers and felt by their gentle hands.
  • A generation of young parents who have chosen to raise their children to trust God, appreciate Jesus, listen to the Holy Spirit, and love others. Their young ones won’t be young as long as we think they’ll be. Soon, they’ll be…
  • Our youth, the ones who will elect the people who will determine the legislation that affect all of us. They’ll create and run business that will set standards of trust and transparency. They will be the thermostat for their community, their state, their country. They are the ones to whom we will entrust the harvest we don’t have the time to finish.

I think we need to know why we do church. I think we need to determine if we need to keep putting a name on a card when it can only go to one person. Maybe we need to figure out why we keep cutting the ends off our hams. There are far too many souls out there waiting to be loved into the kingdom of God for us to be wasting our resources on anything that doesn’t help get them there.

COME HOME

I ended my last post with “You are so loved!” I tell my family that often. They give me so much joy that I could never not love them. But this morning, after I’d texted my teenage daughter that she was ‘so loved’, Holy Spirit nudged me and said, “So are you. You and the rest of the world are so loved that God gave his only son, that whoever believes in the son will not perish but will have everlasting life. We are all so loved by our Father. He wants everyone to just come home where they belong! He already has a place at the table with our name on it.

That’s a pretty decent WHY!

Let’s pray that as fishers of men, we are as able to pull in a net bulging to the point of breaking as we are to trust Christ to tell us where to throw the net out and that we’re willing to throw it out at his word no matter how many times we’ve already tried or how tired we are.

And remember…you are so loved!

 

 

 

 

 

YOU HAVE AMAZING THINGS TO DO!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I’ve always liked that passage. At the very least, it’s encouraging. At the very most, it’s permission.

I know it sounds strange that grown, mature adults would need permission, doesn’t it? But consider what the opposite of permission looks like? I’ll show you.

Picture this: A college freshman is at a car dealership, narrowing down her choices first by price range, then by the only thing a college freshman would think was important – the cuteness factor. The only choices left are an adorable little sunshine-yellow sports car or an imposing Chrysler Newport. The budding relationship between girl and auto was rudely interrupted by her mother.

“We’re big people. We need a big car.” said the woman who’d never owned or driven a car in her life. Or been a college freshman!

Apparently, Lesson 1 in Auto Shopping 101 was: Make sure everyone can shove their big butts into it.

That was a very (very) long time ago, but I don’t think I’ve made a single decision since then that didn’t account for the size of my body. To this day, I am uncomfortable anywhere small-ish. I’ve often defined myself and limited my ambitions by my size.

We all have at least a bit of that in us.  It may not be your size. It might be your height, you academic aptitude, finances, your gender, the color of your skin.

I’ve participated in workshops where the speaker asks, “If money was no object and success was guaranteed, what would you do with your life?” And the thing is that I still see myself trying to squeeze into a cute little sports car. I just can’t imagine myself without limits.

I want to share something with you, and I don’t share this to get a pat on the back. It’s just to show the disconnect in my perception of myself.

god is already workingI’ve always loved words and spelling came easy to me. When I was in Grades 6 through 8, I competed in spelling bees and did fairly well.

When I was in the 8th Grade, I accidentally discovered that in spite my absolute fear of speaking in front of an audience, I had a real aptitude for it. Who knew? I spent my high school years in competitive speech and debate. I earned the highest level of recognition the National Forensic League offered at that time, lettered in Forensics and competed at the state level three years in four events.

When my first daughter was born, I had the opportunity to go back to school. Instead of returning to college, I opted for the Vo-Tech in town. That’s where I served as the president for our local chapter of Business Professionals of America, the state Vice President and the national Secretary-Treasurer. (Did you spot the trend? Yes, I’d peaked at the local level.)

The night of the ceremonies, I placed 1st in one of my events, 2nd in the other and became the second member from Kansas to be elected to a national office. (It. was. awesome!) I had given my campaign speech in front of an audience of almost 4,000 people. I was the only candidate hadn’t use note cards or the podium. My instructor was later mortified when I told her I’d gone in front of my peers with nothing more than a sketchy outline of a speech in my head.

Ten years ago, Chicken Soup for the Soul bought the only story I’d ever written with the intent of being published. This year, my second. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to get my very own book published. I’d love to be able to turn the broken pieces of my life into a stained glass vision of God’s grace, his favor, and his power. It would be a shame to waste all that trauma and drama, don’t you think? Do I expect myself to get such a book published? Can a fat girl squeeze her butt into a cute little yellow sports car? I have no idea, because I never tried it. I bought the Newport that day. I didn’t even test drive the smaller car.

There are three take-away’s from this.

  • I really don’t know how to say ‘No.’
  • I settle for a big car too often.
  • God has a plan for me whether I’m on board or not.

blown gods planDuring those years, I didn’t even acknowledge God. At the age of 12, I’d accepted Christ as my savior, collected my get-out-of-hell-free card, and went around doing my own thing.

Just remember that God’s going to do what God wants to do. And while he waits for us to surrender ourselves, he keeps busy.

So many of us, though, are the man Jesus met at the healing pool who had been crippled for many years.

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him.

The beggar never said “Yes.” Jesus healed him anyway because he had compassion. But the beggar had come to identify himself as broken, needy, helpless and dependent. He had no concept of what he would do if money were no object and success was guaranteed.

He simply wasn’t that guy. (You know…that guy.)

God has used so many of his children who couldn’t see themselves the way God saw them. Moses argued that he wasn’t good with words. Abraham and Sarah reminded God that they were beyond fertile years. Jonah? Well, Jonah had his own issues.

How did their stories end? Very simply, God got his way.

disney impossibleWe seldom grasp how the kingdom of God works. God’s all about doing the impossible, using resources that we don’t have access to. He’s about  and what’s on the other side of the wall.

We are his creations, and by limiting ourselves, our potential, and we’re limiting God.

Our lives aren’t about what we can do. They’re about what God can do with us. When God speaks, things happen!

Think about the beggar by the pool. When he was healed, he was suddenly able to walk, to get a job that used his particular talents, to become a valuable part of his community, to meet a woman who would love him and raise children with him.

Or he might have hung out at the market, doing nothing more than telling everyone why he can’t work because he used to be a cripple.

We don’t know what he did, but what a waste it would have been to not do something with the potential that Christ loosed in him with a touch and a word!

Isaiah 55:11 tells us “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

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This is the same word that created the impossibly intricate detail of our bodies. The way it heals itself, the way blood flows through it, the way it regenerates itself – they’re all on autopilot because God set them in motion with a word.

This is the same word that called this planet into being – all on auto pilot.

This is the same word that called you by name and created you in your mother’s womb, imprinting his purpose in your spirit.

People say children don’t come with an instruction manual. Actually, they do. God has a copy of it, but he doesn’t let us read it because he has seen what happens when we have brilliant ideas and try to help him. Crayon marks, highlighted sentences and corrections in red ink everywhere!

So the big question is this: If money was no object and success was guaranteed, what would you do with your life? Are you willing to at least test drive a cute little yellow sports car?

Go ahead! What are you waiting for?

 

 

And Then What?

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew pictures. Occasionally, she would walk around the room to see each child’s work.

“What are you drawing?” she asked one little girl who was working diligently at her desk.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”

The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

The little girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

God must think we’re kind of funny when we try to identify Him or his plans. Or figure out what the platypus is.

I remember several years ago that someone contemplated the vastness of the universe. Imagine, they pondered, that we live in a solar system that we barely know anything about. That solar system is part of a galaxy. In fact, it’s one of several galaxies. And the universe is all of the galaxies. So…you’d think that somewhere out – at the end of all of that – is…a wall. Right?

The question, then, is…What’s on the other side of the wall?

The “other side of the wall” is the stuff that I think God is all about. We have those things we can examine and may some day be able to identify, label, and categorize. But what about the stuff on the “other side of the wall”?

People had ideas of what Messiah would sound like, look like, act like.

Do you think they expected their deliverer to be raised in the home of a carpenter – or in the home of a soldier or politician?

Do you think they expected him to “slum it” with lepers, Samaritans and tax collectors – or with society’s elite?

Do you think they expected him to actually encourage his brothers and sisters to walk the extra mile for the army that oppressed them – or to overturn that same government, to begin an insurrection? 

Do you think they expected him to go to his crucifixion without a hearing or a single protest – or to defend himself and finally rise up to make his stand?

Do you think they expected him to come back to life after three days in the grave?

Now, that is the stuff God’s about! That mind-blowing, are-you-serious, how-is-that-even-possible stuff is absolutely what God is all about. 

The Hebrews knew the stories of God’s miracles and deliverance – the exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, Sarah’s conception of Issac, crazy Noah and his ark, David’s unlikely defeat of Goliath. But even then, they were determined to fit God into a man-designed box. Just like we do today, they considered very human, very limited ways that Messiah would – or could – come to them.

But Messiah didn’t come in a box. He came in a womb.

baby jesus.jpg
“Immanuel…God With Us”

Now, that’s outside the box! But outside the box is exactly what we need because we’re not fighting a war that’s “inside the box.” The war is not about the possession of land or resources.

The battle is for our souls, for eternity.

lion reflected in sword

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

And the battle?

But as it is written: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

Like nothing we’ve seen before or can possibly imagine with our five senses and limited imaginations.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. 

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

But how unbelievable is it that God would come to us as a baby – vulnerable and dependent, yet so very embraceable.

God came down to be embraced. (And if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.)

So what has God got planned for us? When he makes a way where there seems to be no way, what will it look like? If it’s like nothing we’ve seen before, if it’s a new thing, it’s going to make the platypus appear logical and mundane. It will have colors and scents that we can’t imagine because we’ve never seen them or smelled them! It will be the stuff on the other side of the cosmic wall, and it will take our breath away and feel like home at the same time.

And I have a feeling that God is looking forward to seeing the look on our face when we see it.

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!

I love quotes. I know a lot of people don’t. But I find that in each great quote is an entire philosophy, a unique take on life, that someone has managed to put into one or two sentences. Of course, Marianne Williamson’s quote is longer than one or two sentences, so forgive me for straying from the norm this once. I think its value justifies its length:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that in order to move forward, people need two things: validation and permission. I consider this my permission to be more than I’ve thought I could or should be.

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It’s often been hard for me to play small, actually. I seem to have needed the affirmation too badly to let an opportunity to succeed pass me by. It doesn’t usually start out that way, though. Each time I’ve done well with something, it’s begun with, “Hey, why don’t you _________________!” The word ‘no’ was never really in my vocabulary, so I did _________________ whether I wanted to or not.

From that point, there were always nudges and encouragement from someone to move to a new level. And, to be honest, I was always my own greatest competition. If I could be a leader at a local level, maybe I could be a leader at a state level, or a national level. No one else around me wanted to do it and were very encouraging, so I ended up being on a national leadership team for Business Professionals of America – the second from the state of Kansas.

This blog is something entirely new for me, and I wouldn’t be doing it if my teenage daughter hadn’t told me to. She doesn’t suggest or encourage; she just tells you to do it. And so I’m doing it. Still don’t know why I’m doing it.

I suppose that’s not entirely true. I know why I’m doing it. I want to write a book someday, and I know that to be a writer, you have to write. Ten years ago, I had a story published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul edition. It was pretty cool, but by the time I found out it was going to be published, I’d forgotten all about it. I’d done it on a whim, I’d never submitted anything for publication before, and I had no expectations of ever being published. But then something happened.

I stood in the aisle of a local Barnes & Noble, looking at the single copy of the book with my story in it. I wanted to stop the first person who walked by and tell them, “My story is in that book!” But that would have been weird, so I silently squealed in my head while running my finger lovingly down the spine of the book. Then I looked inside – you know, just to be sure it was still in there.

Then a single thought began to form in my mind. I found my husband, looked him straight in the eyes and firmly told him, “I want my own book.” Then I didn’t write another thing until my daughter told me to start a blog. I have no idea how I thought a book was going to materialize without words on paper, but that’s where things stayed for 10 years.

However, I never stopped wanting to write something, anything, that could affect people. I want to write something that will show people who feel unloved that they are loved, and the people who feel unlovable that they are lovable. And I want them to know that they are loved by a good God. I want to show people that they can do more than just survive a bad life, that they can actually thrive with a really good life because that’s what Christ died for us to have. And I want to show people that while they may have had a rough beginning – even a rough middle – they can still have an epic end starting now.

Has this been done before? Thank God it has been! Has it been done by me? Not yet. But I believe (and this is hard to put out there in case someone disagrees – and they probably will) that God has given me a past and a talent that I can put to good use for Him.

One more quote and I’ll be done for the day. Erma Bombeck was my favorite humorist when I was growing up. I treasured using her books as selections when I was in high school speech. She said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”

Now I don’t expect to be an Erma Bombeck, but I can be a LaRonda Bourn – the first of my kind. I’ll start sentences and even paragraphs with conjunctions when I probably shouldn’t. I may use sentence fragments. And by golly, I will use commas like they’re on sale. But if I put those conjunctions, fragments and commas in God’s hands, maybe – just maybe – something new and beautiful can come from them all.

Wow! I really said all that, huh?

ENOUGH FOR TODAY

I’m learning that God wants a trusting heart.

Yesterday was challenging! We had just left home to go to visit my husband’s mother in Nebraska. Now understand that my husband has been unemployed for two months and he has yet to get any money from unemployment because of one mix-up after another, so I was already worried about getting the bills paid. Then, about 30 minutes into our 6-hour drive, I got a text from my boss that there was a problem with our payroll and there was no paycheck in my account yet. And then, I noticed that our escrow payment was $100 more than usual!

Fortunately, within two hours, my paycheck was deposited and the over-payment on my escrow was corrected. So we’re good for now.

And that, I think, is the key phrase – We’re good for now.

In her book, Calling Jesus, Sarah Young writes, “Many of the situations that entangle your mind are not today’s concerns; you have borrowed them from tomorrow.” When we recite The Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “give us today our daily bread.”

Jesus understood how important it is to take things one moment at a time, one day at a time. He even said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  (Matthew 6:28 NIV.)

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I need to remember that I don’t need to worry about anything because my Lord sees me, he knows me, he loves me and he already knows how he’s going to meet my needs.

It’s easy to trust when your circumstances are good; not so easy when things look scary and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Then we remember that God already knows what’s going to happen next. He already has a good plan for us. So keep a peaceful heart and wait for it. Stop worrying and start worshipping!

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JUST IMAGINE

You know how they use the wind as a way to explain faith in God? You can’t see the wind but you know it’s there because you can see the effect it has on things. Well, let’s just say that today I can’t feel a breeze. Today, I’m struggling with my faith. Not because God has failed me, but because I can’t see him giving me a thumbs-up that tells me everything is going to be just fine. I can’t hear an audible voice telling me it’s going to work out.

Today is one of those days that I could gladly crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head and wait for a better day to come along to replace this one. Today is one of those days in which I have to have faith by choice. Just to be clear, I stink at doing anything I don’t want to do simply because it’s good for me.

I don’t eat the foods that are good for me because they don’t taste as good as the foods that aren’t as good for me. I don’t exercise because not exercising looks so much more appealing. And I’m paying the price for making bad, lazy choices.

So today is the kind of day when I have to choose to do something that doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to choose to trust God to take care of me and praise him even though I have more confidence that man will fail me than that God will not fail me.

I have to choose to cast my cares on Him when it’s so much easier to worry.

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Author Dan Zadra wrote that “worry is a misuse of imagination.” It’s also scripturally not recommended. In fact, it shows a distinct lack of trust in God. Again and again, God’s word tells us to not be afraid, and what is worry if it’s not fear?

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So, instead of worrying, I need to pray and let God know know what I need; or, at least, what I think I need. I’m sometimes wrong about what I think I need. Like I might think I need a new job when what I really need is a day off and a new appreciation for a job that puts food on my table, pays my bills, and does a fairly good job of keeping me out of trouble 40 hours a week.

See what I means? Perspective is everything!

Then I need to do it all with “thanksgiving” because, in spite of how I feel, God is always good, right?

In return, I get a peace that passes all understanding and a good God who will guard my heart and mind. And that would be great right now because my heart is feeling pretty ugly and my mind is not a fun place to hang out today. But I imagine things are about to get better very soon!

 

 

HELLO, MY NAME IS….

It seems that when you meet someone, there’s a list of facts about yourself that you routinely share – safe things. For example, I like telling people I was born in California, raised in Missouri, spent a few years in Kansas before moving to Minnesota, where I currently live. I suppose I feel there’s a preemptive apology in there somewhere in case I fail to pronounce my O’s like a proper Minnesotan, or if I slip up and ask them what “casserole” they brought instead of calling it a “hot dish.”

I tell them I work at an insurance agency before quickly moving on to a subject that strikes a little less fear into their hearts. After all, who wants to sit and visit with someone who might try to sell you insurance, right? At least I now have a job to discuss. The months I was unemployed were the worst! I was relieved to discover the phrase “community volunteer.” The only danger there was having someone figure out that my husband probably didn’t earn enough to allow me the luxury of being a “community volunteer”. Know what I mean?

In any event, I’ve learned that the longer you know someone, they eventually find out what your favorite foods, books, movies, singers, and sports teams are. You’ll tell them what you really don’t like about some people, what you like about others. For some, it’s the beginning of a great friendship.

Maybe not so much for you, though. Will they ever become acquainted with the person you see in the mirror? The one that even your own family seldom sees? How do you ever introduce that person?

Hello, my name is….

Did you know that today I had a hard time getting out of bed and getting dressed? I just wanted to keep sleeping because that’s where I can avoid the ugly thoughts that won’t stop going through my head. And getting dressed? Let’s face it – you can put lipstick on a pig, but…. Still, I knew I would have to put on a smile when, in all honesty, I want to cry. In fact, that’s why I wear water-proof mascara. I know that at some point, I will go to the ladies room and cry, and I don’t want my mascara to run. And, no, I don’t really have allergies. That’s not why my eyes look puffy sometimes.

Did you know that the reason I don’t welcome you into my home is because I wouldn’t know what to do with you? When I was growing up, we didn’t have company over and other kids weren’t allowed into the house because we never knew what mood Dad might be in. So, I’m sorry, but I can’t bear the thought of you coming in for a visit. Can we meet somewhere else?

Did you know that I’m sorry? I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry if I make you wait or if I say the wrong thing. I’m sorry if I talk too much. I’m sorry if I don’t talk enough. I’m sorry for taking up too much room. I’m sorry for breathing too much air. I’m just…so sorry.

Did you know that I’m afraid you’ll want to be my friend because I don’t quite know how to handle that level of intimacy? I’m afraid you’ll want more from me than I’m able to give. Some people have wanted everything I had until there was nothing left for me. But I’m also afraid you’ll leave me if we do become friends. I’m afraid that you’ll learn what I already know about myself – that I’m a worthless pain. I’m needy and insecure and ugly. I’m unlovable. And I couldn’t bear for you to discover that and reject me.

Do you really have any idea who you’re talking to? Let’s just stick with the name on my name tag, huh? It will be easier that way. I’ll smile. You’ll smile. Then we will both go home none the wiser, OK?

But that’s not OK with God. God designed us for relationship!  As his children, we’re meant to encourage and love each other. In fact, other people may need exactly what you might be hiding. You’d be surprised at who is waiting to get to know you. You might even find someone who’s as scared as you are.

As C S Lewis said:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

No matter how flawed you might think you are, you’ll be surprised at what can happen if you just give relationships a chance. It may be a learning curve, but with God’s help you can do it. Remember:  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NIV). Now, go make a friend!

ONE OF THOSE DAYS

I’m having one of those days today. I didn’t have days like this until I had emergency surgery for an Ascending Aortic Dissection in July of 2013. Which means that I have been having days like this since July of 2013. I don’t like them! In fact, I’m quite tired of them.

Before I write another word, I want to let you know that, yes, I am aware that there are people out there who have it worse. My heart goes out to them and I sympathize with their challenges. I don’t know how they do it. That being said, if you don’t want to attend my pity party today, take your comfort food and go before we play pin the tear on the sad girl. 😀

On the outside, I think I appear to be fine. People say they don’t usually notice the difficulty I have with my speech, although I am aware of the effort it now takes to speak clearly. Many of the people I know now didn’t know me when I did public speaking in high school or even when I did community theater here in New Ulm.  And they can’t appreciate how painful it is to me to work so hard on something that was once so effortless and fun for me. I’ve always said my favorite thing to do was to talk.

When others read my handwriting, they often don’t have my pre-dissection handwriting to compare it to. If they did, they would see a difference between today’s shaky, labored handwriting (which they say they can read) and my prior assertive, fluid handwriting that leaned forward in anticipation for the next word. I was so proud of my signature. It was me. It’s now as ordinary as I am. Today, I have to carefully sign my name as if it were simply any other word.

People might notice the care I take with my steps, but I fear they might also think I’ve been drinking when they see me saunter to the side or lose my balance. I can say with confidence that it is not because I’m drunk. Alcohol is no more responsible for my unsteady gait than it is my slightly poor driving and even worse parking. Those are more a result of my poor judgment of distance.

And it’s frustrating to have poor short-term memory when I’m accustomed to being able to juggle several different thoughts. Now, I have a hard time keeping a single thought in my head until I get it out. I often feel like I did when I was a kid and had to repeat “milk, eggs, bread” all the way to the grocery store so I wouldn’t forget what my mom had sent me after.

Anyone watching me type today would never imagine that I had excelled at that, too. I did. When I was in my late 20’s, I won 1st and 2nd places in national competition for Business Professionals of America in Information Processing. Today, I have to constantly correct myself in spite of how slow I go.

Since I was on heart-lung bypass for nearly eight hours to repair my aorta and save my life, everything seems to take more concentration and deliberation. It’s exasperating to have to carefully do simple things that I used to do with ease.

And on days like this, I feel a little broken and frustrated. I’ve prayed for healing, but I think God has his own idea of how I’m going to be healed. See, before my dissection, I was always in a hurry and usually managed to get myself in over my head with work and responsibilities.

I seldom took the time to relax, and I didn’t relax I assumed anyone (especially my family) who wasn’t doing something was lazy. I took it upon myself to feel burdened and offended by their lack of busyness.

I can’t hurry anymore. I can’t talk fast or write fast or type fast without the words coming out unintelligibly. I can’t walk fast without tripping or tiring myself. I don’t care to drive anywhere and prefer to leave the errands to my husband.

Here’s what I’m finding out as I find slowing down a necessity: A lot of the things I thought had to be done by me can actually be done by someone else. A lot of the things I thought had to be said, don’t need to be said by me. Most of the thoughts in my head really don’t need to be shared at all. And even if I get there slowly, I will eventually get there. All in all, the work gets done somehow.

Sure, my pride has taken a big hit in the last 4 1/2 years. I’ve prayed for healing. The body isn’t healing that well, but if God wanted to heal me of busyness, pride and arrogance…I think it’s starting to work. What God has done is to force me into relationship with others in a way that is much deeper and more vulnerable.

And if I wasn’t sure that God is working on my, he confirmed it just now. As I looked for an image to go with this post, I found on Pinterest the two graphics I’ve used in this post without having to do a search. My God has a sense of humor!

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HE’S AFTER YOUR HEART

hes after your heart

I saw this on Pinterest, and it absolutely captivated me. From as early as I had an interest in the opposite sex, if any boy or man had said to me, “I’m after your heart.” I would have melted and sighed, “Okay….” (Unless he was wielding a knife with a maniacal look in his eyes, of course. That would have been scary, you know? Just sayin’.)

Just know that I’m no expert on scripture, and I’d never read Hosea until last night. And even then, I can’t claim to have studied it, but I’m excited to share what I learned about God’s nature in loving his people when I looked at this book.

The book starts out with God’s conversation with Hosea about the punishment Israel is about to receive for being sinful and unrepentant. He’s using the prophet as a visual aid for the poor state of the Israel’s relationship with himself. But we don’t get far in the narration before we see the sheer depth and breadth of God’s love. We see how he longs for reconciliation; he’s willing to forgive and waiting to see the hearts of his people turned back to him.

But before they can be reconciled to him, the people will be punished for their faithlessness and wicked choices. Blood will be spilled, the land will be dried up and the people will be defenseless in battle. He even goes so far as to declare that he is no longer the Israelites’ “I AM”. Still, the time will come when God’s word will not return void. He called the people of Israel his people, and they will be restored as such.

“Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God. (Hosea 1:10)

So if reconciliation is on the horizon, why would he punish them? They had been unfaithful to him. They forgot their God, the one who delivered them from slavery, saw them through the wilderness and took them to their promised land. You can hear the sorrow in his heart when he says:

“I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rigs and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot,”  declares the Lord. (v. 13)

The good news is that we have a loving and forgiving God who is always willing to take us back after we’ve repented. The words he uses are filled with gentleness and compassion. He says:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:12 – 14) “In that day,” declares the Lord“you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ (v. 16)

Such love and wooing is in these words! Wouldn’t we all much rather have a “husband” who loves us, protects us, and desires us than a “master”? Although both a master and a husband will see to our needs for food, clothing and shelter, there is so much more commitment and mercy in being a spouse than a slave. Slaves can be bought and sold. Spouses are meant to be kept for life and cherished.

What’s more, he speaks of himself as a loving parent.

It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.  I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:3 – 4)

Further, he goes on to affirm his holiness. While he loves us as a husband might and tends to us as a parent might, God is still holy above all else.

I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man—the Holy One among you. (Hosea 11:9)

Not only will the Lord love us again, he will restore us.

“Come, let us return to the LordHe has torn us to pieces but he will heal us;
he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.” (Hosea 6:1)

So that’s it? Some harsh punishment and we’re good with God because he loves us so much? Not quite. Our part is to repent and return to him. It takes action on our part. We must see the Lord for who he is – holy and sovereign. There is none equal to him, no substitute for him, and we have to live with that as our truth!

But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always. (Hosea 12:6)

That’s our call to action. Jesus made this even easier for us through his sacrificial death. We no longer have to make sacrifices to restore our relationship with the Lord. God doesn’t want sacrifices. He wants your heart!