Just Breathe in the Moment – Breathe in Shalom

It’s there in the moment.

sunshine

Sandwiched between the sadness and the joy. Between the love and the difficult relationships. Between the sun and the clouds. Between till death do us part, and lets talk about this another time. Between confidence and fear. Between self-preservation and laying down our lives. 

Between risking it all, and guarding our hearts.

Between finding God and losing Him.

Shalom

I am starting to understand Shalom in this time between times as I listen to the rhetoric of a political figure who incites fear and anger. I wonder what has happened to our country – to respecting those in authority as given by God even when we don’t agree. To respect each other and our different opinions – the fabric of freedom.

It is a higher calling to love others rather than to hate –  to have faith instead of fear.

All politics aside – I serve the Son of  a Middle Eastern immigrant who also happens to be the Son of God, born of the Holy Ghost, and born to die that others may live.

A Middle Eastern immigrant who had to flee persecution and death on several occasions beginning as a wee child.

We are compelled to give the person who asks us for our shirt – our coat as well.

We are encouraged if asked to walk one mile to willingly go two instead.

We are called to lay down our life for others with a promise that if we hold tightly to our own lives we will lose them, but if we give up our life we will gain – everything.

We will gain Christ. 

We are called to love, love, and then love some more. We are not called to Patriotism but to Kingdom life.

We are not called to an American flag but a Banner of Love.

We are called to an expansion of the Kingdom, not an expansion of our government.

We are called to this moment in time.

We are called to the person next to us on the bus who is a different color, a different race, a different ethnicity, a different religion – but of one blood. We as Christ followers have the Spirit whispering to us, “You were called for such a time as this.” The pain, the suffering, the wars, the genocides, the immigrants, the oppressed – we were called for them.

The hurting, the weak, the despised. 

We can’t love without Shalom. True Agape love can’t spring forth from the polluted waters of fear, self-preservation or anger. 

Shalom is so much more than peace. Shalom is complete wholeness, peace, tranquility – it is our emotions at harmony with everything that is –  breathing to the rhythm of God’s love. It is a state of being even when everything around you is in a state of doing.

It’s outwardly weeping the pain of one of our children while we breath in it is well with my soul. 

It is crossing thoughts of movie theater terrorism carried away by the laughter of happy grandchildren eating popcorn without a care.

It’s overcoming the fear of flying and seeing the in the Middle Eastern Muslim sitting across from you the face of Jesus instead of the face of the enemy.

Our Triune God is great. Our country is just a group of people fighting to do the best we can with fallen perspectives and selfishness and sin striving against the guiding compass of Love with a small measure of finite greatness. 

We as disciples are to live in the moment of Shalom. It is well with our souls when we put others first.

We must recognize that we are afraid, and fear produces cognitive dissonance…

…and cognitive dissonance causes spiritual dissonance…

…and spiritual dissonance is not where Shalom abides.

Shalom resides only in the God who was willing to lay down His rights – His very life that we as immigrant children could be adopted as sons and daughters into a Kingdom without end, without boundaries, without wars, pain, or suffering. A Kingdom party of Imago Dei.

We can’t invite enemies to the party – we won’t get close enough to them to do that. We must invite friends, acquaintances and neighbors.

We are called to inhale a time as this – and bring others into that breath. 

(All photography courtesy of my son Samuel – SamShots )

 

 

God’s Will: When You’re Straining to Hear His Voice

It’s in those moments when you need answers – real answers. Not the prayers that we toss out in gratitude and thankfulness, or the ones that sail on a breeze as we converse with Jesus over the every day issues of life. Not the chatting. Not even the pleading when life is dark and we can’t hear, see, or feel a glimpse of God.

blue flowers

It’s when your waiting to hear his voice about the decisions in life that matter, but you’ve settled into into living in the now and not yet so every moment is a moment for God. And yet it’s there. Haunting your thoughts. What do I do Lord? Where do I go? How? When? Is it you Lord? Is it you?

Here I am Lord send me. 

Here I am Lord. I’m listening. 

The decisions – the big ones. The moves, the missions, the jobs, the ones that change your life as God changes your heart to pursue his will.

The will decisions.

What is your will for my life, right now, in this moment of time that will affect many, many, future moments, and an equal amount of relationships and some of their moments.

We were away for a few weeks attending to some business, visiting some family, witnessing our son graduate from basic training. We had made all the decisions before we went… where to stay so as to make a completely non-affordable trip affordable, how to travel… drive to there…fly to here…fly back there…more driving. Almost every carefully thought out plan was upended as we arrived. 

Did you pray about it?

(Gosh, I hate when people ask that. First, it can sound really self-righteous, second most of the time you are asking someone that would have prayed, third, “delight yourself in the Lord and he’ll give you the desires of your heart…” When we are in daily communion with the Holy Spirit his presence in always seeking, always listening, always intervening, but we live in a fallen world. Things happen. Last but not least, if someone hasn’t prayed, you are insinuating that is why bad things are happening!  Living in communion is prayer. But I digress.)

Life is about choices and many if not most of the choices we make, we listen to the spirit’s guidance and hope we are interpreting what we think we are hearing correctly. Communication between two humans can be difficult enough – communication with God has a certain amount of guess work combined with a large dose of faith.

I’ve had those moments of almost audible prophecy (that came to pass) and absolute assurance, but most of the time it is that gut feeling. An inner knowing that He is with me in the decisions, even if I am still not sure my decision has heavenly origins.

Our relationship with God is not based upon being in His will, but in being in him.

Being in Him is being in His will.

It is being sold out to follow Jesus despite the costs, despite the pain, despite the struggles. It is living in the place where He is the first thing we think of when we wake up in the morning and the last One we think of when we lie down at night. It is when our life is so intertwined in His that “we live and move and have our being” is more than a religious platitude, but the savor of His divine breath mingled with our own.

It is when we cease to look to God to fulfill our every need, purpose, and desire, but allow ourselves to be fully seen and known in naked vulnerability and brokenness.

It’s when we understand that just like a baby, newly birthed, smelling of life and love, nestled safely in the arms of her mother – His delight is right there – in that moment, in that vulnerability, in that helplessness, in that inner cry of innocence.

baby

We are fully His, and His delight is in loving us. 

That is His will for us, and in us. Pure innocent love. Pure innocent trust. Not straining to hear His voice. Not striving to do His will.

Not asking for anything, but trusting in everything. Not striving for results, but resting in relationship. Not anxious in seeking, but content in being.

His voice is the voice of Love. His will is the will of being.

His grace is sufficient. 

 

 

Why Black Lives Should Matter to Christians

Watermarked_Love Sign (2)I am the mother of a white policeman. I am the mother of two white soldiers and mother in law to another. I am the mother of an Asian son. I have been the foster mom, respite provider, shelter, or temporary home to White, Black, and Asian children. I have friends that are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Christian,  Muslim, Hindu, Jew…  I believe that before God all lives matter. 

I also believe that although we are ALL created in the image of God, Jesus modeled a special heart for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized.  He went out of his way to minister to those who were culturally unacceptable, religious outcasts, and gender oppressed. He didn’t stand up for those in power, instead he rebuked them.

All lives matter – Jesus modeled that. He also modeled that until there is an all inclusive cultural and racial equality, both inside and outside the church, we are to speak for the marginalized. 

Timing is everything – when black lives are snuffed out unjustly – that is not the time for “All Lives Matter.” When police are snuffed out, that is not the time for Black Lives Matter. It is a time of empathy for all people. 

This is empathy training 101 – jumping down in the hole with others who are in pain instead of minimizing what they are experiencing. It’s why you don’t reply to a women who has just lost a child, “I lost a child too…” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle…” or “All lives matter.”

Imagine what empathy would like like across cultural, racial, economic, political, geographical, and religious boundaries. It would look like the hundreds of scriptures that encourage followers of Christ to care for the poor, weak, marginalized, oppressed, orphans, widows, hungry...

It would feel like Christ.

Watermarked_Statues (2)

Empathy is silently saying, I don’t understand what you going through, but I know you’re hurting and I’m here.”  It is doing for others what they can’t do for themselves in that moment, or that culture, or that time.

This is the time for the racial reconciliation and equality that should have happened a lifetime ago. 

I was raised in a white middle class suburban neighborhood in the 1960’s and 70’s, in New Jersey, and though my sister in law is black, my parents held onto racial prejudices. Though they strongly disapproved of hate groups like the KKK and spoke about equality, they didn’t want us to “bring one home” for dinner either. My in-laws held to strong racial prejudices – to the point of seeing only differences.  Big differences. That was my husband’s heritage.

It’s real. 

When I was in grade school, both my brothers and the neighborhood boys liked to mess with my mind. They told me how a little white girl like me was going to get beat up when I went to my mixed race high school. I was a scrawny white kid and was sufficiently terrified.  I had to fight the same racial prejudices of my upbringing because of ignorance.

 Ignorance. 

Two years later I was dating a young black man (hiding it from my mother) and beginning to learn that there were differences in our lives that I would never fully understand because of the privilege I was born into.

I was comfortable in our own American caste system. 

There was a reason Jesus modeled why we are to enter into the world of the marginalized. He understood the imbalance of power and the favor that goes with the status quo and privilege. 

The first time that racial prejudiced touched my life was when my Asian son was about seven years old. He went to play nearby with some children at his brothers soccer game and after a short while he came back crying that the kids had called him “ching, chong, cho.” My mothers heart broke and I was livid. (I wanted to smack the little beasts to be honest). I can empathize with the anger that rises up from injustice.

Those of us who hold power and privilege simply because of our race, economic status, or geographical location already understand that our lives matter. This country caters to white, Judaeo-Christian mores. Fact. It was our foundation. Fact. Those mores do not always reflect the truth of the gospel of Good News or of Christ. Fact. 

My Asian son is going to be a licensed driver soon – if he was black I would be anxious. I wouldn’t want to think about him getting pulled over. I have friends in mixed marriages who have told me about police stopping them to make sure they aren’t being kidnapped.

I fear for my son – he’s a good cop – a just cop – his life matters. He is on the side of right. He speaks out against injustices – especially within the church.

The political climate is creating division and hate and the church is hoodwinked into following along. We are a country torn. A people torn. A church torn.

Social media has become an Adrenalin pumped, addictive place for people to spew vile comments and push ideologies. As disciples of Jesus, we are to stand for love – to agree to disagree – to be a blessing to the nations – to others. We were not called to protect ourselves and to think only of our own rights and privileges, but to lay down our lives for our neighbor – Muslim, White, Black, Jew, Arab, Hispanic, Hindu…

Jesus didn’t “save” us for a get out jail, take care of myself, country-club Christianity, but for radical transformation that changes lives – beginning with our own.

We were called to speak out against injustice and fight for the oppressed and marginalized. Instead the American church often appears to be filled with groups of self-righteous indignant people with an attitude that says, “It’s me against the world, my own nationality, nice house, comfortable lifestyle, personal ideologies, and abundant prosperity, is more important that maintaining a posture of humility and reconciliation towards others.” 

I have had a teeny, tiny, eansy, weansy, sampling of what injustice feels like as a female pastor/ chaplain. I have stood by as men were referenced by titles despite my never being called that way (and I don’t want to be, but it’s the principle), or given positions of responsibility with less qualifications, or threatened by my education, age, or experience. I haven’t always handled it as well as my Asian son has. It hurts. My strongest mentors have been women of color and minorities who are also pastors. Women of color who know what it is to pray, pray, pray, and pray some more, for the safety of their loved ones, or lean into forgiveness towards those who deem them poor or uneducated on the basis of their skin color. I aspire to be like them – to live in the love and forgiveness that Christ modeled when he turned the other cheek and said, “Forgive them Dad, they are clueless.”

I mourn for France.

I also mourn knowing that the flags will fly, the prayers will flow, and the support will be strong – as it should be – but it will be much stronger and much more present than it was for the terrorist attacks and murders in the Middle East, or Africa, or  other developing nations that don’t represent our Western ideologies.

Maybe in “praying for repentance” in our nation our prayers should begin by asking that our hearts will break over the imbalance of power in races, gender, nationality, and cultural biases – that we will see humanity as Christ does. 

A good place to start discovering your racial prejudices is this site below. You may find out that you are more prejudiced than you realize – or you may find out that your prejudiced attitude has been transformed by releasing your deeply rooted western ideologies as you cry out to love others more than you do your own life.

Understanding Prejudice

“Our Lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”  Martin Luther King Jr. 

May we never be silent.

Facebook – A Sociological Perspective and 7 Ways to Be Positive

Facebook and other forms of social media have the potential for good, but as evidenced, also the potential for plain old stabbing ugly. I see more negatives on Facebook than positives lately. At least it feels that way when we think about how many positives outweigh one negative…

Creepy

It made me think about the commonly known sociological idea of needing to speak  more positively into a person’s life to counteract one negative. For some reason, people think Facebook is the ideal place to spew anger and personal ideologies wherever and whenever they please. I am not talking about posting personal viewpoints about religion or politics on your own page, but how we respond to others who post things on their own pages.

If I don’t agree with what you post on your page – I can choose to scroll by and leave it alone. 

What began for me as a fun way to stay in touch with family and friends, has me thinking of deleting the whole page, “unfriending” all but my closest friends and family, or just never looking at it for the sake of keeping it as a ministry tool. Yet, it is a wonderful way for me to see pictures of kids and grand-kids, some of whom I hardly get to see.

Sociologists have known for ages that for every negative that gets spoken it takes between five and nine positives to counteract.  Yet, I can think of the many times I post an article, a saying, or an image, and no one ever “LIKES” it. Yet, post an article that someone disagrees with and people who are never on my Facebook page come out of the woodwork to make judgments, speak their opinions, correct, or try to provoke an argument.

“Just saying.” 

On several occasions I have posted articles that I wanted to read later, only to find by the time I had returned to my page there was a long argument of responses already there.

I always delete the post rather than have put downs or arguments front and center. 

When you continuously post negative comments to another person’s page, it is like going into their living room for a visit and provoking an argument or telling them everything that’s wrong with their thinking.

It is not relational. It’s rude. It does not foster community. It hurts feelings.

Facebook should not be a place for thought police to tell others how to think, feel, or what convictions they should or should not have based upon your personal ideologies or doctrinal beliefs in the absence of genuine relationships. 

How long do you think a real life friendship would last that way? 

Not long ago I posted a satirical article from a silly paper, poking fun about a prominent prosperity gospel preacher “declaring he could fly.” I do not believe the prosperity gospel is sound gospel, I believe it promotes self-centered, American Christian exceptionalism, and I came out of a word of faith cult – buried a child in it – it is my personal deep conviction. Mine, mine, mine – you don’t have to agree. I found the article amusing – nothing more, nothing less. I was disappointed to have several people preach at me, even make a  comment about hoping my “friends understand that it’s satire.” Yet, instead of replying if my “friends” think people can fly they deserve to be deceived,  I deleted it. Seriously?

I don’t want to enter into rude dialogue in a public forum. If I accidentally offend someone I apologize – and I don’t preface it with a “but I thought…”

Since that satirical article was posted, I have taken notice of how many people visit my page to speak life. I have deleted three more articles in a matter of weeks, one which I hadn’t even read yet but had posted to “read later.” I have also just deleted comments that were negative and would hurt someone else, if not me.

(And yes, I “like” lots of stuff – even things I disagree with if it was a well written article with good points. I try to see from the perspective of others – I teach that in my courses. I do it to create the “positives” I’m speaking about.)

I also take notice if any “friends” comment on the video of the Muslim girl speaking about her horrific experiences of persecution (not just my Muslim friends, but Christians), or “like” the picture of the Hindu child of my friend, adorned for a religious service. I notice if they ever share a conference about grief that is being held locally, even if they don’t want to attend, but because maybe it’s important to someone else. Or because I ask and it’s important to me. I notice out of 600 plus “friends” less than 200 have joined my ministry page – the thing that is most important to me in my life in Christ – serving others who are hurting…  

I take notice if I say I may choose not to vote and people are quick to tell me how wrong I am – that my “only options” are…and my “only choice is….” People who don’t know me well enough to know what my convictions are, or if I have ever voted in any election.  Or with a strongly military family if I hold convictions of passive non-resistance or agree with taking up arms.

I don’t know my Facebook “friends” and they don’t know me. In truth, we are not even acquaintances.

I have certainly come to understand that.  I have less than a handful of friends that know me and Dave. Friends that I trust my heart to. I certainly don’t have 600.

Most of my closest friends aren’t on Facebook. They don’t like what they see there. 

If people did know me, they would understand that my empathy and trauma work stems from a soft heart and a place that is easily wounded so carefully guarded. I have good self-care in place. 

My friends understand that I have strong convictions that I try not to push on others. So when I say I probably won’t vote – I want to be respected for that – the same way I will respect your right to vote for Hillary, Trump, or anyone else (even if I don’t respect the candidate) – or not vote at all – believing you are basing your decision upon your own convictions. 

I wish I could say that sticking to ministry interests has fixed the problem, but I have had people rudely respond to articles about suicide, domestic violence, and poverty – sometimes messaging me privately to tell me how wrong I am – and deleted the comments in courtesy toward those who would be further wounded. Really?

I am not God. I am not arrogant. I am fallible. So are  you.

I am a citizen of a higher country first, and a citizen of the U.S.A. second. Both are places of freedom 

So let me make some suggestions about Facebook:

  1. If you see a post on someone else’s page, don’t argue unless you know that person desires to be engaged, or invites you to. 
  2. Instead, you can always re-post the article in your own living room (facebook page) and start a dialogue there.
  3. Find positive things to “like” about your friends posts. Use the 5 to 1 rule. If you haven’t found five positives with a friends opinions don’t respond negatively with one. Five likes on grandkids pictures don’t count.
  4. Remember people have feelings and you never know what someone is going through at any given moment in time. You can make or break that day with positive or negative words. Speak life.
  5. We live in a free country – try not to be like the politicians who spend more time bashing each other than dealing with the issues. We don’t need thought police.
  6. Ultimately, we are all on the same side – wanting what we believe is best for our country, the church, our children, our communities – even when we differ.
  7. If you are a Christian – remember that we are salt and light. Spending all your time speaking out against the sins of this country, the moral issues you disagree with, or end time judgements is not living how Jesus did. Jesus spent the majority of His ministry healing, doing good, and speaking life – even to His enemies. That is the power of the gospel -the Good News.

 

So, if I unfriend you, don’t take it personally. I need to take care of my heart and stay close to my kids and I am trying to figure out how to do that. Maybe I just need to stay away for a season –  As Dave says, “It’s Facebook.” I know.

Gods 14

If you are a “friend” you can follow me where it matters to me the most – my ministry page. That is where I am busy trying to feed vulnerable children and families, help orphans and widows, and serve the poor and hurting. That’s who I am – God uses our brokenness for His glory. I am trying to live out that lesson through social media – be patient with me. 

Compassionate Reach Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

The Message of the Cross in the Face of a Child

“I don’t want anything else from this world. Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”
Refugee 1

Compassion has a face. Love has a voice. Action has a motive. Christ. 

We are all strangers in a strange land, pilgrims passing through.                   (Full story here:  News )

He only wanted a life for his family, fleeing from a country where over 11 million people have been displaced since 2011 and a hundreds of thousands have died. Surrounding countries such as Iraq, are facing their own civil wars and terrorism.

crisis 3

Where would you go? He tried to go to Canada to join his sister through legal immigration means, and they were denied.

What would you do to save your littles?

It is so easy for us to miss the living, breathing, brokenness of real life, amidst the abundant sterility of our well-kept lives. The faces of refugees are not sterile, or well-kept, but desperate and stricken.

They were just little boys, the same ages as some of my grandsons.

Refugee 2

In the face of Galip, I see my four year old Hector, who just started Kindergarten last week. I bought him a backpack with the image of a shark on it.  It is an,  “I love you, work hard in school,” gift of my love. I’ve never had to think about keeping his head above water as we struggled to stay alive. I don’t have to worry about a bombs exploding overhead.

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Galip should be picking out a backpack and jumping with excitement over the big yellow buses that go by. He should be grinning from ear to ear as he picks up his new box of crayons and shows them to papa with pride. He should be looking forward to Christmas and the shiny light shows that North America displays. His aunt should be able to see the snowflakes reflected in his eyes as he gazes in rapture at his first downy sight. He should be visiting museums and learning about Pirates, U.S. History, and tasting freedom and safety. 

Hector 1

In the image of tiny two year old Alyan, I see our little grandson David Grubb.

refugees 3

I can’t look at the image of Alyan’s lifeless body, lying face down on the beach, without weeping. He should be smelling flowers, and growing up to the  questions of “why?” “Why do they have so many cars mama?” “Why is it so green?” He should be swinging on a swing saying, “higher!” or playing in a sandbox with his mother hovering nearby, her eyes full of the wonder of raising a toddler. Instead her eyes are closed, forever, and her husband holds the images of pain for a lifetime as they were buried in the very place he tried to flee from.

I would have taken them all into my home so they would not be a “burden” to society. David would have housed them, and clothed them, fed them, loved them, and helped them to find a new life. He would have held their toddler so mama and papa could explore an evening in their glorious new beginnings. In doing so, maybe they would find their life in Christ. (The sad implication of our financial changes as result of David’s former loss of career with IBM, isn’t in our own lack of need, but in our inability to help and house the hurting.)

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In helping others, we are helped. In loving others, we are loved. In teaching others, we learn the many things education can’t provide. In giving, we receive gifts that no amount of money can purchase. The things that the Donald Trumps’ of the world are lacking in – a Kingdom vision.

People are often shouting about the sins of America in terms of external issues of morality, and what we need to do become a great nation again. Maybe the wicked ways we need humble ourselves and pray about (2 Chron. 7:14), are not the things that America is doing, as much as what we are not doing, caring for widows, orphans, strangers, and the poor, and revealing a nation full of compassion towards all of God’s image bearers. (Duet. 24:17, Exodus 23:9, Duet. 27:19, I John 3:17, Is. 58:7-10 to name a few.)

Jesus was moved with compassion towards all people, at all times; outraged only at those who were more interested in the preservation of themselves and their historic religious identities. Acts 10:38 says it clearly,

“You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.   (The MSG)

We are all refugees in a foreign land seeking a safe place to rest our heads, be free from struggling, and find peace in this fleeting moment of time.

For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. I Chron. 29:15 (ESV)

With issues of sovereignty, it’s crucial that we remember we are all just passing through the place we temporally call home. We are here to glorify God and to grow His Kingdom, with disciples who are relentlessly pursuing Him. We should be radically altered in that pursuit so we are transformed to reflect the character and nature of Jesus!

 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,   Phil 3:20 (ESV)

Maybe our “passions” as American citizens of heaven, need to be re-aligned.

 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  I pet 2:11 (ESV)

Let us all be people of grace to the Alyans’ and Galips’ of the world. Let’s not appear before God as a nation whose sin was to stand by and idly watch the suffering of others, engorged by our own gluttony, as we turn our eyes from suffering.

Maybe that is the message of the cross.

The Heartbeat of God

Listening. Yearning. Longing. We strain to hear the heartbeat of God.

Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump…

It’s a vibrant sound that reminds us we are alive; a movement in our souls that goes far beyond “we are okay”, to we are thriving.

Played in harmony, the melody reaches to the places where only One can hear it. 

clouds

There are so many distractions in our lives today to keep us from hearing, let alone moving. Though we may discern the vibrations at times, truly listening seems beyond our grasp. Just out of reach

The distractions of the young vary from electronic devices that ping notices of instant messages to the adrenalin of gaming. Distractions that keep adrenalin pumping, and hearts racing. Distractions that keep the heartbeat of God hidden beneath the loud pumping of their own.

Pain is the greatest distraction as our heart beats with the deafening sounds of “what if?” Every year we grow older gives us the “what if’s” of life.

Some are by choice and some are by circumstance, but none are a surprise to God. Though our hearts may race with the fears of future problems, God’s heart beats with the peace of His will.

Regrets drown out the quiet whispers of God calling us into His rest

Fear prevents us from climbing into Abba’s lap where we can hear the beat, and feel the pulse.

Twenty -Four 1

Thump-thump… thump-thump…thump-thump…”You are mine.”  Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump… “I adore you.”  Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump,thump...Trust me.”

The steady beat of God’s heart reassures us of who we are.

The steady beat reassures us of who He is. 

It is only when we stop moving that we can learn to listen; we hear the sound of Holy beating and move in the direction of Perfect love. We learn to listen in the silent places between our own longings and His grace.

Listening takes practice. It takes humility. We learn to read HIs Holy words with the innocence of a child. We draw each picture written fresh with new colors, asking the Abba, Daddy, to tell us what the picture looks like.

We learn to listen to the voices of others, not handing out thoughts and preconceived notions or ideologies, but actively seeking to understand their views, their opinions, and their stories; and in doing so we hear the beat of humanity in the lives of God’s creation.

Thump-thump… thump-thump…thump-thump… “I love them.” Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump…”They are mine.”  Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump… “Love them for me.”

River

The heart beat of God always moves in a rhythm of love. It never moves in the direction of personal gains, church gains, business gains, ministry gains, or financial gains. It never moves in a way that is controlling or abusive, but tender and full of kindness. It never moves in mandates or mantras, but in questions and freedom. 

Listening frees us to understand that’s it’s alright not to have all of the answers, but the journey lies in the questions. Listening frees us to live quietly in places of suffering, knowing that God’s presence in the dark places defies explanation. Listening frees us to breath in the essence of the moment, sweet with the fragrance of now. Now is safe. The past is gone, the future will come soon enough, but the heartbeat of God is moment by moment, and breath by breath. 

The heartbeat of God is a dance of love between the Creator, and His creation. It is the dance of heaven and earth, conjoined in a perfect harmony that flows with waves of grace. 

Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump… “I Am here.”  Thump-thump…thump-thump…thump-thump...

He is whispering. Are you trusting?

He is leading. Are you listening?

Big Kids, Bigger Problems, Biggest Grace

I spoke to a friend of mine recently who also has a large family. In asking her about parenting adult children, she made the comment, big kids have bigger problems. Being a mom is the toughest job anyone can ever have. I’ve been a stay at home mom (SAHM in modern vernacular) my entire life. I still am. I work from home most of the time, a mixture of choice and a lack of funding to get out and do my “job” more. I am in in my twenty-ninth year of homeschooling with three years left to go. That’s enough to get social security benefits and retirement.

NOT

farm

Commitment to farm and family didn’t earn me much in the way of finances, thanks, or applaud. Most of the time during my many years at home, I heard the typical SAHM line,

“What do you doooooo all day?”

To which I always wanted to respond,

“Eat bon-bons and read movie magazines.”

I declined the sarcasm and instead made small talk about the size of my family keeping me busy instead.

Now that I run a non-profit and have the title of “chaplain” to go with my SAHM I get the reverse statement,

“You must be sooooo busy, I don’t want to bother you.”

For the love of God, please bother me. I get starved for adult company and to do what God has prepared me for. (Very slow coming in this area of the country, and in my life.)

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Yes, I am busy. Too busy. Yes, I am a chaplain and CEO. But…

Yes, my son – my one and only son who is still at home and homeschooling continues to be my priority. It is for him that I stay home. Mostly he educates himself with very little input from me. But in his words, he’s my “side-kick.” We are often stuck like glue. The last two years he has been involved in a local -co-op and enjoys it. He is talented in photography and neglects the assignments we give him to please his co-op teachers. Typical kid.  He spend hours on the piano or cello.

And yet, he still snuggles. Sometimes. When no one is looking.

He’s a great kid. A great young man. Not really a kid anymore, the days of childhood on the farm are over. Sadly. He’s also in the growing up process – the pull me close, push me away, I love you, you annoy me, stage of life. He needs to grow up some before he realize life is full of contradictions and it’s how you handle the contradictions that matter. He is easily influenced. He needs to grow up a bit to learn who to be influenced by. He’s a complicated human being with even more complicated emotions, thoughts, and ideas.

Lenten Longins Sam cello

Like we are all are.

Staying home was, and is a choice. It is my choice and it has often come at a very high price. It is not a better or worse choice than working, though I am partial to staying home, at least in the informative years.

Obviously.

However, I know a lot of kids who thrived with working moms and public or private schools , and plenty of kids who have not done so well homeschooling. I am not a homeschooling nazi anymore. It was not a magic formula for my kids to all grow up safe, secure, respectful, filled with faith, or close knit. Some of the children appreciate the sacrifices I made, some don’t. Some are modeling their childhoods, some aren’t.

Choice.

The kids have choices too. They grown up and make choices, while we are left to sit idly by and pray for them to make the ones that are in God’s plan, pray for them to be safe, and pray our hearts don’t break as we watch their hearts break.

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Prayer is never idle.

Sometimes they listen to our counsel.

Sometimes they embrace our counsel.

Other times they completely disregard it, tossing iit out like an old worn out sock that’s no longer useful.

It hurts our hearts when they turn a deaf ear and choose to be fueled by impulse. It tears our hearts open when they accuse us of interfering, or making it about ourselves when we weep with human emotions, effected by human relationships. Sometimes in this life, we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. Relationships are difficult. They are most difficult with the ones we love.

And when we hurt our kids – that’s the ultimate evil to the heart of a mom, and it takes great grace to forgive ourselves, reset our emotion valve, and move on with purpose.

Moms bleed every time our children get hurt, it’s just the way it is. The bigger the kid, the bigger the pain, the larger the blood loss for mothers.

The skirmishes of childhood turn into full blown military combat as our children embrace a broken world.

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Our bodies bleed through the process of birth. And if by chance a child comes through the process of foster, or adoption, our spirits bleed through the birth process. As they grow, it’s as if we feel them struggle all the way through the birth canal into adulthood.

Some labors take longer than others. Birth was never easy for me; I had some really long, painful, labors.

Grace.

It looks different to everyone, at every age, in every situation, in every stage of life. It is the one constant we have in raising children.

For the parents of adult children, grace takes on a whole new image, and a brand new voice.

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Grace holds our hand when we look back on our many and varied parenting mistakes. Grace winks His eye when we listen to our children give their interpretation of a story, knowing it is so far from the truth of how it really happened. Grace lifts its cup when we celebrate the victory of watching our children happy, loving, and being loved. Grace opens the prison doors when we need to break free from the guilt of a a child whose life is marred by problems, difficulties, addictions, losses, mental illness, or the thousands of painful experiences parents all over the world are facing. Grace covers us when when we are left out in the cold by a child whose moving on, means moving right over the top of us.

Grace gives us the strength to move ahead – one step, one moment, one breath at time, when the unimaginable happens and good-bye means forever, in this life.

Mom’s need lots of grace and as our children grow older, the grace just keeps on growin’.

Maybe I keep on growin’ too.

Probably both.

Either way, it’s working.

“My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

I am learning to let His strength come “into its own.” I am learning to appreciate the gift.

For parents of big kids, hang on. A spanking, a time out, or grounding may not fix our problems, or theirs, (oh it was so easy then!) but with God all things are possible when we live in the power of His strength. We may have bigger problems, but we have ever increasing grace, and even BIGGER blessings.

Santa-god

“You better watch out,

You better not cry,

you better not pout, I’m telling you why….

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Ever wonder how our modernized Santa Claus ended up with many of the same attributes as God? Not only some attributes, but Santa also has the same judgmental, “you’ll get what you deserve” attitude that many Christians mistakenly believe about our Father God.

santa godI think our modern, commercial, very American Santa, is a bit of a stalker. He watches us when we are sleeping, and knows when we’re awake? For a  jolly fat guy who is supposed to love children and bring them their most desired gifts, his love seems rather conditional and based solely on a child’s performance.

Our modern Santa is a total contrast to the real St Nicholas. We know very little about St. Nicholas and legends about him abound. He was born in A.D. 280 in what is now modern Turkey, to Nona and Epiphanius. His parents were neither poor, nor rich, but devoted Christians during a time of persecution. He was named after, and educated by his uncle Nicholas, who was a Priest. His  parents died while he was quite young and left him a modest inheritance. He followed in his uncles footsteps and also became a Priest. History tells us that at one time he was imprisoned for his faith.

tumblr_meohxsuv811r11kw2He became a legend for championing the cause for the poor and needy.  As is typical for Christian legends, much about him was paganized, while paganized pieces about him became Christianized. His legend grew to include various methods of transportation to serve the poor, and his legend was carried worldwide. At first banned by the Puritans, the Dutch colony would later keep St. Nicholas alive. Our first written record of him dates back to December 23, 1773, almost one-hundred-fifty years after the Dutch brought him to New York City.  Interesting to note, the tradition of the Dutch is to exchange gifts one week preceding Christmas, keeping the day of Christs’ birth separate and holy.

St. Nicholas pointed to Christ, and he had the heart of Christ in his service to the poor and needy. He didn’t reward the good and punish the bad, but he sought to reflect the love of the Christ, by caring for the needs of the poor.

Baker_artThis is the first year I have really embraced Advent, and in doing so, I have embraced the anticipation and reverence of what the birth of the God-Man means to me, and to humanity. I think I have a tiny taste of what the Jews must have felt as they waited for the promised  Messiah. Yet, so many looked right into His eyes, yet never saw Him; listened to Him speak, but never understood His words.

So it is with so many Christians today.

Just like Santa Claus, we come to Him believing that He will “reward” those who believe, yet they live in fear that if they do something wrong, He will remove all of His promised gifts.

He will remove Himself.

I can’t help but wonder if our Americanized/ modernized version of God and Santa Claus have influenced by each other.

unhappy holy day 2Our society is performance oriented – much of the world is. You have to strive to get an education, strive to get a job, strive to get promotions, strive to make a good salary. Persecution of minorities, and majorities abound… The list goes on and on.

We come to Christ like children, eager to learn about the God who accepts us as we are, and loves us unconditionally. But all too soon, performance requirements enter in – either placed upon us by our peers, church, or by ourselves. We learn the bible and in our own interpretations of the scriptures, work towards becoming what we think we now have to become.

We forget what the story is really about. We forget who we are, and who we are in Christ. 

We begin to fear that God is displeased with our performance. Maybe now, I am on His naughty list, maybe I need to go to the altar and get it right, or work harder at changing who I am. Maybe I got the wrong tree.

unholy holy day 3 linus After all, He sees me when I’m sleeping, He knows when I’m awake, and He knows if I’ve been bad or good, so be good…

We are given the free gift of Christ but our nature to strive takes over. We are set up as young children to “be good” or be left out.

God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden totally accepted and at peace. All of life was a gift to them.

A gift. 

They didn’t need to work, compete, strive, or perform.

They knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loved them, wholly, and completely. 

Then that all ended, and when it did, life was no longer lived as a gift. Sin brought in the pain of strife, work, competition, death, fear, rejection, performance…

For thousands of years all of humanity held their breath as they waited for the promised Messiah to come, and change the rules that were set in motion on that terrible day. One day, born in a stable, it happened – Immanuel.  God with us.

Jesus Christ came to take away the barrier of that prevented us from living our lives as a gift. 

The effects of sin – the toil of living in this fallen, difficult world will be with us until the end of the time, but the spiritual work is abolished! 

Farm and Christmas barnFrom his birth in a humble barn, to serving, healing, feeding, caring for, and teaching others, He lived a life of simple humility.  As St. Nicholas pointed to Jesus, the Christ pointed to the love of the Father. He modeled being connected to the Father simply by who He was.

And then He told us we also are children of God, and that Abba, Daddy, our Father – adores us. Whether or not we are good or bad, we are accepted in the Beloved when we place our total trust in Him.

All around the world we see the word “Believe” in reference to Santa Claus, but God is saying to us “believe.” 

The cross is not covered by a Santa’s hat, but by a crown of thorns. 

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Ever.

His gift to us this Holy season is His presence. 

 

Wrong Way Jesus

Jesus was forever going against the flow.

wrong way 9Instead of holding to the laws and customs, He challenged them. Instead of taking the pain-free route, He walked the route of the hurting.Instead of remaining clean according to Jewish custom, he soiled Himself to bring the Good News to those who needed to hear it. The outcast. The downtrodden. The rejected. He brought Himself.

The Best news.

Jesus is the “lover of our souls.” Do we really understand what the love looks and feels like? If we do, are we showing that same love to others and fulfilling the most important commandment?  I talk about love a lot the last few years. And grace. It’s all about grace.

I never understood that before.

Grace reveals love.

wrong way 6I need grace. I need love. 

Performance doesn’t cut it for me. It shouldn’t cut it for you. It’s not that I’m not good at it, actually at one time, I would have run circles around your self-righteousness and good works.

I was a perfect legalist. My “trust” was so great I buried a child by “trusting” God. It “exceeded the Pharisees.” Or so I believed.

June 2014 Micaiah J Grubb 428As the Faith Message saying went, “I would rather die believing than to live in unbelief.”

After all “Divine healing was provided for in the atonement. It was a right and privilege of the believer.” ” Claim it by faith”(Is. 53; IPet etc…).  And if you can’t believe for a physical healing which you can see, which is nothing more than just flesh and bones, how can you believe that you are saved,  your rotten sin forgiven.”  Which is the greater miracle?

Yes, being forgiven is even greater than being healed – but we are forgiven. That is the point.  It’s all about Jesus.  It’s all about grace.

We were willing to trust unto death. I could have died, my husband nearly did. Our son did. Total trust. Can you say that?

Yeah, my “righteousness” was right up there with the Pharisees. May have even “exceeded the Pharisees.

I was all about the bible- all about doctrine as we were taught it. King James only, skirt wearing, no TV, only Christian praise, submissive to our husbands, only Christian authors of books, homeschooling, Patriarchal, family driven, “quiver-full,”  no drinking, smoking, dancing, swearing, no divorce ever, debt free-living only, “I Kissed Dating Good-Bye”, no “worldly toys or Barbie’s, no women in preaching,  no Christmas, “Ishtar” Halloween, no oaths, etc. etc…divine healing only Pharisaical cult. 

Oh, but that was you, look at how extreme you were?

Really? Start picking and choosing which ones you adhere to as the law for yourself and others? Feel free to add to the list because it really is quite extensive within all of our many denominations and fellowships of Christian believers.

wrong way 4“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9

It didn’t feel much like a gift back then.

It was in the beginning when Jesus spoke into my heart. In the quiet of my home when I read Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and I made an intellectual choice that Jesus is God and I would follow him. It was a gift then, when the Holy Spirit came to me and whispered, “I love you. You don’t need drugs or cigarettes any more. We love you no matter what, and we will stay with you forever. Absolutely everything you have ever done is forgiven, and you will live and walk in that forgiveness.  Just hold on to my hand and never let go and I will be here for you through good times and bad.”

 

Then the law entered. The people who  knew about the ways of God began telling me how I could “please” Him. I’d been given the “gift of God,”  and now I needed to learn how to use it correctly.  If I didn’t, it may be returned. It could be taken away.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:37-39

I was the woman in the circle, caught in adultery. Everyone was holding a stone to throw at me – the Pharisees, my brethren. They were there to reveal a law I was breaking, a sin I was in, something about me  I had to change.

wrong way jesus 3And change I did. Everything about me was wrong – who I was, was wrong. I was a “Christian” now and had to be different. Act differently. Live differently.

Be different.

There was something innately wrong with who I was.  I learned how to throw stones right back at them. Big ones. Deadly ones. Even my own family was subject to the painful stones of legalism.

But Jesus stayed in that circle with me and shielded me from the stones that would kill me. He allowed only those stones that caused me to look my accusers in the eyes and say,  “Enough, He does not condemn me,  so you can’t.” He has taken the rocks from my hands,  and as the circle dissipates, I can walk away in peace.

Free. No more death in our lives. No more anger, pain, or betrayal. No more law.

Grace.

There will always be rocks (especially for women), but I don’t have to accept them. Jesus is there to deflect the laws that people hurl. He will always go against the flow to save a Samaritan like me.  The Pharisees all thought He was going the wrong way too.  The free gift is too easy. It feels like the wrong way. He hands us this gift of salvation and we think we need to pay for it. We tell others they need to pay for it.

The gift is free. The gift makes us free. 

wrong way 8I am so thankful that Jesus walks the wrong way.  The wrong way path Jesus takes us on is miraculous. While you journey, you experience all kinds of adventures wrought with danger, pain, suffering, joy, peace, love, grace, fear, courage, empathy – growth and vision.

Lots of growth. Lots of vision.

I get to see the world through His eyes on this wrong way road.

And His eyes see the beauty in all things.

“Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”   2 Cor. 3:16-18

 

 

Whose Hand Molds You

Most of us know the scriptural references to God as a potter and to humanity as lumps of clay. We even have worship songs written about it.

 Actually, The Potters Hand by Darlene Zschech, is one of my personal top five favorite worship songs. It more often than not makes me cry when I sing. It brings about feelings of broken amazement.  It is in my list of “Crisis Songs” – the ones I listen to when I am attending to an accident, a traumatic death, or at a disaster site. I have my list of songs for worship, comfort,  and as a gentle reminder that I am exactly where He wants me to be and…

who he wants me to be.

“Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted
into your perfect plan…” 

I listened to it every morning in Haiti before our training others about PTSD and trauma – before I listened to the painful stories of death, loss, and total destruction. I listened to it at many natural disasters in the USA. I listened to it in the Philippines before I stepped out into the surrounding devastation, and lines of patients waiting to see a midwife, EMT, or doctor. Before I looked into the eyes of hundreds of children who called me Lola – many who were traumatized, lonely, fatherless, hungry, or the poorest of the poor.  Beautiful children. Wonderful, happy, loving, children. 

IMG_9872  Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.   Isaiah 64:8

Adam was made from the dust of the earth – the first perfect clay vessel, molded and fired by the fingers of God.

I love the thought of God molding a lump of clay like myself into something beyond my limited imagination and comprehension. He is the potter and we are the clay. He does the molding according to His plans and purposes. We rest in His hands as only a lump of clay can. We do not work towards our own making, or mold ourselves. 

That is the real miracle of it – He does it all. 

We don’t even get our hands dirty in the process.  From start to finish, God owns it.  (Phil. 1:6)

“You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes…”

Yet, we don’t always rest in His hands and allow Him do the work. We don’t see ourselves or others with His eyes.

IMG_6045We tend to beat ourselves up over all of our many and prominent blemishes, and then throw ourselves face first and headlong into fires of change, and furnaces of self judgement. We don’t want our work – who we are – to be visible,  so we stay out on the back deck,  hidden from all but those who know how to find us.

Sometimes they step over us without even noticing that we are there – alone – waiting to be seen.

We are clay in the Masters hand, but we are all apprentices to the Potter as well. Like a good Teacher, He allows us to be part of the learning process for others.

The minute we begin to share our faith, or mentor, pastor, disciple, or hold relevant groups, we become apprentices to the Master- we hold the responsibility of  helping to mold someone else. But we often shape others by twisting, forcing, and forming with our not so gentle hands. We hold onto images of the shape or time frame when our pots are ready to be fired, so we rush or manhandle them and produce lumps, bumps, and cracks.  We are all too quick to throw the pots into the fire before they are ready, and often they end up burned.

“I’m captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you’re drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray…”

Instead of being a display for the Master, they remain hidden from view completely – afraid that the piece they have become is a disappointment to the Master, and not worthy of a public display.

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Instead of helping them to come out from behind the rocks and believe in the unique beauty of their broken, burned, or marred pieces,  we push them further away so we don’t see their imperfections.  Their imperfections only point to our own, and we don’t want our imperfections revealed. We know we will also be prodded, molded, and thrown into the fire.

“To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice. Our minds have great difficulty in coming to grips with such a reality. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Perhaps it is only our hearts that can accomplish this.” Henri Nouwen

True love – God’s love – does not poke or prod. It doesn’t rush, or coerce. It never uses fear, control, or manipulation to incur change. True love is a presence that allows others to be drawn into the place where they are safe to be truly seen, in all their broken and burned fragments. True love reveals Jesus from the broken place within ourselves – within our own hearts.

The Master Potter takes a lifetime to mold us into His image, into who He has called us to be. We remain safely in His hands as he molds us, gently curving us where He wills, making each of us unique. The furnace remains in the far off distance, waiting for the time when we see him face to face, and He completes His perfect work.

Love is not threatened by what is revealed within ourselves when we embrace broken humanity. 

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“Take me, Mold me, use me, fill me 

I give my life to the Potter’s hand

Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me, 

I give my life to the Potter’s hand…” 

Our lives and the lives of others rest safely in the Potters hand. We need to remember that.
Images – Courtesy of SAMSHOTS Photgraphy