Staying Power #faithjam

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Our childhood has left us wandering, seeking the magic prescription to plug the gaping, black void in our soul. We don’t have staying power.

In fact, we don’t know why we pursue unhealthy relationships, more money, or status. A touch, the temporary satisfaction of buying something we can’t afford, or a drink or drugs fail to halt that yearning. That yearning hungers for more and that hunger drives our life as if we have no choice so we flit from job to job; from relationship to relationship; from church to church.  Others disappoint our expectations and we move on.

Oh dear one, the only person who can salve that ache is Jesus! It is time you put down roots and examine your life. You find out the why and you will be free!

The Annual Hahn Challenge

Salvation Army Band

Salvation Army Band (Photo credit: danperry.com)

Will you join us as we, once again, surprise the Salvation Army Bell Ringers with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate? Try to do it anonymously. Most restaurants are more than happy to deliver the cup to their bell ringer. It helps them feel a part of encouraging someone they don’t know.

 

Safe Subjects

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I understand even more so, on a physiological level, what it means to hold yourself back or find yourself wanting to say something, but then having nothing to say because you’d rather just not speak from your soul.” – Faith Barista, “Love”

Writing is not a career choice for those who wish to hide their vulnerability. If you blog, anyone can read between the lines and figure out what you fear by what you don’t write. A person who fears revealing herself will choose safe subjects that don’t run close to the pain beneath the surface. Writing novels and blogging reveal who we are whether we give our pen permission or not.

Mary De Muth in Thin Places revealed as much in her book when she said a writer’s first novel is autobiographical. Every character we write are composites of people we’ve met or pieces of our inner selves recreated in a character. Writing is not a hiding place. It sweeps back the curtains and lets the light shine on our secrets. If we are honest, re-reading our own writing can be therapeutic. In the Christian world, we call that self-examination. I’ve always said it’s healthy to re-read your old blogs or journals to learn from our past. But some writers continue to hide behind great ability. They write intelligent blogs and quiver fearfully behind safe subjects. Although, those safe subjects are great reads and full of humor; it’s a safe subject nonetheless.

Moral of the Story: Do not be afraid!

Can you relate? Explain.

People Who Influence

What people influence you? And how do they influence? Why do you admire the people you admire? Is it because they are godly people or is it how they dress? Are the people you admire shallow and image driven or deep in the Word of God? Maybe it’s their magnetism that draws you to them. Whatever the case, the people who have that kind of power of influence that draw us should be people who inspire us to godly things. They should shine like an arrow pointing right at the scriptures and the God behind the scriptures. That’s what Bonnie does over at Faith Barista. Today is her first blog post in a long time.

She asked, “What is your word for 2013?”

Relationships.

Because without relationships, people can’t see Jesus working in our lives in tangible ways.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your word for 2013 and why?

When I Yelled at You… #faithjam

This is an open letter to a friend. I helped her get a job, find an apartment, and because I didn’t agree with her choices, one day years ago lost my temper. I never got a chance after ending the friendship to truly say I am sorry. So this is an open letter in the hopes that she’ll read this; or maybe you’ll read this having undergone a similar situation.

Dear ____,

You were dating someone whose mother thought you weren’t good enough to marry her son until you learned to be a proper housewife—one that knows how to cook adequately. Her son still lived at home and when he declared his intention to marry you, you also moved under the same roof and his mother taught you how to be a good wife. I was aghast that anyone would treat you that way. I was determined to “save” you. But my life was a rocky reef where ships wrecked.

I was barely twenty-one. You were in love with some rock star celebrity who had an Australian accent and you loved the Beatles. Your boyfriend loved those things, too.

I was determined to fix your life. You went along with me. I helped you get a job where I worked and you nearly got me in trouble with my supervisors. Then, I helped you get an apartment and you were excited to have your own place. That was until others convinced you otherwise and after putting down the deposit, you waited too long to change your mind. You couldn’t get that money back because the deadline had passed. After all that work, that made me angry.

I stopped hanging out with you. One day you called and we got together to play billiards. You asked me what was wrong in the parking lot. I lost my temper. You went home in tears. I went home angry, then felt bad because I shouldn’t have lost my temper with you.

Life at twenty-one was turmoil. Rarely do I lose my temper, but I lost it that day with you. Instead of letting go of my control tendencies, I chose to allow it the upper hand and it crushed our friendship. I hurt you that day and I have never forgotten the lesson in it.

I have learned to keep that temper under control. Even now, when I want to lose my temper, I think of so many things, including that day. It’s not the kind of person I want to become as I grow older. There’s been too much anger in my past and observed of others in my life that I purposely remember those examples so I can be a better person. Time will tell if I succeed, but for now, I hope you will accept my apology.

I was wrong to yell at you.

Thank you for your friendship all those years ago. I may have said I knew Jesus to you, even got mad at you for using His name in vain, but I wasn’t saved. I wouldn’t truly understand who Jesus was until the year 2002. I misrepresented Him to you. It is my hope that you have come to know the real Jesus—the one in the Bible. If you did, then I am happy. I hope this letter finds you happily married to a good man who will take care of you; or at least, content in your life. We should both be close to the same age right now.

Love,

Nikki

Panic!

http://www.zastavki.com/eng/Nature/Seasons/Autumn/wallpaper-19576-18.htmIt’s difficult to share things—to have the courage to share. Things that become emotional clog in my throat, my breathing becomes labored, and I smile and nod. I sit so still and I don’t want to look at anyone. Part of me wonders as I struggle for breath if I am about to have a panic attack.

Then, God answers my soundless cry. It’s reassuring and my breathing becomes normal. Emotions though have always been difficult to handle. I still want to be that woman who can handle anything, forgetting His lesson that I do not have to be strong. God has given me a great support system. I should just let Him be strong. His protective hand remains and I feel it with me, steadying me. I am determined to live as though each person is trustable, trusting God to piece together my heart should someone shatter it.

And that will happen—someone will betray me or disappoint me, but I don’t have to let it affect me in such a way that I live isolated in a crowd. I choose to love. I choose friendships. I choose risk. Because a life in hiding is no life at all, but a self-made prison binding me to bitter judgment and cynicism.

As Beth Moore says, “Life is challenging, but it is never empty.” My life is full and I like it that way. I like what God is doing to my life and how He is changing me. I found my voice and I am learning to live fearlessly. I am learning the joy of life even as it challenges me. I no longer feel that empty longing and I am learning there are others who have suffered, too. Their compassion, love, and authenticity reminds me of God’s presence. He is everywhere and I am loved and I feel His love every day.

So thank you, Lord, for not letting go and for making a way through my walls.

God in a Chinese Fortune Cookie

Dear God,

In “Oh, God Book 2″ the little girl receives a message from you in a Chinese cookie. After watching that movie, I often wished when I cracked open a Chinese cookie your message would be on that sliver of paper–a clear direction in a confusing world.

But then, I am reminded what Mondays With My Old Pastor, by Jose Luis Navajo said, “Don’t despair if you don’t understand the meaning of something today. Keep eating the fruit. This is also the message of the cross.” He pointed to the dozen crucifixes that decorated the simple room. “We do not understand what happened there until we visit the tomb and find it empty. Too often we despair and give up in the middle of the storm, when the only thing we should do is trust and wait. The storm will pass, and then we will discover that the waves that terrified us were actually the same waves that served to alter the course of our sailing causing us to dock in the right harbor.”

My Father, I know you don’t speak through a Chinese cookie. I only have to fall back on your Word. You gave us that and the Holy Spirit. You gave us your Son. You gave us you.

Hear my prayer, O Lord,

and give ear to my cry;

hold not your peace at my tears!

For I am a sojourner with you,

a guest, like all my fathers,

Look away from me, that I may smile again,

before I depart and am no more!

- Psalm 39:12-13

So when I eat at a Chinese restaurant, I won’t look for a sign from you in a Chinese cookie. I’ll look on my knees. I’ll look in the pages of your book. You are praiseworthy, my Father.

And I’ll wait and pray, however long it takes.

Love, your daughter

I Know You Won’t Listen to Me

Dear Little Girl Me,

I know you won’t listen to me. You aren’t listening to anyone these days. Do not dismiss what your instinct is telling you. That’s the Holy Spirit talking. Even though you aren’t saved yet, you’re searching for Jesus. First, you thought baptism would save you and if you acted a certain way, dressed in a certain way, maybe God would love you. Maybe you would be good enough to get to Heaven. You got out of that false religion for the wrong reasons and yet it caused you to research that religion. It many ways that was a step closer in the right direction. Then, you lost your way.

That anger inside of you is like a disease.

Trust me when I tell you the anger will eat you up inside, like one of those tissue-eating bacteria you’ve read about. Some days those conversations with the invisible rendition of your birth father behind the closed door of your room are angry; other days they are calm, almost forgiving.

Almost.

You won’t forgive him until your mid-thirties. This issue won’t go away. You should listen to that instinct that tells you at eighteen to call your birth father even though that will cause problems. There’s always two sides to every story.

In divorce, there are no bad guys or good guys, except in abuse situations—it’s just two brokenhearted people standing in the pool of discarded dreams or unrealistic expectations. You’re in the middle, wet with their tears, heavy with their burdens and hurts. Your birth father will nearly die because of heart issues and when you find him years from now, you’ll feel closure and relief that you called him and he was still alive. That’s all you needed anyway. You already know Jesus loves you. As Psalm 27:10 assures you, you have a Father in Heaven, but right now at eighteen all you want to feel is loved. You trade a piece of yourself every time you lie with a man outside the bounds of marriage.

One day you’ll meet the right man and you’ll treat him, at first, harshly, but you’ll marry him and that marriage will be what God uses to bring you to Him. It will be the final chess move and you’ll be stronger. You’ll finally know love. But for now you’ll try to find that love in men, crossing that moral line, and then, you’ll go to credit cards.

You’ll spend money you don’t have and can’t pay back because buying clothes and jewelry makes you feel complete. Coming out with an armful of new stuff, fills for the moment the gap in your soul. It only works for a little while and then the “drug” wears off and you’re restless again. You know something is wrong, but you’re looking in the wrong direction for what you need. What you are looking for is not available. I know you hurt right now and no one is listening. You don’t know how to explain your hurt or anger, or how to express it. You don’t know who will listen. You’re always scared. You’re always hiding behind your books.

You’re always hiding.

 

Stop hiding.

 

It’s time to heal.

 

And to heal, you need to be brave.

 

Love, Big Girl Me

“There’s a Theology in Everything”

That’s what I said on our hike as we tripped, stumbled, fell and trudged through snow as deep as mid-calf following a virgin snow-covered trail up Bill Williams Mountain. We hiked for hours and never reached the top. By the time, we neared the top, or what we thought was the top, the snow level became an impenetrable obstacle with the trail veering into yet another switchback and deep into more trees. I could see the light above teasing us with thoughts of, “almost there.” I know we skated across the side of the mountain and we could see the backbone of it from where we hiked. A hike that was supposed to take five hours round trip would take considerably longer with this much snow.

So we turned around and discovered the trip back so much easier as we slid and stumbled down the trail, avoiding tree branches and other hidden menaces beneath the white. We found a dry log and ate lunch there, then continued. My pants were soaked through and my skin stung. My socks squished in my waterproof boots. Snow had fallen inside during the climb up, and now kept my toes effectively refrigerated as we climbed down the mountain. We descended according to the website a couple of thousand feet and the air warmed and my legs no longer felt icy, but wet. Mud caked my clothes and I grinned.

Yes, there’s a theology in everything. A theology in climbing. A theology in retreating. A theology in overcoming. A theology in not giving up and returning to the trail when the snow will be gone to reach the summit of the mountain. A theology in knowing when to retreat instead of risking frost bite and sapping away our physical strength when we can’t see the end and the snow continually increases in inches the higher up we climb. Creation reminded me of the challenges in my own life—the daily ones and the infrequent ones that teach me through natural consequences what to do and what not to do.

How many times have you tried to climb when God wanted you to turn around? Sometimes it takes fearlessness to climb, and courage to turn around when God directs you elsewhere.

Moses’ New Android

 

English: Worshiping the golden calf, as in Exo...

Image via Wikipedia

 

To read what really happened, read Exodus.

Moses stands on the top of the mountain while God writes on the tablets. He feels restless and slips his hand into his pocket. He pulls out his new Android.

“Aaron, whatcha doin’?” He text his brother.

His brother doesn’t answer. Moses goes to his Facebook App and checks Aaron’s news feed:

“Everyone is collecting all of their gold.” Aaron had updated his status two minutes ago.

Two minutes? Moses frowned. Why didn’t he answer his text?

“Aaron, why are you collecting gold?”

“Moses, did you understand everything I had put down.” God spoke suddenly.

Moses sighed. “Yes, Lord.” He fidgeted some more, counting the stars and wondering what God named all those stars. His Android beeped.

Aaron updated his status again. “We’re melting all the gold now. It’s so exciting.”

Moses sent another text: “Aaron, what are you making?”

Aaron didn’t answer.

God handed him the tablets. What was he saying again? Moses missed the whole conversation. He carried the tablets down, beaming with joy that he spent so much time with God. His Android beeped and he stopped halfway down the mountain.

Aaron’s status read: “Just built a golden calf. Finally, something to worship that we can see and that’s here right now.”

Moses ran down the mountain and when he saw the golden calf, he threw the stones down. Then, he text God.

God didn’t answer.

“God, are you there?” Moses tried again.

Moses’ Android beeped.

God had updated his Facebook status: “Israel just built a golden calf to worship. I think they need to learn how to wait.”

Moses text God: “Lord, please forgive us.”

God text back. “I’m sorry, I was busy texting. I missed your message. What did you say?”

Israel spent the next several years waiting for the Promised Land. God suspended Aaron and Moses from their Facebook accounts and took away their Androids. They needed to learn to listen.

What are you feeding your soul? Are you paying attention?

Today I am in Denver, Colorado joining other writers at the Writing For The Soul Conference. Please pray for safe travel, good weather, and that each one of us in attendance is somehow used and directed by God. From February 16 – 20, I will be reposting some old posts. All comments will be replied to on Monday, February 20.