People often ask me about the name of my blog... click here to read the story.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Where have you been?

"Where have you been?"
Like a wide eyed child with a bewildered smile on her face, her words rang out crystal clear. Three or four coherent words strung together are about her limit now, after that, it's just jumbled syllables. Disease deteriorates her brain and slowly steels away bits of her: her memory, her personality, her language, her mobility, her sanity and some day, her very breath. Sitting with her at the table surrounded by others of sound minds, if not sound bodies, her words shot an arrow right to my heart.
"I've been sick, know I still work...and I'm really busy with the kids..."

My words sounded hollow.
She continued with her strange little smile, not really registering much except the fact that people she knew and a son she loved were close.
Where had I been? All the reasons I mentioned were true and valid reasons for not visiting her often.
But I knew a deeper truth.
"What takes more tell the mountain to move or to forgive?"
(Mark 11)
Pastor K's question not only helped me understand some words of Christ that I've never fully understood, but also cut through all the crap and excuses to the heart of some of my biggest obstacles to loving people. It's hard for me to forgive. I remember and hold on to hurts, allowing them to fester. I don't let people off the hook for real or perceived wrongs. Moving a mountain does feel easier than forgiving.
We've all been parents, siblings, spouses, in-laws, friends, co-workers and even strangers. Hurt deeply. Sometimes wounded to the core of our being.
Grace. Mercy. Forgiveness. Love. All wonderful words and concepts. But living out forgiveness or mercy or grace to someone who's hurt you is more than difficult; it's painful. It requires letting go of your role as judge and jury and having faith that God will not only take care of you, but them as well.
The Bible tells us God is a God of judgement. But, we know He's also the originator of Grace and Mercy, and Forgiveness. And through His son, Jesus, we and the people who've wronged us, can be forgiven and we can have the freedom to forgive.
Personally, I've got a long way to go.
Something to think about during this Holy Week.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lasting Beauty

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ~King Solomon

Fleeting beauty...boy, don't I know it. Betrayed by the mirror, the tiny lines spreading like ripples on water, threaten to cover my whole face. And they will some day. Putting cream on my legs, I notice another kind of "line"; tiny blue veins creeping steadily toward my knees. My hands have wrinkles and age spots. I don't like aging. I don't like that I gain weight in odd places. I don't like forgetting things. I don't like the fact that now I'm not only near sighted, but need reading glasses!

We (okay, women, I'm including all of you, but maybe it's just me) spend vast amounts of time moisturizing, coloring, dieting, working out and deliberating over what clothes flatter us. Why? To look good. To feel good. To be our "best".
None of this is wrong or bad. But the other day, it struck me, as I was once again mourning my youth-or at least youthful appearance- that I have a hard time seeing my value beyond usefulness and outward appearance. If I'm not young or pretty or at the very least useful, what good am I? Before you start extolling all my virtues to make me feel better, please, I'm reflecting...asking come along and take time to evaluate how you see yourself.
Is it hard for you to age?
When you look to the future are you excited to age?
I recently asked a wonderful, godly woman in her 70's how she coped with aging-specifically physical aging. Her reply was honest and direct: "You don't have a choice but to accept it and keep living."
The Forsyte Saga, a novel by John Galsworthy, details the lives of several generations of the Forsyte family in England between 1886 and 1921. There's a part in it where a youngish widow is trying to marry off her step-daughter because they've been left with no money. In the attempt to engage Irene, her step-mother is at a ball dancing with a man (older than herself) that seems clearly taken with her. However, in the course of the evening, it becomes apparent that the man's intent is for the daughter, not the step-mother. ouch. The middle aged mother, embarrassed and heartbroken, whisks Irene away. The scene is so tragic to me. The step-mom is lovely and delightful and yet of little to no value because she's not as young or beautiful as Irene and she has no money or power.

Has that much changed since the novel was written in 1906?
Do we, women, know our value beyond our beauty or usefulness or ability to manipulate men?
Do other's honor us for aging...seeing the wrinkles, greying hair and varicose veins as signs of wisdom that comes from living?
Are we honorable women?
A friend who has lived in Africa now for several years, was talking about how there are not many older people in Nigeria, so when someone does live a long life, they're respected and revered. Our society, by contrast, has a long average life span yet everyone seems to use those years to try and look younger and feel younger and live even longer. Americans idolize youth.
I know we can have youthful hearts. I know we can keep learning and growing and experiencing life no matter our physical age. I know elderly women who have beauty beyond imagination. But does everyone mourn the loss of youth?

People, I'm pondering...reflecting...asking questions...of course I know I'm loved and beloved and valued for more than outward appearances (thank God)...but what motivates my actions and reactions? Am I an honorable woman? Are you? It's worth thinking about.

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. ~Zephaniah

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Promise

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

Enveloped in white, the Iowa earth seems to breathe a sigh of relief as her winter blanket slowly melts away. Record snowfalls, frigid temps and seemingly endless days of low hanging gray clouds add up to a long, bleak, memorable winter.
But now...
the snow is melting.
the ground is showing.
the sun is rising earlier and setting later.
the season is changing.
the promise that there is life under the frozen ground is real.
this winter, I was fooled at times into thinking that spring would never come.
that the snow wouldn't melt and the icicles would become permanent fixtures stretching from my eaves to the ground.
the endless gray sky clouds blurred my vision and perspective.
we know that we know that we know that the seasons always change; that spring follows winter.
yet somehow in the middle of it all, we lose sight of facts and are dictated by appearances.
since we don't have x-ray vision we can't perceive the dormant plants nestled safely in their winter cocoons waiting to be called up from their subterranean homes into the light and air of a warm spring day.
all we see all winter is what's on the surface...snow and if there's not much snow, dirt.
but the promise is there.
buried under earth.
the promise of life.
the promise of renewal.
the promise of more than meets the eye.

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I've been into hand writing analysis lately. It's always interested me and I've started researching it and dabbling a bit. I love how the subconscious workings of our brain effect something like how we form the strokes of letters on a paper. Anyway, looking at my own samples, I see traits like: highly emotional, holds on to the past, and passionate. All true.
I've always been a passionate person; deeply affected by events, people, art, music, God...all my senses alive.
But the last several years, there's a nagging sense of apathy...of not really caring. I'm sure part of it is from depression, and part from fear of yet another disappointment. Perhaps mid-life issues. Whatever...the reasons for it don't really matter.

What's the cure for apathy?

Several days ago I wrote that at the top of a journal page and I've been mulling it over ever since.

A simple definition of apathy is not caring.
There can be a certain peace in apathy. You don't care what people think or if life's not perfect. You can roll with the punches because you didn't have a lot of expectations for how things should be, so it doesn't matter if they get screwed up.
But too much apathy, a life defined by apathy, seems like a sterile life. Safe. Boring. A life lived within fortress walls...very little emotional, psychological, or spiritual investment in anything because nothing really matters that much.
Content with the status quo and always taking the path of least resistance seems to lead to listlessness, purposelessness and meaninglessness. I don't want my weeks to be a bunch of boring days strung together to make purposeless years culminating in a meaningless life.

Don't get me wrong, even when apathetic, people care for family and close friends. But apathy looks at events like the recent devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, drops a few dollars in the bucket at a fundraiser and keeps going on: taxi-ing kids around, watching tv, reading drivel, buying groceries, attending church, and working all without much thought or emotion, engaging only half a mind, half a heart and probably less than half a person.

When I die, will my life be simply a series of days filled with tasks without any other purpose than to do as I please? God forbid it.

So, what's the opposite of apathy? Without consulting a thesaurus, I decided one antonym of apathy, to me, is passion. If apathy is not caring, the opposite isn't simply caring, but passionately living.

I see evidence of passionate living all around me...

After they were married last fall, my nephew & his new bride, instead of the conventional route of getting jobs and "settling down", took off for a six month adventure to New Zealand. Every blog entry, blurb on facebook, and picture radiates living to the fullest; no hint of apathy.
My friend J is running a half marathon to raise money for cancer research. Setting her eyes on a goal, she's striving daily with passion and determination to reach it. No apathy.
Another friend, M is training for a triathlon to honor her mom who passed away last year. No apathy.
About six month's ago, N tearfully shared how apathy almost destroyed her marriage. After work & effort, they have a renewed passion not only for one another, but for life. No apathy.

The M's live, work and minister in Haiti. Living, by choice, in primitive conditions, and witnessing the daily struggle for survival in this 4th world country, apathy plays no part in their lives. Even in the mundane tasks, I see deep passion for the family, friends and community in which they live. No apathy.
My own husband recently started a new business venture. At 50, he's stepping out of his comfort zone and risking because he's passionate about his work and providing for his family. No apathy.

So is the cure for apathy living passionately? Can you choose passion or is it merely an emotion? Or is passion simply a personality trait and if you don't have it you're sunk? Or is passion a series of choices that challenge you to go beyond yourself? Is passion faith? If you know me at all, you know I dislike tips, techniques and prescribed remedies claiming that if you follow them something in your life will be fixed. I believe we're too diverse and complex for overly simplistic "cures". So I'm not willing to tell you the 5 steps I think you should take to rid yourself of apathy. I only know that I want to try to make choices that allow my brain, heart and soul to be challenged and through the challenge, through the adventure, hopefully, go beyond apathy.

May a passion for living, a passion for serving, and a passion for loving permeate my existence.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beware the Me Monster!

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. ~Ernest Hemingway

Brian Regan is one of our favorite comedians. As a family, we quote his material incessantly, much to the dismay of friends who've never heard of him. One of his bits off the DVD "I walked on the moon" talks about a "me monster": someone who only enters into a conversation so they can share their own story or top someone elses.
It's such a funny, true, convicting sketch. Take a few minutes to watch it...

Did you laugh? I've seen it countless times, and I still do!
I hope I don't enter into conversation solely so I can tell my own story, but I know I'm guilty of immediately interjecting my own tales; maybe not to out-do the other person, but certainly to make sure I'm heard.
That's it isn't it. We desperately want to be heard. To be known. To be valued even if it's for a few seconds because of an insignificant story.

Funny creatures we are.
I think that's why people sought, followed, and adored Jesus. He listened and saw through all the layers of bravado and junk to the heart of the speaker.
That's the kind of person I want to be. More concerned that someone else is being heard and understood than myself.
I want to listen today...this week...this life...really listen and not be a "me monster".
But oh, how short I fall from that goal.
God, may my ears be open and my mouth be shut today!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


My mom has this quirky little habit of wrapping gifts with no tape. No, I'm not talking about using a gift bag. She wraps gifts with ribbons and bows and no tape. It's fun to watch her.

My friend & I were talking recently about how our Christian life is not always wrapped up in beautiful packaging with ribbons and bows and certainly without tape.

The other day, two separate people told me about something they'd heard on the radio about how you know you're hearing the voice of God if you have peace about it. I completely disagree. The radio announcers were wrapping God, and how He speaks to us, up.

As I look back over my years of writings and journals I realize that I habitually tied up everything neatly with a lesson, moral, Bible verse, truth, or nice neat little conclusion. If you do more prayer, Bible study, worship, (fill in the blank), then God will speak, "bless" (again, fill in the blank). Larry Crabb, in his book The Pressure's Off, calls this the law of linearity: A + B = C.

The last several years have been a process of God putting that law of linearity to death.

Spiritual life...God...can't be wrapped up.
Just when I think I've figured something out about Him, He throws in a wrench, messing up my pretty packaging. Just when I think I understand a passage or story from the Bible, He shakes up my notions.

No, our lives, our God, our Theology, our doctrines, can't be tied up with no loose ends hanging out. As breathtaking as God, Scripture and His creation is, it simply cannot be packaged by us humans into neat little cliches, sayings, spiritualized self helps, choruses or moral lessons. Perusing Christian literature, studies and blogs and listening to some Christian music (both old & new), you would think that our God, with the proper theology, scripture reading, understanding & prayer, can be understood. You might get the impression that if we feast on a steady diet of God, we may not figure Him out completely, but we'll certainly be able to categorize our knowledge and our experiences into lovely packages of understanding that will lead to clarity. A+B=C.

Often, we fool ourselves into thinking we do these things to know God better, when in fact we simply want to contain Him; to figure Him out; to discover His secrets; to somehow become mini-god's. We use language to suggest that it's all about God. But in reality we make it about us. Because what if you do everything you think you're supposed to, and it doesn't "work". A+B=?? We've put the emphasis on our actions. We've turned God into an obligatory responder to our behavior.

Throughout the Bible, people misunderstand, misinterpret and misrepresent God.
Even Jesus' own disciples didn't understand what Jesus came to do and came to be. They assumed a King would overthrow the existing government. They assumed He would come with a sword. Peter even chastised Jesus when He said he'd have to suffer and die.

We're so limited.
Despite all God's given us, we don't understand Him.
We try. Oh how we try.
We suffer under the delusion that "knowledge is power" as Francis Bacon contended.

My dear friend who's faced more loss in her 35 years than most experience in a lifetime describes herself as a perpetual two year old with God. A toddler can't possibly understand why they can't play in the road or that the pain of a scraped knee won't last forever, or that you can't have candy all the time. And no amount of reasoning or explaining would help them understand. They're not developmentally capable of it. And so we are with God.

No, done thinking I can figure out God and finished with tips and techniques to discover His will or hear His voice, I put myself and my understanding at His mercy. He reveals what He wants to reveal when He wants to reveal it.

So here I am, God. No agenda. No expectations that if I act a certain way, you're obliged to respond in a predetermined manner.
No conclusion other than you are God and I am not.

God is God Steven Curtis Chapman
And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don’t know

And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting
God is God and I am man
So I’ll never understand it all
For only God is God

And the sky begins to thunder
And I’m filled with awe and wonder
‘Till the only burning question that remains
Is who am I

Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass


Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things

So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone