I Will Love You Louder

 

“Whom you chose to listen to, will determine the outcome of your life.” Daniel Messina, Crossroads Fellowship – Raleigh, NC

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr.

 2016 was a tough year. Finally! The election was over, and I could get back to normal. I was so looking to 2017. While I was looking forward, God must have been chuckling. No, there are always still miles to go and tears to cry.  More reasons to seek Him, not my will.

That’s how life always happens. The wave of one crisis finally crests, and you’re treading water, ever so carefully, gratefully , hoping to quietly just float back to shore. And then you see it–the next wave. It’s so much bigger.

Lately the din of the news of the world coupled with the roar of life in my own kitchen has been making my head spin. I feel like it will explode on some days. Anxiety. Depression. Painful situations. Too many people I know are suffering. Is anyone in control up there in the tower? I’ve too many incoming planes and they’re all arriving unscheduled in my backyard from C and C Airways (Crisis and Confusion) and clearly their communication system is down. Help! I don’t know what to do! Hello? Is anyone listening?

So here we are. We’re hours away from a new POTUS and frankly, the world still seems as screwed up as it was before the election. The fault lines of our souls keep on cracking and dividing us further apart. The news media hurls the bad news fly balls faster than we can catch them. Apparently, mean tweets and anger and division swell ratings. Who knew?   Sheesh, if all I ever did was watch the news, and fall victim to every voice with an agenda, I’d swear our cities were burning down, we were in the middle of epic race wars, the planet is heating up to lethal temperatures, and mankind is continuously eliminating one another in the quest to dominate and be right—be it geography or the infinite, ever-expanding digital land mass known as social media.

But a weird thing happens when I walk away. I go outside and I see and breathe in sunshine. Or rain.   Or even snow. Regardless, it is a breath of fresh air. I put geographical distance and measured time between my eyes and the constant tap,tap,tapping of text messages on screens and BREAKING NEWS flashes. You see I’m learning, that if any of us are going to mentally survive going forward, you’re going to have to change the messages you listen to, in order to quiet your mind, to be a better, kinder, gentler person yourself.

Or you could just stay angry all the time. Or sad. Or feel hopeless. Or disgusted. Or whatever negative default state of disrepair you’ve learned is a safe fallback. Because as long as it’s the President’s fault (current, past, or incoming) or Congress or those on the other side of whatever viewpoints or opinions or theologies we currently hold sacrosanct, then guess what? We’re all absolved of any responsibility for fixing our own lives. Well—isn’t that convenient?!

Now before I get mean tweets of disagreement, let me say something. Disagreement does not equal disrespect for personhood or viewpoint. Though lately, many of us from the top to the bottom seem to have forgotten that. But you know what, we don’t have to engage! We don’t have to obsessively watch or listen to those voices which anger us. We don’t have to have angst anymore because others think differently then us.

In a world where uniqueness and diversity is celebrated, it seems like the last place that holds true is in the world of thought. And that’s actually where we most need to celebrate diversity. Without it, we wouldn’t have the great artists who create beauty, the scientists who solve mysteries, the doctors who find new ways to heal, the spiritual leaders who calm and inspire and teach us new ways of being.

Since the right to free speech doesn’t guarantee kind speech, we must choose what we listen to. We can’t regulate others’ tempers or temperament, only ours. I only know that if individually we become the voices of reason, kindness, gentleness and self-control, tolerance of viewpoint, and above all the blessed voice of silence because we choose to listen to others, some of the negative will be forced to retreat, to simmer down, perhaps even end.

Even if others don’t stop speaking ugly, you can still fill your head with pretty. But it’s your choice.   Who are you listening to? What are you listening to? How is it affecting your body, your mind, your soul?   Maybe it’s time to change the channel. Or go outside. Or listen to a symphony. Or read something that allows you to touch the words, feel them come to life as you turn the pages. I know! You could even get something done that you’ve been putting off! Or most of all, perhaps you need to learn how to sit alone with yourself and your thoughts. Surrender that which isn’t yours to fix. Pray for others. Make a plan. Rest. Rejuvenate.   Just be still. And know.

Changes are coming. Some will be great. Some will be terrible. Some will be made by us. Many will be made by others that are simply: out of our control.

So in light of all that? How now will you live? How will you choose?

As for me, I will resolve to speak less, listen harder.   I absolutely will be more selective on who/what I listen to. I will find ways to fast from those things that frustrate me or don’t help me grow. I will show love to those who think different, or who I disagree with.

 In the silent art of learning how to listen better, I will find I love you more. I will stop trying to change you. Perhaps you will grant me the same kindness?

In the gentle moments where my soul is quiet, I see I am able to love you. Even though we are different.   I will love you—louder.  Because it’s the only voice that makes sense to me.  It’s the only voice that will carry us all home safely.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Give Up – God’s Promises for the Addict (& Their Family)

To anyone who feels hopeless , I say to you “Don’t give up.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

To anyone who has given into temptation for what may be or seems like the 5,347th time—Don’t give up.

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 The Msg.)

To anyone who feels like they can’t get up and go on just one more day – Don’t give up.

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you (Deuteronomy 31:6 The Msg.)

To anyone who is ashamed of who they are – Don’t give up.

For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. (Isaiah 50:7 NASB)

To anyone who has been abandoned by people they love – Don’t give up.

You’ve always been right there for me; don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me; you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me, but God took me in.

Point me down your highway, God; direct me along a well-lighted street; show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs, those liars who are out to get me, filling the air with their threats.

I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit!!
I’ll say it again:  Stay with God.
(Psalm 27:10-14 The Msg.)

To anyone who things thinks they aren’t strong enough – Don’t give up. You are stronger than you know.

I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13

God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Psalm 46:5

To anyone who has no way out or feels like they don’t. – Don’t give up. Look up. Help is closer than you think.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121: 1-8 NIV)

To anyone who isn’t convinced they are loveable or loved, I implore you: Don’t give up! That’s a lie. You are worthy of being loved and are always loved by God who created you.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

Have you been an encouragement or loved an addict, or their family today? We are fighting the good fight with everything we’ve got! Our hurt is helped by your love!

Addicts, like us, are not beyond redemption!

Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. (Galatians 4:14)

Don't Give Up

 

 

Living in Today

Living in Today      I have a daughter who lives on the other side of the world right now.  It’s weird, because wherever she is, she is nineteen hours ahead of me thanks to daylight savings time and 8000 miles of ocean and continents.   Whenever we talk, she is always living in tomorrow, but I am still stuck right here: IN TODAY.   When we Skype, I usually start with, “So tell me, what can you tell me about MY tomorrow that I don’t know will happen yet?”

      I find it interesting that my Monday is always her Tuesday and so on.  So in an attempt to avoid Murphy’s law and various other pitfalls, I jokingly request she give me tomorrow’s headlines for my life as soon as she knows them.

Okay, not really, but it almost seems plausible.

          I find myself having this same beef with God lately.  Could you please let me know what’s coming down the pike tomorrow?

     You see it’s been a challenging year here.  Life situations  (aka “crisis events”) have been too many and too close together.

It’s too much!  I’d say while shaking my fists, as if God had suddenly decided that Job needed a twin sister!  I can’t bear another bit.  Silence.  Other than the sometimes discouraging and fear-inciting voices inside my head .

How many times have I looked at today’s headlines or story line in my life, and then logically predetermined tomorrow’s outcome?

Then like Ty Pennington giving some lucky family a spanking brand new home on Extreme Home Makeover, God who is merciful gave me a Big Reveal moment inside the quirky head that is home to what can only be described as Liz Logic.

Yes, the same brain that is home base to creative pursuits such as writing and photography and imagination of every dimension is also the executive studio of worry, FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real as Joyce Meyer adequately acronymed it!) and as a triple treat: anxiety.

It’s indeed hard to live fully present, in the present.  I haven’t perfected it.  But I have started attempting it more.  It’s a process of mindful letting goPrayer helps.  As does focusing on the positive moments of the day and small victories achieved.

Also essential?  A network of like-minded friends.  Negativity breeds in times of uncertainty.  So does positivity.  Pick one.

But the most important thing is living for today is simply LIVE TODAYNot tomorrow, today.   The bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow because apparently we were designed to have only enough mental storage capacity for worries for ONE DAY ONLY.   That is all the room for worry the human brain can comfortably hold.   We are told God’s grace is always sufficient for the day.  He even knows the number of exact number of hairs on our head (which for some unfortunate souls have diminished to the “less than 100” range as evidenced by comb-over fashion futility).  Yes, God dresses the lilies of the fields finer than kings and cares for the sparrow, how much more does he care about me?

If God’s promises are true for eternity, they are certainly true for today.  But it takes FAITH, an earnest attempt at, not just reading or memorizes promises, but believing them to be true.

Having a crystal ball or magic time machine that could tell me what tomorrow will bring wouldn’t ultimately fix the circumstances that will invariably arise.  But having faith in the God who holds tomorrow will at least help us get through.

SOME PERSPECTIVE ABOUT LIVING FOR TODAY:

Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.  Khalil Gibran

When Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow meet, only Today gets to shake hands twice. That makes Today twice as important as the other two. But it also means that Today must be careful, because who knows whether Yesterday or Tomorrow washed their hands after going to the bathroom.”    Jarod Kintz

The Crave and The Fix

One of my dearest friends in the world sent me King and Country’s  CD recently called “The Crave.”  If every other song wasn’t spectacularly amazing, this one brought it home—

It broke me

        If you’ve ever struggled with addiction or loved someone who has, then listen to this I beg you.  You’ll get it.

See I’m a strong girl.   These are the things I used to CRAVE:

  • Control
  • Stability
  • A Plan (see Control)
  • Having “it” together (family, work, my house, appearance, finances….the list goes on)

And then The Beast came to our home.  To my heart—an uninvited stranger who moved in without warning or permission—and foreclosed on my heart, and mercilessly tried to wreck my life, and that of my family.

We’re still processing and mending.  But above all I’m still believing and I’m still loving.  I’m living through something that nearly took away someone I love so much more than my own life and who all I wanted to do was :

FIX

      Surely, if I craved fixing my addict just a bit more than this person craved a fix, I’d be able to:

  • Convince them
  • Change them
  • Fix them
  • Make it all better

But I failed.  Or at least I thought I did.  Because sometimes human love isn’t enough I was so busy taking on the roles of detective, nurse, lawyer, and defensive lineman often simultaneously,   that it took me a while for me to learn it isn’t all my fault.  And it isn’t all theirs.

Addiction is two things:  A genetic predisposition and a choice.  The choice is the first time.  The addiction is all the times that come after.

I know now it won’t be me that can fix this.  Because THE FIX may be my goal, but it’s not my role.  This is something only God can do as my loved one decides to get extremely intellectually honest or in street lingo: Keepin’ it real y’all! 

“The others”–the ones what have walked this journey of one day at a time for some time now,  through shared experience, accountability, and unconditional love, will have to help my loved one pick up the pieces that I could not.

      This is what it’s like for the addict and the family:  Excruciatingly painful.  Isolating.  Really scary.  Exhausting.  Sometimes you feel judged or are misunderstood by those who haven’t ever been exposed to this.

But the suffering is also something more.  It’s redemptive.  Beauty shines brighter thru wet tears.  Appreciation for now comes when you lose so much and almost lose—well, everything.   Every other problem becomes so small.

And now I know people, too many, that have lost this battle.  People that suffer silently.  And I won’t be doing that any more.  My battlefield is becoming my mission field.

For I am not ashamed of the one I love who is getting the help they need.  I will forever be their:

  • Advocate, but not their enabler.  I will speak the truth, but in love.
  • Cheerleader, because encouragement is the seed that can blossom into confidence.
  • Prayer warrior, because the biggest battles are won on our knees, and the biggest war is fought for our hearts and mind.  If you think you don’t have an enemy bent to destroy both or either, you deceive yourself.

So devil take warning:

  • I am unmoved by you.
  • I am undeterred.
  • Above all I am not defeated—not now, not ever.

Because I have the King of kings on my side.  You have already lost.  For I have tasted The Cure .  His name is Jesus.  He is not just our Saviour, He is also our Saver and Redeemer.  He really does save the lost.  He really does comfort those who mourn and are crushed in spirit.   He does this not only because we first believed, but more importantly because He first loved us. 

Without faith, it’s not only impossible to understand this; I think it’s impossible to see the everyday miracles that God decides to bless us with.  Life is a mystery. It’s full of both joy and suffering, sometimes simultaneously.  Deserving neither, we experience both as a gift of opportunity to question everything until finally we reach the end of our limited human understanding.  That’s where we end, and God can finally begin.

       And to the families touched by addiction?  You are not alone.  You do not have to walk this journey alone.   May you find the courage to find a support group and attend meetings, find a supportive and empathetic church, and/or a close circle of true friends who get it, and may you come to believe and trust in a loving God who already has the power to heal all that ails you.    After all, we could all stand to take a hit of a drop of grace. 

Hope.  Love.   Believe.  And you shall live.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Support possibilities for you or a loved one who suffers from addiction:

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

http://al-anon.alateen.org/?gclid=CImZo7jw5LsCFa9lOgod2kcAkw

http://www.aa.org/

http://www.narconon.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm

 

       

The Big Bang Theory — According to Liz

Big Bang Psalm 8.3 and 4      Once upon a time in my life, a big crisis came.  BANG!   It was big.  How big?   Big enough to rock my world, and tilt my universe.

But you know what?  It didn’t kill me.  Though I thought it might.  It certainly had the potential to.  I thought I didn’t have the strength to go one more day.  But the next day, the sun rose again, and my feet found the floor and moved forward.

I didn’t think I could handle it.  And I was right.  In my own strength, I couldn’t.  I didn’t.  And I’m not.  But with God, all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26) That’s what’s engraved in the cross around my neck, and even more it’s invisibly etched in my heart; it’s the fiber of who I am.

See when you experience your BIG BANG moment, chances are it’s going to be one of those things that makes you question everything:

  •       Why did this happen to me? Our family?  The person I love?
  •       If God is good, why didn’t He PREVENT this?  Or FIX it?
  •       Or for God’s sake, allow me (us) to AVOID it all together?

I’ll tell you why.  Because none of us are spared.  In this world, you will have troubles…..

   You know it all too well.  If you’ve suffered, you know John 16:33 by heart by now.

We don’t get out of life without our share of sorrow or suffering.   We also don’t get out of life ALIVE.   It’s true.  We have to make our peace that we are but a blip on the timeline known as eternity.  And in so accepting, making peace with the question:

Okay then, what does it all mean?  What’s the point of anything in life?

You have to find the answers.   In the midst of the worst struggle—the most aggressive cancer or disease you are sentenced to live with, the scariest nightmare realized, the worse fear come true, or the harshest experience ever endured,  you have to CHOOSE: 

       If I never get the WHY of my questions answered, then how do I incorporate this into my life without being bulldozed by it?  How can I choose my suffering so that I can thrive, not just survive?

Everybody is different.  But for me, well a little time on the carpet, the vinyl, the place where the dust bunnies frolic is the best place to start.  On my knees.  Looking up.  Reaching out.  Trusting.  Hoping.  Knowing that to be true, which I can neither see or prove:

That there is a God.  And He really is faithful, involved in this, grieved by this, moved by this, working on this behind the scenes,and loving each of us thru this in so many tangible ways:

  • The prayers of others
  • The kindness of friends and strangers
  • The peace that sometimes comes and surpasses understanding

The wisdom to know that when fear creeps in, He is bigger than all of this and returns  the moment I ask for Him to.

      I took a picture of the moon tonight.  At first glance it was just a white dot in a black background.  I shot it from multiple exposure values: aperture sizes (determines the amount of light let into the lens), and shutter speeds (how long the shutter remains open).  You know what?  Despite subtle differences, the pictures looked pretty much the same.  Dull.  Listless.

But once I opened it up in my favorite photo editing app appropriately named LightRoom, I pulled the lever labeled “Clarity” over to the right about 100% to be exact.  And voila!  Stars appeared.  Stars I didn’t even see with my naked eye when I originally took the picture.  I zoomed in on the moon to enlarge it a bit.  More detail popped out, though somewhat hazy still to my eye.   You see I am limited by the lens through which I view all this.  Not just my camera lens, but also my human optical lens.

   Life is like that.  We see our circumstances through the lens of our own understanding.  And thus we are born into a life of pain.  We sometimes don’t get to see the diamond that is being cut out of the roughness of our life.   But God, with his infinite all-seeing eye, who created the moon, the stars, the earth, all the solar systems, and the entire universe, can always see all these details that we can’t.

We feel bitter tears slip from our eyes, but He only sees stars.  It is here, He best sees into us; He looks deep into the windows of our soul, and plants a new vision.  During our trials, is where God best plants the vision of hope, endurance, peace, and someday—joy.

       Life, like photography is about perspective.  It’s about vision.  It’s also about clarity.   There’s contrast involved—we can’t know light (goodness) if we don’t have darkness (evil) to compare it with.   We see our life thru a macro lens, up close and personal.  But God sees our lives (the big picture) from a wide angle lens that makes the Gran Telescopio Canarias (it has an aperture of a whopping 409 inches!) seems like the width of a gnat.  He also can see very detail up close, as if using an electron microscope, seeing the detail of our cells not even a billionth of a meter wide.    He can see every speck of us—perfectly.  And He can see within us, what others can’t and sometimes what even we can’t see in ourselves:  Our hurts, our dreams, our fears, our desires, our hopes, our passions, our purpose, and most of all:  our potential.

Sooner or later in life you may have one of those cataclysmic events that can only be described as The Big Bang.  The rest of the world hums merrily along unaware that you nearly lost your hearing, your vision, your sanity, and quite possibly your life as this cosmic collision internally implodes in your life.

But hold fast.  Trust in a God big enough to swallow your fears and your doubts.  Through applied pressure, extreme heat, and gravitational pull, know that God is forging something, better, refined, and new.   He ordered the universe outside of you; He can certainly order, rearrange, or repair if necessary,  the micro verse within you.   Wait upon Him.     Something beautiful is being made from all this.  Trust in Him to reveal it all at exactly the right time.

BANG BANG!  Now pray!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 (NIV)

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”   Rick Warren – “The Purpose Driven Life:  What on Earth Am I Here For?”

Finishing Well

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PROOF:  Good runners finish well!  My wonderful sister in law Bren crosses the finish line at Boston in 2012!

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

    Here we are again.  America is in mourning yet again after another terrorist attack.  We all watched in horror yesterday as the runners from the 2013 Boston Marathon were crossing or about to cross the finish line, only to suddenly realize a bomb, and then another, had detonated very closely to one another.

    Evil planned it this way.  Evil always plans it this way.  Destroy the innocent.  Destroy the maximum for maximum impact. 

But here’s the thing.  LOVE WINS!  I’ll say it again.  Love wins.

Just like the runners who trained by racing for months and months, the choice to love trains over the course of a life time.  See love is not easily entangled.  It does not falter.   It does not bail because it gets angry or doesn’t get its way.  It doesn’t boast.  It doesn’t quit.  And above all, it never fails.

The runner trains for months and years increasing their strength by going the distance each day.  Two miles today.  Two point four tomorrow.  Twenty six point two a year from now.  A runner increases his or her efficiency by perservering.  A four minute mile when starting out.  Then four point two.  And so on.  Until one is almost running with cheetahs and raking in times like a seven minute mile and beyond!  Runners are a special breed.  They run through pain.  They run through rain.  They run past the point where most people quit.  They run past the point they dropped of exhaustion only yesterday.

For a runner has one goal:  To finish well.  Though trophies and recognition is bestowed upon the one that crosses first, all know the real glory is to run with endurance and to finish well.  One must cross the finish line, and receive the real prize:  The honor and glory of a family who is so proud of you, a photo op of crossing the finish line, and the prize of satisfaction knowing you gave it your all, and you finished.   All your hard training has paid off.

My heart hurts so bad for all those who trained yesterday and never got to cross the finish line because someone or a group decided to ruin something beautiful with a moment of terror.  Here’s how it ends though.  The same way it always ends:

Good rushes in.  Good rushes in to assist the injured and comfort the dying.  Good tries to maintain order in sheer pandemonium.  Good has no fear.  Good seeks the security and comfort of others before one’s self.  Good always outnumbers evil.   Good happens because it first knows how to accept and give love.  And when someone knows that they are loved, it is easier to help or even sacrifice one’s own life to help another—even a perfect stranger.

So many runners trained so hard for yesterday.  They did not get to cross the finish line.  Instead they were learned through shock and surprise to exit the race and to run to shelter. The chance to cross the finish line was stolen.

But the chance to finish well is something no act of terror or thought of evil can claim.  In that respect, all the runners triumphed.  As did the families and friends who awaited with cheer and anticipation and joy to congratulate their loved one.

And the ones who perished?  God is in control.  I can’t claim to make sense of it.  I only know this.  God is just and God is in control.  Always.

I pray for each of these runners the opportunity to renew their strength and nourish their hurting hearts.  I pray each of us can learn to pass by the circumstances and destructive emotions that entangle us and seek a higher power that allow each of us the opportunity to finish well.   For then we gain the good life here and the perfect life for eternity.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:30-31

 

What We Draw Near

Cojoined Tree CIMG3853

     We have a new dog.  So I’ve been taking a lot more walks in nature.  So now it’s me, the dog, my son, and sometimes if I can manage one more thing in addition to a pocket full of treats, water bottles, poop bags, cell phone, and car keys, I bring my camera too.

       I’m finding that dog-walking is actually God-walking.  I’m walking with God as I enjoy all the good things God has blessed me with.

We walk together, my dog, my son, and I– sometimes talking, sometimes quiet, all the while finding amazing things to sniff, pick up, explore, and take pictures of.  I feel joyfulness in nature’s solitude and joy in fellowship with those that I love.  And it feels as if there is someone else with us too.  I can’t see or hear Him.  But it’s more than a feeling or intuition.  It’s just a knowing.   

     On one of our walks I saw this amazing tree.  I was immediately drawn to the tree.  For it is a co-joined tree.  Or at least that’s the term I gave it.  Is it one tree or is it two?  Have you seen one like this?  The base spreads out and out pops another tree, but they share the same roots, the same source of nourishment.  I looked up.  Oh my!  Look son, this tree is holding hands with that one!  Or at least that’s how it appeared.  They are not connected at the branches, but they certainly look like it.

The tree was at a concrete reminder of what I’m learning in my current bible study.

     Right now I’m elbows deep in another amazing Beth Moore bible study where we are studying the book of James.  James was the brother of Jesus (actually half-brother if you count the fact that God was Jesus father and Joseph was the father of Jesus, his three brothers and unspecified number of sisters).

The entire book of James is the one of my favorites because it is hard-hitting and puts the gears in motion to the words of our faith.  James teaches us about:

  • Not just enduring trials, but rejoicing in the process of the trial because of the way it refines us.
  • Being doers of our faith, not merely hearers of the word.
  • How our tongue is a source of both blessings and cursings and it is the rudder that guides our ship (tell me about it!)
  • How we are to eliminate all prejudice in our life and be active in works of mercy, especially regarding the poor.
  • How we are to yield, not show partiality, do good deeds, and to sow seeds of peace and goodness.
  • There are warnings about judging others, warnings about arrogance, and putting too much stock in “our plans” for our lives.
  • There are also warnings about riches and money.  If we lose our humility, then what good is our money anyway?
  • There is great wisdom about being patient while we suffer.  Oh yeah, who doesn’t want some of that?  It’s okay God, just take your time on this one, I’ve got all LIFE!  Seriously though, like we have a choice during our trials?
  • He concludes his six-pack of wisdom by talking about the power of prayer and how we are to help others who wonder away from the truth.
  • The whole book, all seven pages of it (in my bible anyway) is easy to read, but takes a life time to fully grasp.   But my favorite part might simply be this small nugget of truth:

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  James 4:8

     In this same chapter we learn how we don’t get what we most want in life because we don’t ask God, who created not only the whole universe, but also our tiny little self.  We spend our entire lives as if we want to be remembered like Frank Sinatra’s song:  I did it……”My Way!”  Or we ask God for something, but we ask with wrong motives.   Oh come on, who among us hasn’t chuckled as we identify with the little kitten on Facebook who woefully prays, “Lord if you can’t make me skinny, can you at least make my friends fat?”   Do we not sometimes pray for God to exact our rendition of fairness and justice?

So what to do about all in life that ails us? Inequities?  Relationships that go sour, or worse–end in abandonment?  Sickness?   Lack?  Trials of every kind?   Stress?  People who can’t seem to get it together, understand us, or do what we want them to do in order to get along?    Are we supposed to just totally surrender all?

Well, I read James and the answer is one I don’t like sometimes:  Yep!

But that means the other guy wins, I don’t get my way, I won’t be understood, it will hurt, or I can’t fix this.  Right.  Now you are where you need to be. 

Believe me I can write this better than I always live it out in my own life, but it really is true.  We waste so much valuable time we could be living, doing what we really love or at least finding out what that is, by trying to either manipulate or persuade people or situations to our liking to make life more tolerable.

It just doesn’t work like this.  In an odd sort of way James is a structured way to a sort of Zen-like happiness.  When you can truly rejoice in your trials because you know God’s in it, when you can let go of outcome because you know God will work it to the good (even if not here on earth or in your lifetime)  then you can truly be at peace.  You can be at peace and find joy as you suffer.  That’s what it means to share in Christ’s suffering.    This is how we become “strong in character and ready for everything!”  (James 1:3)

We ultimately have to make peace with our own demise.   I believe God teaches us (by giving us plenty of opportunities) to let go of everything else first.   Control really should be a synonym for futility.

I always say:  We are all just renters here.  At the end of the day, we own nothing, for tomorrow is not assured.

It’s good to lean on true friends and family sometimes.  But some things only God can fix—in His own way, and His timing.  Lean not on your own understanding, we are taught.  We can take it a step further—we can lean into the one who made us and loves us as if we are the love of His life.  That’s because we are.

We are all on a journey in life, trying to navigate through trials, learn a few lessons along the way, experience blessings, and hopefully be one to others too.  Like the trees in the forest, we are each unique with our own family branches and occasional nuts (but that’s another blog) and fruits.  Some of us are in full-bloom and some of us are watching the last of our leaves blow away   But as we each draw near to God, not only does He draw near to us, he draws us closer to one another too.  Like co-joined trees, maybe where we each of us ends, is the place where God begins.  God, our home base—He is at the core of our roots that nourish us and grow us, and when the storms come, though we sway, He helps us to still stand tall.