Breakable (My Swiss Cheese Heart)

Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?
Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts.
So it’s fairly simple to cut right through the mess,
And to stop the muscle that makes us confess.
And we are so fragile,
And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys. Ingrid Michaelson – Breakable

Losing a child. Unbearable. Unspeakable grief.   Out of order. Loss that leaves us with no words.

The question we hit the wall, pound our fists, shed our tears, bob up and down in the waves of grief just trying to stay afloat, and dare God to please answer….why?

And then like a child, we simply must accept.   God is sovereign.

Our human mind can’t wrap itself around it.   The heart struggles even more.   Love has to have somewhere to go. And so it bleeds out of us now.

We reach out to comfort and fall short. We want to say something, but there isn’t anything that takes this away.

It is both real and surreal.

It takes courage to endure. Yet no one consulted with you, are you strong enough to take this. You simply are.

Our hearts are fragile. As fragile as the time we think we still have plenty of. Sometimes it is not to be. We go about our day and order our lives as if we can actually stave off heartache and suffering if we’re:

  • Careful
  • Good enough
  • Kind to others
  • Work hard

But in the end, if we are wise enough, we learn to simply accept, that this life is not our will, but God’s.

Circumstance, timing, the gift of being successful or loved or healthy or name-your-desire actually doesn’t rest entirely in our will, but in God’s.

Trial comes to all of us sooner or later. And tragedy too. We forget that it will because life has so many beautiful moments too – full of wonder and majesty. And we most recall them when entrenched in pain and suffering and compare them to memory, or for the most courageous among us: a future hope.

Yes, our hearts are fragile indeed. Even if we build a fortress of protection around it (apathy, bitterness, cynicism), no wall is crumble-proof. We fool ourselves: our willful mind is not the protection it thinks it is for this soft muscle mass that quietly marches to the rhythm of our lives.

In the end, the walls fall. As do the tears. At least for the lucky ones. We breakable ones.

Because we love. Because we are loved. Oh how we love. Sometimes it isn’t even returned to us at all or in equal measure, or it leaves us suddenly without warning, yet still we love, bruising our hearts along the road of Great Expectations. Other times the depth of love is boundless, but our time is too brief. This too seems unfair.

Yes, we lucky breakable ones. We are the ones who get to the end of their journey with hearts that resemble Swiss cheese–firm and steadfast in some places, but with holes too—all because we loved.

Breakable. Our heart, this tiny tender organ the size of our fist, often containing holes so vast, that they threaten to unravel us completely unless filled by something bigger — something even the universe is too small to contain it all…simply the love of God.

We love because God first loved us. We can’t contain it or keep it for ourselves.   When we really truly grasp how much we are loved, our own breakability factor soars. Stone is exchanged for flesh. The heart that knows the value and brevity and depth and beauty of being loved, is assuredly humbled in brokenness and surrender, and quietly gives it all away. In this depth of brokenness, we pour out all of our love, leaving a space that only God can fill, and by some miracle — we begin to heal.

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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

 

String Theory

“A World Without String is Chaos”

The framed motto on the wall of the recently deceased father, Randolph Smuntz
“Mouse Hunt” (The Movie)

Liz – Circa 1987 – At (that time) The World’s Biggest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas

Barefoot, pregnant, pink plaid maternity top, black Hawaii print shorts

I am living proof that chaos exists on a single thread!

I’m convinced the physical laws that order our universe, are also the same laws set in motion in our own little universe– our puny little lives on this big green and blue marble we call home.  Scientists with brains bigger than cantaloupes have made some astonishing findings regarding string theory:  Allow me to be so bold as to compare myself with the universe:

The universe has quarks; I have quirks.

The strings of the universe have p-branes (among other membranes) and I’ve been known to have a pea-brain sometimes.

The strings of the universe contain flavor; I have a unique personality, understood not even by me on most days.   I guess the flavor of me could be described as a rich oak-like taste, with suggestions of almond, and strong hints of dark chocolate.

The universe’s strings contain charge.  I too charge bravely into the wide unknown most days with an energy that seems boundless when I’m tapping into the creative side; likewise, I feel depleted when I’m doing things I’d rather not.

The universe’s strings contain mass.  No kidding!  My mass is heavier than an ideal BMI chart suggests, but as long as I have particles, I can rest assured my mass is here to stay, and despite increased motion, growing stealthily I might add.

My favorite property regarding string theory?  The universe has spin!  Me too!  I spin my wheels everyday like a squirrel zippering around the yard on a frantic nut hunt.  I randomly flit from Facebook to mothering to cleaning to email purging to working a part time job to cooking to errand running to bill paying to writing when I really should be sleeping.  Whatever task I’m doing currently seems to rob from the other essential task that ought to be tended to, especially mothering.  Oh, there’s string theory in my world alright, but it’s more like a tangled ball of twine on most days.

String dynamics are governed by two things:  Tension and Kinetic Energy. Both of which I have an abundance of.  When I don’t know how to relieve my tension, I build up more kinetic energy and can’t sit still, focus, follow through, or proceed in an orderly fashion.  No, it’s not ADHD, it’s just Liz Logic at work.  Or as my dear friend Jana says, “Follow the bouncing ball!”  It all makes sense in the end–sort of.

There’s a bunch more information about string theory under said topic in Wikipedia…..yada, yada, yada, lots of science words, blah, blah, blah, and then this nugget:

“Einstein’s equations for general relativity mean that string theory is a quantum theory of gravity.    Since string theory is widely believed, to be mathematically consistent, many hope that it describes our universe, thus making it a Theory of Everything.

And there you have it folks!  We are all strings.  Pull us too tight—that is to say when too many hardships, or complex situations, or too much information to process, or too many feelings to deal with happen, our cosmological constant is thrown off.  It’s hard to put things in perspective (i.e. general relativity) when you can’t remember which way to plant your feet to find gravity.

Our internal universe can be as unstable and ever-changing as the universe around us.  Just like we can’t see it changing before us, sometimes others can’t see us changing right in front of them.  That’s because they’re lost too!  Why they’re busy  tripping the light fantastic in their “own little universe!”

So when life can be overwhelming with all we must process, what to do, you ask?

Start an on-line relationship with an astrophysicist?  Read your horoscope and then decide?  Buy a lottery ticket?   Increase your knowledge?

Perhaps.  Maybe it’s easier than that.  Try prayer!  Faith steps in when science quits explaining, is unable to explain, or is just too complex.   Prayer does something else:

  • It makes us get quiet.
  • It takes the focus off our self, the problems we have, and those of the world.
  • We can temporarily become unsuspended in time.
  • It helps us to unthink and unfeel.  It’s a chance to unwind and unload.

We can simply be.  We can rest all our quarks, concerns, atoms, shortcomings, electrons, anxieties, photons, problems, dualities, and thoughts.  We can lay it ALL down.    We are but a blip—a small micro-dot on a string in time and space.     But unlike theories, we are not merely relative, we are relevant.  We aren’t just matter; we matter.

And now you know Liz’s Theory of Everything!

Art on Display in American Tobacco Building – August 2012 – Durham, NC

Art Credit TBA (My Apologies—I didn’t write it down, but isn’t this amazing?)

A Prayer for the Strung Out, The Stretched-Too Thin, or in some other way Gravitationally-Impaired:

Thank you God for creating each one of us and for creating the universe, and for attending to all the problems each of us contains.  At any given moment, the world’s problems and our problems compete for first chair in our mind.   That’s because we live life under the physical law known as The Uncertainty Principle.  Since we have no choice but to trust that our immediate universe won’t fall out of orbit anytime soon, then maybe we can have faith just big enough to trust that you won’t let us fall completely out of orbit either.  May we find our stability and peace in you.   Amen.

Trying to Undertand Evil

Photo: Jeremy Papasso – Reuters

Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.  ~Douglas Malloch

    It’s been a tough week in America.  We are all having to come to grips, again, with another random, senseless act of slaughter and mayhem; this time it’s the Colorado movie shootings.  TV and Blogland is rife with details, and all try to answer the question everyone wants to know:

Why?

     Anyone who attempts to answer the question is going to fall short.  My six year old who is just barely old enough to process such horror is starting to realize the world of reality is far more sinister than the Disneyesque existence he’s experienced the first five or so years.  Somewhere around six he’s learned that people not only die and loss is unavoidable, but sometimes it’s even a result of something completely nonsensical that defies understanding.

     Evil exists.  That is what I told him, when he asked me the one word question, “Why?”   We were at the beach and I turned on the news only for a few moments late Saturday evening.   I had gotten word even while playing in the ocean tide and completely absent from technology.   When it comes to the sensational and dreadful, word travels fast.

But why does evil exist?  And a dozen other reasonable follow up questions that still, when boiled down to the core, come down to why.  I don’t know and it just does seems like such a lame answer.  Yet it’s the only truth I can provide.  This is where our faith is tested.  Many want to know how a good and loving God can allow this to happen.  It seems reasonable to me.

I am not a theologian, just a person who is trying to navigate life and keep believing and trusting in a God who remains in control, even when I am not, and clearly the world isn’t it either.  That’s where the rubber meets the road and your faith is truly tested.  This is where choice actually comes in to play.

It’s essential to choose well in life.  If we begin to doubt God’s goodness, it’s easy to then wear shades of cynicism and doubt.  This causes us to pull back in life, unplug, and lament rather than to seek ways to alleviate suffering or bring about peace.

Events like this are always our reminder to hug our own families, and not get out the door without reminding them of the three little words.  Eternal words our hearts can carry with us as a shield against the evils of this world!  I LOVE YOU!  Say it more.  Say it TO more.  Show it more.  Live it more.  Don’t hold back.  Find those in life who are isolated and intervene with love. 

I don’t know if the shooter James Holmes was adequately loved.  Plenty of people don’t feel adequately loved, and don’t respond the same way.  To me the scariest part is how someone can live a so-called normal life, and then something snaps inside them.  It starts with a one-second decision, but from that point on, they decide to follow and promote a culture of darkness, evil, and death.  It is one thing to acknowledge evil exists; I think that’s why so many people wanted to go see Batman.  We love a superhero who vanquishes evil!  It’s another thing to emulate evil and join it.

I’m sure in the days ahead media will analyze what caused this.  Was it lax gun laws?  Were the fictitious characters Batman or Joker responsible for his delusions?  In the end, it won’t matter.   Evil exists.  We can’t legislate it away; we can only choose which trait we wish to nourish in our own life:

  Good or Evil

      I find it interesting that EVIL spelled backwards is LIVE.  Even more true, is that when we speak and make our choices that value and promote LIFE by valuing others, even those that believe and behave differently than we do, we promote a culture that respects life.   Jesus said, “He that tries to keep his life will lose it, and He that loses his life will save it.”  (Luke 17:33)

The shooter will get his fifteen minutes of notoriety for his despicable act of evil. His potential for living a good and productive life are now completely over.  He will live in that reality much longer than his few moments of fame.

Yet the victims of his carnage and their survivors will have the last word, because of the way they lived.   Those will be the stories that the majority of people will remember:  When superheroes stepped in, when the brave successfully rescued the injured despite personal risk, or when one sacrificed one’s self so that another could live—these people and memories are the people we became inspired by.  They represent the love and hope we cling to.

Aurora and America will move forward.  The families of the victims have no choice now but to live life and see it and appreciate it in all its magnificence, and sometimes heartache, not only for themselves, but they will be required to see with a vision for their loved ones whose lives were cut too short.  In order to most honor their loved ones, they must rise above the evil, and truly live.

I pray the survivors can find ways to enjoy life again after their time of grieving, and even during.  I pray they can eventually not dwell on the manner in which their loved ones died, but in the ways that they lived.  I pray they can live without fear and love without limits.  I especially pray they can find big and small ways to forgive others so that they may live in freedom and not bondage to that which they never had control of anyway.  I pray they will know that God is good and that He loves them.  I hope they feel the prayers of America and the world surrounding them during this devastating time.  I hope every tear of sorrow will be redeemed and ultimately turned into tears of joy.  Above all, I pray they live.   I pray they live long, they choose to do good and love well, and that they live strong.

When we choose love and life intentionally in our own life, the oxygen is removed for evil to thrive and its roots shrivel until they die.  Choose life.  Choose love.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

LMFAO! (Live My Faith; Accept Others!)

The other day I was having a lovely lunch with my young son and mother.   Though my mom is an extremely youthful octogenarian, she amused me when she asked, “Liz, tell me something, what does LMFAO mean when people comment with that on their Facebook page?”  Oh boy!  Not one who enjoys cursing in front of my mom, I told her what the acronym’s letters stood for and assured her that I never use it with the middle letter attached when someone tells me something funny.

Long after I answered her question, I was still thinking about what it could stand for.  You see, in the deep cranial cavities of Liz Logic, I am kind of an acronym aficionado, if there is such a thing.  When I see unfamiliar acronyms, I love to see if I can figure out what they stand for based on context of a website or article etc.

At church, we have sermon notes, with blanks left out for key words that will be divulged during the sermon.  Pastor, I’m one step ahead of you; I got this one I always think to myself.  I like to think I know my bible well enough, that I can guess the key words before he teaches us with an amazing sermon.  And you guessed it, I often get it wrong.    I see an L__________ (fill in the blank) and go ahead and put LOVE!   Only to find out, the answer was Live!

It’s a mental game I play with myself, seeing if I can decipher answers before sitting still long enough to receive the answers from someone who just may possibly know more than I do.

Get to the point Liz!  OK, here’s the thing.  So I was pondering a better answer I could have given my mom for the off-colored acronym for a response to a humorous comment one makes on Facebook.   EUREKA!  It just came to me, like this, in a Liz-Flash of inspiration.

Live My Faith; Accept Others

It seems like the last year of my life has been one of the best years I’ve ever had.  But it’s not because every situation in my life is hunky dory all the time.  Far from it!    I don’t know if it’s because the sands of the hour glass are heavier on the bottom side of my life, or God has just graced me with more wisdom, but this message just keeps ringing true these days–repeatedly!

Here’s why:  I have been involved in a neighborhood bible study group with the loveliest friends I have ever known for the last fifteen years.  Some of us leave for a season and come back; some simply move on to other things in life, but the core friendships remain the same.  We are a platoon of moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends and we have seen it all and been through it all in our own lives.  We’ve been through multiple deaths, births, and struggles with our families and deep within ourselves.  We’ve laughed and cried together all these years and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to face some of the things we faced, had it not been for one another.    Sometimes we look back, and think, how in the world did we even survive that?    Only one answer rings true, but for God.

Something one dear friend said, especially grabbed me last night.  She said, “You know the answer in life is just so simple.”  Impossible at times to execute, but so simple to understand:

“Just love one another”

 If we all could just truly love one another, and accept one another, we wouldn’t be at war within our families, or within the world, and even within ourselves.  You don’t think you’re at war within yourself?  Think again.  Do you ever participate in self-condemnation?  I’m so fat or I’m so stupid?   Do you ever participate in pride, or judging others?

See, this truth is the heart of our faith–to just love one another!   Where do you feel the most free in life?  It’s probably in the friendships and relationships where you feel totally accepted in life, despite what they know about you, or your quirks, or your flaws, or your areas that you are working on.

We’ve learned some other things in life too.  It’s not enough to just love each other in our little “holy huddle.”  There is a hurting world outside just beyond the smell of our fresh coffee and raucous laughter.    We know!  That’s the world we always go back to when our time together is up.

Our personalities, political persuasions, professional choices, and how we school and parent our children vary vastly.   Yet we are in agreement on this bedrock principal.  Just love!  We don’t have to beat the others in our family or in the world with bible verses.  It’s not our position to save, but our privilege to share.  We can share our testimonies and our faith as we understand it if asked, but ultimately it is our kindness or love (or sadly, lack of) that tells the truth of who we claim to be.

Sometimes I personally feel like I’m the worst as far as being an effective ambassador or servant of Christ.  I’m so full of inconsistencies!  I’m full of pride sometimes!  I still sin, not only as defined in the bible, but as that voice in my head that says this doesn’t honor God.   Yes, I struggle!    I’m real!    I think we’ve all taken turns passing the self-condemnation ball around but I also know that this is a tactic from an enemy who wishes to see us destroy ourselves, and NOT the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day I know God is a mighty big God.  He has a sense of humor and strength that far surpasses mine.  After all He’s God!  He knows my obsessions, my fears, my tears, and my confessions!  (Whoa…that rhyme just tumbled out!).  But He does!  He probably laughs and says, “There, there my precious child.  You’re going to be okay.  I’ve got it covered.  I know ALL about this, but I love you anyway.  That situation that’s making you nuts or you’re totally afraid of?  It’s all going to be ok.  Trust me.  Be patient.  Have faith.  Don’t be angry at others; just love.  Yes, grow in love.”

I’m still growing up.  But the love comes easier these days.  I don’t have to stay confined to this group or that group of people.  I don’t have to put people in a category.   It’d be better if I ignore any splinters in my neighbor’s eye, considering I have enough planks in my eye to build a deck, quite possibly on a ship.

Though I still get mad, and frustrated, and lose it sometimes, I’m learning I have a place to return.    It’s the heart of our creator.  Proverbs 4:23 teaches us “Guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” has never been truer than now.    I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to build a fortress around it, as to not contaminate it, but to build bridges from it and let the love spill out into the world.  I think this verse is misunderstood as to not let anything corrupt us.  This is true, but I think it also means to not fear those that believe differently, those who have a different opinion of truth.    I think of it as guarding your heart from falling prey to fear, cynicism, judgment, condemnation, or categorizing.  Just breathe life-affirming love into others.  Let God worry about the rest.

Is our faith so fragile, we could lose it by loving those that are different?  I hope not.  That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what I want to do either.  Though I’ve certainly been guilty of that, it’s not who I am anymore—at least I’m trying not to be that person!

For me, Jesus was perfect and I’m so not, and honestly neither has anyone who speaks in His name for the last two thousand years or so.   I think He would be a lot more popular if the world could see more love from those that claim to follow Him.

Love is not to be contained, or given to only those we deem lovely or loveable.  It is not reserved for the deserving, or folks like us.  It’s so much more than a cliché too; it’s actually a commandment…to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but don’t forget the second part—to love our neighbor as our self!

The world and its inhabitants have always and will always need more love and peace.  Just start with you.  Start now.  Where is the love?

God Bless the 43 States of America

Image       My six year old son and I have spent the last eighteen months trying to complete our FIFTY QUARTERS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA collection and about three weeks ago, eighteen months after we started our collection, finally acquired the continuously elusive, highly-sought after, and highly prized (if only to us) Alabama Quarter!

We spent untold hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars just for the sheer joy of getting back change.  It became our quest in life!  Whenever we received change, before we even took two steps, we carefully inspected the “quarterbacks” to see if we found the lost one we were searching for.

I even put a note on Facebook once seeking the Alabama quarter.  No response came, though I did get an email from a friend once saying he had a few quarters for Tyler to add to his collection.  It was a fair trade, because we had previously adopted a stray cat from him that he was desperately trying to find a home for.  Actually, Toby is a very beloved member of our family now, so to be paid fifty cents  for taking a cat, well, in this economy that’s a darn good deal, even though my husband may state otherwise.

We also were known to short a waiter or waitress a quarter or two, if we looked down at the tip and realized, “Aaggh….this is one of the quarters we don’t have.”  If you were one of the servers short changed by our mission, I sincerely apologize here publicly.  It was not your service, but only our need to complete the collection.

So when my daughter came home from college three weeks ago, and stated that she had found the Alabama quarter in the cash register at the job she worked at, we were overjoyed!   We had even found the Puerto Rice quarters (there are four of them.  Huh??  How come they get four different versions?) American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, though we still have yet to find the Northern Mariana Islands or Guam.  We even acquired the District of Columbia quarter, which certainly could be considered one of the “island” quarters, since Washington DC seems to operate outside of all reality, that the other fifty states have to ascribe to.  In our traveling experiences to DC, I find you have to carry a large stash of money with you anyway, just as you would were you to travel to one of the US exotic islands for basic essentials like eating, parking, accommodations, and of course, tips!

This brings me to the conclusion, and for us, this gigantic mental dilemma.  I told my son two days ago; now that we’ve completed our collection, let’s see if we can name all fifty states in ABC order.  We got out a pad and paper and started listing them.  We listed them not accurately alphabetized, but by grouping first letter together from memory.   This should be a cinch for us!   We spent two years looking at our FIFTY STATES poster board as we hunted for quarters.  Well here’s what we recalled racking our brains the last two afternoons after school:

A:  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona
C:  California, Colorado, Connecticut
D:  Delaware
F:  Florida
G: Georgia
H: Hawaii
I:  Illinois
K:  Kansas, Kentucky
L:  Louisiana
M:  Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana
N:  New Hampshire, New Mexico,  New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota
O: Ohio, Oklahoma
R:  Rhode Island
S:  South Carolina, South Dakota
U:  Utah
V: Vermont, Virginia
W:  Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

See what I mean?  There are only forty three states!!  In my effort to punish myself for not knowing my geography, I REFUSE to Google this and find the answer.  I keep mentally trying to picture the US in my head, and still I come up empty.   My son, who is only in kindergarten, did not recall these because of the way he knows the map, but because of the way he knows who or what is on the back of each quarter.

That makes me feel even worse, because except for some Georgia Peaches, a Florida Astronaut, the Wright Brother’s plane of NC (I should know this one!), and the Capital of the Washington DC quarter, or the Kentucky Horse, I can’t even remember the other quarterbacks though I spent the last year and a half looking at them astutely.

Though it’s going to irritate me to no end, I know somebody is going to just rattle off one of the seven states that escapes my memory.  Maybe you can do this without cheating and tell us the answer.       I also think, how even though I can’t recall the entire fifty states that I’ve been blessed as being a part of for forty seven years,  I am thankful I can at least remember all three of my children’s names, for now that is, even if I call them by the wrong one occasionally.

I’m also reminded whether we are looking at a penny or a hundred dollar bill, there is a small disclaimer:  IN GOD WE TRUST.  Earning, collecting, spending, winning, receiving, and above all giving money are all the trials and joys we experience all our life, all in the name of money.  So it’s wise to remember, that in each of the ways we encounter money, to remember WHO our trust is in, and though I may not recall the names of all fifty states, we have a God who knows each of us by name, the number of hairs on our head, and all the worries and cares that live in them, as well as our hearts.  Knowing God is free, but the value is priceless.

Find, collect, and treasure the currency you value in life.  And spend it wisely!  Be blessed!

No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.  Luke 16:13 (NIV 1984)

Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.  Luke 12:7 (NIV)