Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When Fear Turns to Faith

After my son’s military funeral, my tears mingled with another Army Ranger’s mom’s tears. One week earlier, I was seated where Joan* now sat, hoping my son would survive multiple deployments to this war on terror.


Every time I talked with another friend Beth, whose son Captain Ian P. Weikel, died in Iraq in 2006, foreboding triggered deep sobs from within. Not wanting to intrude on Beth’s grief, I swallowed hard, blinked back tears, and breathed deeply.

But here I sat facing Joan, holding hands, crying over the loss of my son and her unspoken terror—her son might die, also. Fear dripped salty down Joan’s face.

The fear of death departed when my son breathed his last breath. Why? The hope of my son seeing his savior face-to-face became a reality. For, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

My words sharing my faith and the Chaplain’s sermon prompted Joan to blurt out, “I’m so over, Jesus.” My heart ached for her—for her Christian religion that wounded her and crushed her faith, for her search and misbelief in a myriad of mythical gods made of gold, silver, wood or stone, for her utter hopelessness.

I worried about this precious mom, If her son was killed, how would she cope?

The same way I’d struggle if haunted by shattered faith. I’d be distraught—inconsolable.

God Knows My Pain
Just as my heart suffers pain because my son died for our freedom, Jehovah Elohim’s heart agonized when his Son died for every person’s spiritual freedom. Now my son experiences freedom from death. He's attained his eternal future and hope for those who believe in the death and resurrection of Christ.

I miss my son terribly. My comfort lay in this assurance: My son rejoices in the Almighty God’s presence. I’m relieved that I no longer worry about my son’s safety, because Kristoffer rests in the peace and protection of heaven.

God, thank you that your Son laid down his life for his friends to turn darkness into light and our fears into faith.

My friend, Tiffany Stuart, created these two memorial videos for my son's memorial service to honor Kristoffer and his family and express our family's faith.
Life Celebration Video: Find Us Faithful 
Faith Celebration Video: God and God Alone

“Our Home is in Heaven and we know that the earthly tent we live in will be destroyed. But we have a building made by God. It is a house in heaven that lasts forever. Human hands did not build it. During our time on earth we groan. We long to put on our house in heaven as if it were clothing. While we live in this tent of ours, we groan under our heavy load. We want to be dressed with our house in heaven. What must die will be swallowed up by life. So here is what we can always be certain about. As long as we are at home in our bodies, we are away from the Lord. We live by believing, not by seeing. We are certain about that. We would rather be away from our bodies and at home with the Lord. So we try our best to please him. We want to please him whether we are at home in our bodies or away from them.”

“Brothers and sisters, we want you to know what happens to those who die. We don't want you to be sad, as other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again. So cheer each other up with these words of comfort. Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”— 2 Corinthians 5: 1-101 Thessalonians 4:13-18Philippians 3:20-21 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Ordinary Day About-Faced to Extraordinary

The peace and calm of the ordinary life I enjoyed changed on Friday, October 21 at 11:30 PM.

“Who’s knocking on my door?” I spoke out loud, my surprise at the sudden banging on my front door gave way to annoyance. “Probably someone with car trouble. If I ignore the knocking they’ll go away.”

Knock. Knock. Knock.

I pulled back a curtain just an inch or two, hoping not to be noticed as I peeked out. A man I didn’t know stood on my front step.

He saw me.

I closed the curtain and continued to ignore his insistent knocking. I wasn’t going to open my door to a stranger this late at night. If I just ignored him, surely he’d head to a neighbor’s house.

Then I decided to call the police. “Where’s my cell phone?” I felt a twinge of panic because I couldn’t sneak past my front door with its large oval stain glass window to retrieve my phone without being seen.

Feeling trapped, I looked out the window again. Two men stood outside. I spotted a patch on one man’s sleeve. What are the police doing at my house? I haven’t done anything wrong.

I walked down my stairs and opened the door. Two tall men in military uniforms stood on my front steps. Without asking, I knew why they were there.

“Is my son dead?”

“May we come in, ma’am?”

I asked again, dreading their answer. “Is my son dead?”

“May we come in, ma’am?”

They followed me up the stairs and gave me the news: My son died, killed by an IED – an improvised explosive device – in Afghanistan. I asked where, but quickly forgot the name of the district. The chaplain prayed for me and asked, "Do you have someone you can call?"

"No. I'm single. I've been to hell and back. I'll be fine. You can leave."

They refused to leave until I called a friend and asked her to come stay with me.

My worst fear had just come true: My firstborn son … dead. Every deployment, from the first until his thirteenth, heightened my stress level. I only breathed without anxiety when he returned home—safe.

It’s one thing to say, “I trust God.”
It’s another to entrust your child into God’s hands when your government declares wars and repeatedly deploys soldiers to carry out dangerous missions to capture terrorists who annihilate people for whatever reasons motivate their unadulterated mayhem.

As a lioness, I instinctively yearned to protect my cub, even though he’d grown into a full-fledged lion with impressive skills to take care of himself. The hardest thing for me, the mother of a soldier? Releasing my son to God. It was a constant struggle—seesawing between “I hope he doesn’t die” to “God, I entrust him to your care.”

On October 21 at 11:30 PM that struggle ended.

I had relaxed during my son’s fourteenth deployment, for the first time, confident that he would return safely. Instead of going out on dangerous missions, as a commander, he’d stay on the base to oversee the operations. But that fateful night, circumstances changed man’s best laid plans to God’s.

I can’t blame anybody or ask “Why?” because God numbers our days. (Psalm 139:16) This was part of God’s plan. Even so, when I hit the anger stage of grief, I’ll probably engage in some frank, in-your-face conversations with God. I’m not pleased with his timeline.

So how do we relate to the extraordinary we dreaded and never desired? With an over-arching belief in the presence of an unchanging God and the desire to find meaning in the midst of tragedy. When my son was three years old and my hopes and dreams for our nuclear family shattered, I clung to the verse “what man meant for evil, God meant for good.” (Genesis 50:20)

But what is “good”?
Man’s fleeting, self-centered and ultimately unsatisfying definition of “good”—stuff, more stuff, prestige, power, sex, money, winning—means attaining and obtaining earthly idols we crave. Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher, Torah scholar and physician, considered “good” meant “reflecting God's light.”

When the light in this life dims to black, I can’t rely on an anthropomorphized god or theology reducing God to a bigger version of myself or to a magic genie god who gives me idols made of wood, stone, silver, and gold.

I did not want my son, my son’s brother, my precious daughter-in-love’s husband, and my adorable granddaughters’ father to die in a never-ending battle. With anticipation and excitement, I looked forward to enjoying future family times together. I miss him.

I want my son back to hug, to touch, for his wife to embrace, and for his daughters to know. The only way I can survive these demolished dreams is to turn to the Man of Sorrow, to Adonai, my Lord, Master, Owner, and my Strong Tower. (Proverbs 18:10, Psalm 9:10, Psalm 20: 1, 7)

Spoilt dreams either drive us to soak in God’s promises and the truth of who God says he is or to ignore or push God away and brine in a bitter marinade of lies and disillusionment. Intimacy with El Emet, The God of Truth (Psalm 31:3-5) entails abandoning my dreams, surrendering my stubborn grip on what I wish for most or think I deserve, and placing my confidence in Someone I can’t manipulate or manage.

My son’s body lies lifeless in a coffin. There is no more bargaining with El Gadol Gibohr Yare, The Great, Mighty and Awesome God (Deuteronomy 10:17) to protect him and bring him home to family. However, Jehovah-Sabaoth, The Lord of Hosts, The Lord of Armies, the commander with universal sovereignty over every heavenly and earthly army, deployed my son to Heaven and the safety I so desired for him here on earth.

In this dramatic stage in my family’s history, just as I could not ignore the insistent knocks on my door, I cannot ignore what happened. I need El Yeshuw’ah, the God of My Salvation (Isaiah 12:2), who is stronger and wiser than I, who will in time provide His story and meaning to this loss. Pain, loss, grief drives us to what really matters in this life—authentic relationship with a sovereign God and to reflect on and to trust who God says He is.

El Yeshuw’ah, the Light of the World (John 8:12), sacrificed his life to save, deliver and move us to eternal safety. I dread the grief and pain ahead. However, I pray that Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is Present, plus the memory my son’s courage, character, and sacrifice, and my precious remaining son will spur me on.

I desire to mirror “good” and reflect God’s light. So that one day, when breath leaves my earthly body and my firstborn son embraces me again, I will stand before the Lamb of God to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV)

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, Job 13:15

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” — Jeremiah 29:11-13, Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

I flew to Dover Air Force Base to observe my son’s body being “repatriated” after being killed in Afghanistan. It was surreal watching the refrigerated coffin moved from the plane to the transport vehicle. Longing to touch, to hug my son, I could only watch as the truck drove out of my view to deposit my son in the morgue.

A General from Washington expressed the country’s appreciation for my firstborn’s sacrifice. He flinched when I said, “I’d have preferred you used a drone to drop a bomb to take out the target.” Apparently, those are reserved for “political” targets.

An Army Ranger accompanied my son’s body home and slept on the cold plane’s floor beside his casket. He’d listened on a headset during the mission. He related what happened, easing the torture of wondering, “Did my son suffer?” The explosion from the victim-activated IED was so powerful that my son felt nothing. I praise El Shamayim, The God Of The Heavens, [Psalms 136:26] who whisked my precious son away into his presence, sparing him from experiencing any pain—and his mother obsessing about until the end of her days.

The three Army Rangers, who attended the ceremony shared stories about my son and his character that reinforced my faith in Elohim—the father of the fatherless, the husband, provider and protector of the widows and the orphans.

When propelled into single parenthood, the vile statistics that religious leaders and sociologists spew about children from single-parent homes terrorized my heart. Yet, I clung to Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Philippians 1:6. What do men know? God is far greater than any societal myth, stereotype or statistic.

For twenty-six years, my daily heart cry to God was for my sons’ futures. Listening to my son’s buddies describe him, I realized God answered my prayers regarding his future beyond my wildest expectations.

When breath left my son’s body, God completed the good work in my son’s life that God began years ago. My son has attained his future and hope in eternal life.

Precious single moms and dads, trust God. Call upon Him. Pray to Him. He listens. Seek Him with all your heart you and will find Him and He will find you.

Who Is the God We Can Trust? He is…
Our father and husband: A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:5
Our advocate: You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry and my wrath will become hot. Exodus 22:22–24
Our truth-teller: And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on. Luke 21:2-4
Our guardian: For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17–19
Our defender: Defend the poor and the fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and the needy. Psalm 82:3
Our protector: Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17
Our righter of injustice: Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow. And all the people shall say, “Amen.” Deuteronomy 27:19

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Did God Wire You to Relate to Him?

‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, thus you shall say to your masters, “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.” —Jeremiah 27:4-6 (NASB)

After an hours long conversation with an individual, I hung up the phone exhausted. The next morning I woke up and thought, I never care to engage a theological discussion like that again. Why did that exchange about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit leave me feeling down?

I’d been open, vulnerable and passionate about how I relate to God and how God connects with me: But it wasn’t the same way the person on the other end of the line focused on God. I felt pulled to share those same experiences or I would not be deemed "spiritual enough."

We are both Christians. We both love the Lord. We both agreed on the truths of the theology under discussion. I recognized that person is a godly individual. This individual’s particular spiritual experiences differed from how I worship God, call on him, and focus on his qualities. I felt theologically unequally yoked. After that conversation I experienced an epiphany regarding how God wired me to relate to him and hear from the Holy Spirit.

Wired to Worship
How do I relate to God? For me deepening my relationship and trust in the Lord comes from spending hours in His Word, digging into Hebrew and Greek definitions, researching key words, and worshipping by proclaiming what God says he will do. I’m humbled and amazed by who God says He is. For a number of years I’ve collected the Hebrew names of God and how each name reveals another attribute of God. When I’m hurting, struggling or doubting, I review my list of over 150 names and pray, “God, which attribute will minister to my heart?

Then I pray for that particular characteristic to minister to the distraction warring in my soul. When others share a new insight they discover about the Lord, their new “aha” spiritual revelation enriches my understanding, strengthening my faith.

While studying Precept Ministries’ Sermon on the Mount, some of verses quoting God caught my eye. God said, “I will . . .” sending me on a search throughout the Bible.

When we draw near to the Lord our God, what does he say he will do for those who love and trust him?

I will show you.
And I will bless you.
I will establish My covenant between Me and you.
I will return to you.
I will tell you.
I will not leave you.
I will be with you.
I will prosper you.
I will teach you what you are to do.
I will deliver you.
I will redeem you.
I will take you for my people.
I will be your God.
I will surely hear your cry.
I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
I will speak to you.
I will meet with you.
I will dwell among you.
I will send an angel before you and I will drive out your enemies.
I will give you rest.
I will show compassion.
I will perform miracles.
I will confirm My covenant with you.
I will make my dwelling among you.
I will not reject you.
I will not fail you or forsake you.
I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always.
I will show you what you shall do.
I will make you a great name.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me.
I will heal you.
I will subdue all your enemies.
I will deliver you.
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
I will answer you.
I will be with you in trouble.
I will rescue you.
I will satisfy you with a long life and let you see My salvation.
I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
I will help you.
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You.
I will lead the blind by a way you do not know. In paths you do not know I will guide you. I will make darkness into light before you and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave you undone.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
I will do something new, now it will spring forth. Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
I will not remember your sins.
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring.
I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I will make all your ways smooth.
I will carry you.
I will bear you and I will deliver you.
I will act.
I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
I will keep you.
I will not forget you.
I will contend with the one who contends with you, and I will save your sons.
I will have compassion on you.
I will not be angry with you.
I will lead you and restore comfort to you.
I will act on behalf of you.
I will answer before you call.
I will hear while you are still speaking.
I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious.
I will heal your faithlessness.
I will pardon you.
I will be your God, if you obey My voice.
I will again have compassion on you; and I will bring you back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land.
I will give you lasting peace.
I will restore you.
I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked.
I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.
I will announce My words to you.
I will set My eyes on you for good.
I will build you up and not overthrow you.
I will plant you and not pluck you up.
I will give you a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and you will be My people, and I will be your God, for you will return to Me with your whole heart.
I will do you no harm.
I will bring you back and restore you.
I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you.
I will listen to you.
I will restore your fortunes.
I will save you from afar and your offspring from the land of your captivity.
I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds, because they have called you an outcast.
I will punish all your oppressors.
I will be the God of all the families.
I will build you and you will be rebuilt.
I will lead you; I will make you walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which you will not stumble; for I am a father.
I will turn your mourning into joy and will comfort you and give you joy for your sorrow.
I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness.
I will surely have mercy on you.
I will watch over you.
I will put My law within you and on your heart I will write it; and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.
I will forgive your iniquity, and your sin I will remember no more.
I will give you one heart and one way, that you may fear Me always, for your own good and for the good of your children after you.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you that I will not turn away from you, to do you good; and I will put the fear of Me in your hearts so that you will not turn away from Me.
I will rejoice over you to do you good.
I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know if you call to me.
I will heal you; and I will reveal to you an abundance of peace and truth.
I will cleanse you from all your iniquity by which you have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all your iniquities by which you have sinned against Me and by which you have transgressed against Me.
I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken.
I will restore your fortunes and will have mercy on you.
I will forgive your iniquity and your sin.
I will certainly rescue you.
I will look after you.
Leave your orphans behind, I will keep you alive. And let your widows trust in Me.
I will speak to you and listen closely.
I will give you one heart, and put a new spirit within you. And I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then you will be My people, and I shall be your God.
I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.
I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will perform it.
I will accept you.
I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick.
I will deliver My flock, and you will no longer be a prey.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
I will save you from all your uncleanness.
I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.
I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.
I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people.
I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land.
I will tell you the truth.
I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.
I will also have compassion on you who had not obtained compassion.
I will heal your apostasy, I will love you freely.
I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.
I will pour out my Spirit on you.
I will show you miracles.
I will tear off your shackles.
I will dwell in your midst.
I will save you that you may become a blessing.
I will camp around My house because of an army, because of him who passes by and returns; and no oppressor will pass over you anymore.
I will restore double to you.
I will strengthen you.
I will return to you, if you return to me.
I will make you fishers of men.
I will give you rest, all who are weary and heavy-laden.
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.
I will go ahead of you.
I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
I will send the Helper to you.

Surprised by everything God says “I will do?” “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” — John 14:27-29 (NASB)

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Pursuit of God’s Comfort, God’s Comfort Pursues Me

Look well at My handpicked Servant; I love Him so much, take such delight in Him. I've placed my Spirit on Him; He'll decree justice to the nations. But He won't yell, won't raise His voice; there will be no commotion in the streets. He won't walk over anyone's feelings, won't push you into a corner. Before you know it, His justice will triumph; The mere sound of His name will signal hope, even among far-off unbelievers. Matthew 12:18-20, Isaiah 42:1-2, The Message

When I’ve given my spiritual and professional best and in return my intentions, offerings and heart receive barbs and misjudgment, I find it interesting how God comforts me. One difficult aspect about being the only adult in your household is not having anyone to process thorny circumstances and difficult people with porcupine personalities.

I needed perspective and not my own. I called a successful professional who evaluates top management for a search firm to ask for input. My headhunter friend finds people with the right personality and communication skills for the right leadership position. 

All I asked? Could you read an email and give me feedback. After reviewing the opening paragraph of an email that shot my brain into a full-on migraine, this evaluator of interviewing successful candidates affirmed what my body told me was true.

A Headhunter's Impartial Evaluation
The tone of communication was not something that reflected maturity or respect. “This person is not open to anything you have to say. Decline the opportunity,” was the advice offered, reinforcing a thought cycling in my mind, “A dog returns to its vomit.”
The communiqué felt familiar. Far too often my loyalty and commitment to the Lord, ministry and serving others set me up to accept spiritual abuse by those in a leadership position of power.

But was God calling me to feel humiliated, demeaned, discouraged, and put down in order to serve man?

God calls us to communicate the heart of His message and who He is. We reflect Him by how we talk to and treat others, even to those who rub us wrong or irritate our temperaments. After all, God’s love never stops pursuing those whose actions irritate Him and those who outright reject Him.

Thousands attend my church, so attending a service is an exercise in extreme loneliness and disconnection. Yea, the praise and worship is musical perfection and I’m there to worship. The sermon? Professional. Theologically sound. Top notch. But sometimes concern from a loving community is what you really need and that’s not what a cast of thousands of strangers offers.

Yesterday a kind pastor greeted me with a side hug and “Glad you are here.” Tears issuing from my hurting heart flowed throughout praise and worship. I longed to be understood and comforted. My downtrodden heart listened to the lead pastor speak on Psalm 23 and how in the midst of the dark valley God is with us. A part of me thought, “Yea right. I’m not feeling that right now.” My strafed heart offered God a silent plea, “I need you to show up and be with me. I need to feel your comfort.” Minutes later, walking to the parking lot, I ran into a new ministry partner. Her warmth and our shared ministry passion lifted my down spirit.

That evening and many tears later, a friend sent a tear-stained devotional she wrote after the sudden, devastating loss of her sister. Her sister’s last words? “Don’t not be who you are.” How often had I been “not who I am” to please those who demand you earn grace they’re not equipped or willing to give?

Don't Not Be Who You Are
Today I received three emails. One that simply stated the Scriptures written above. Another  titled, “You can reframe anything.” Okay, I needed to reframe the upsetting experience. The other comforting and encouraging email was titled: “Why Higher Writing Can Hurt.”

Writers make many sacrifices for their art.

Does standing out set you up?

Time, family, money, activities, the life of writing does not guarantee much but deprivation.

Yet choosing the goal of higher writing may ensure some readers will be offended. We humans can't seem to help but resent what we can't control. Having the goal not of providing answers but providing an experience may be freeing and produce a certain glee in the writer, but it can also open you to being a scandal.

Those who stand out may be branded.

But my encouragement to you is this: be assured of the value of participating in the challenges for higher writing. The journey is worth it.

In the search for what's possible through words, what is pain but an opportunity for greater comfort? What is sorrow, but a chance to realize more joy on the other side? If a goal of your story is to show that all works out for good ultimately in the end, you may be called on to prove that conviction with your life. Seeking this way might set you apart, make you a target. A deeper awareness may be your stock and trade, but it could hurt too.

My challenge to you is to accept the sacrifice. When you are in love, is there really any choice? Leave the anxiety behind and seek out the mysteries, come what may. If you've been called to explore heights and valleys, you are never alone in either place. Ever-present help is always right there in the choice to hope, to believe, and to write despite the costs.

Standing with you in your essential difference as a writer of more real, more honest, more challenging words this week....Lovingly, Your Coach

After five days of tears and emotional conflict and pain, the coach’s email reminds me again: I am called by God, not man. I am handpicked by God’s servant to serve others through my giftings, passion, personality, and temperament. Deep within my God-designed spiritual DNA, God takes delight in how he created me and affirms, “Don’t not be who you are.”

To offer the sender of the wounding missive mercy, I deleted emails filling in details he lacked leading him to hurtful, false conclusions, and simply replied, “I’m not a fit for this role.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Handcrafted by Jehovah Elohim

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. For You formed my inward parts. You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:12-14

I love items crafted by hand. Whether window shopping for objets d'art at a craft fair or art gallery, a jewelry or quilt show or at outdoor markets overseas or stores selling indigenous art, individual creativity amazes me. Their artistry and creativity? Truly gifts from God. Taking nondescript materials, artisans create items of distinction.  

Twice I attended the King Tut exhibition. Both times the amazing artistry of granite-hard stone smoothed into the Pharaohs’ statues and the finely detailed jewelry left me awed. How did ancient jewelers shape tiny semi-precious stone beads and drill holes for stringing without modern equipment? And the patience required? Amazing.

Most often I don’t know the creator whose artistic soul fashioned the objet d'art delighting my eyes and artistic sense. But I do know the Creator of my soul. Not only did God weave me together in my mother’s womb, he handcrafts the darkness of my circumstances into an objet d'art revealing the beauty of His miraculous workmanship in my heart.

At the same time the stresses and strains of single parenting to survive squeeze every bit of creativity out of me, I remain the object of God’s love. I want my faith to be more than a decorative object created for outward show. Will my faith reveal God’s creativity to shape the unformed, raw materials of the dark circumstances of my life into his work of heart art? 

Only when I admire and praise the beauty of God’s handiwork in my life in the midst of heartache and hardship.

Jehovah Elohim, my Creator, You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6, NIV) I praise you for giving me life and turning my darkness into light and my chaos into beauty. You are, my life, the very life I breathe.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rekindle the Spirit of Christmas

“Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. No word from God will ever fail. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:28, 37.

Pain pillaged my first Christmases with my sons without their father. Haunted by the spirit of Christmases past, I mourned the loss of our family’s meaningful rituals making Christmas wondrous. I grieved that my two young sons would not experience the same emotional sensations my mom and dad lavished on me—stability, joy, faith and warm, love-filled holidays.

Celebrating the birth of baby Jesus provided the meaning of the season. However, in years past, emotional pleasure—excitement, anticipation and delight—energized my spirit of Christmas. Now something unfamiliar crowded out my holiday zeal—excruciating heartache. Financial turmoil extinguished any remaining fragments of seasonal cheer. I felt as helpless as that babe in a manger in a cold cave thrust into an inhospitable world.

What most influences your spirit of Christmas? Alcohol? Spending time with those you love? Enduring uneasy truces to avoid family issues and quarrels? Gift giving? The birth of Christ?

The First Christmas
On “the” first Christmas, Mary and Joseph experienced many circumstances single parents face. They confronted shame and a difficult moral situation—a pregnant bride-to-be. Wagging tongues surely gossiped about their state of affairs. Their social prestige factor? Near zero. The innkeeper rejected Mary and Joseph, forcing them to find shelter wherever they could. A child born into poverty.

What lone parent has not experienced Mary’s feelings? Astonished, perplexed, afraid, anxious, and incredulous.

The God of Disguise and Surprise
The God of disguise and surprise came to reside right where solo parents live. As the emptiness of the first of many lonely Christmases engulfed me in depression, words my mom read to me as a child every Christmas morning encouraged me, “Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. No word from God will ever fail. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The real God, the warm God engaged my cold heart right where I was—needy, helpless, weak, angry and unforgiving. Emmanuel—God with us—came unScroogelike to my young sons and me, extending tenderness for the past, courage for the present and hope for the future.

A Christmas Prayer
Like my Christmas wish list, I often wasted my prayers asking for inconsequential desires. When lost, abandoned and impoverished in spirit, I embraced the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Wrapped in God’s Amazing Gifts
Emmanuel—God with us—wraps us in his amazing gifts of new life, forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, love and concern for others. Jesus, the first Christmas gift, summed up the true spirit of Christmas, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Live this season by the spirit of love and keep the spirit of Christmas glowing all year long.