10 Quick (I Promise!) Things to Do to S-L-O-W Down

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30MSG)

Taking a real rest. 

Unforced rhythms. 

Grace.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? I’ve been on this purpose of slowing down for a handful of years now. It’s where my mantra, Finding Sacred in the Simple, comes from. The world is a noisy place and if we aren’t careful, our souls can become noisy too. So noisy that we can no longer hear what we truly need. 

Here are ten quick things you can do to start practicing the art of slowing down: 

  • Chew you food. Really. Is there anything more frustrating than fixing a nice dinner or being out at your favorite restaurant and “horking” it down? Even the rat in Ratatouille knew to savor the flavor of his food. 
  • Make a complete stop at stop signs. Can you believe I’m asking this of you? 
  • Play a board or card game. Not video games with their high speed but an old-fashioned board game that has pieces and dice and squares with pictures. 
  • Drive the speed limit. Now I’ve crossed the line! But seriously. 
  • Set the table for dinner. Use the plates you got for your wedding, fold the napkins, light the candles, dim the lights, and take in time with your family. 
  • Breathe for a six count in then a six count out four times. You’d be amazed at what just doing that will do for you. 
  • Listen without an opinion. Slow your responsive brain down that feels the need to fix the problem, give your side or be right. Simply listen. 
  • Use fewer words. There are so many words in the world today. We don’t always need to speak. 
  • Shut off the noise. The T.V. The Phone. The news. Social Media. The radio. Sit in silence and notice what you hear…both internally and externally. 
  • Carve out time to do nothing. Doesn’t have to be a lot, especially at first, but try it.

Your soul will thank you. 

kw

PS This list is compilation of what many books on Soul Care say to do but mostly from John Mark Comer and his book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry as well as Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johson.  

PSS If you enjoyed this post you may like It’s Simply Tuesday or Under the Poplar Tree

Normal is a Setting on My Dryer

Normal: There’s no such thing, dear. Says Helen Hunts movie Mom in one of our favorites, As Good As It Gets.

My “normal” as a young one was spent being raised by my grandparents, which, as I found out once I started school was not normal at all back then. So, my normal wasn’t really normal at all. (Depending on who you ask, of course.) 

My “normal” routine years ago when I had three kids in three different schools playing three different sports, one in a stroller and one in the oven looks waaaaay different than my routine does today. We are down to that one in the oven being almost done proving and baking, ready for college and a career. 

My “normal” now affords me more time to read, garden, golf, spend time with girlfriends, volunteer, write etc.  There are days when I grieve the old days of chaos and running around, pick-ups and drop-offs, potty training, sports watching, the please can I spend the night days. Most days, however, I love my quieter, new normal. 

Then life happens and here you are looking down the mouth of a new normal…like it or not. 

Here’s where I get in trouble: when I hold to tightly to normal. Normal is a shifting sand, subject to change at any given moment. Life is normal. Until it’s not.

Think about it….

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Moses was leading a chill life, hanging out in the pasture with a few of his best sheep friends when God called him to go free his people whose “normal” had gone from…

  • A group of people living prosperous and free in Egypt because of Joseph’s leadership and relationship with the Pharaoh. Being in a foreign land had become very normal for them. Business as usual, blending in, bustling about with the day to days. 

Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died…and a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Exodus 1:6,8 NIV) 

Their normal was about to be turned upside down. This king didn’t like the people of Israel and in fact thought they would take over his kingdom if something wasn’t done about them. So, their new normal went from prosperous and free to…

  • A group of people living in bondage with slave masters oppressing them with forced labor. They were used and abused ruthlessly making bricks from straw and working in the fields. So wicked was this king that he had every boy born during this time killed so as to cut down the future population that threatened him…if only in his own mind. 

This was this generations normal. They knew of no other way of life. So much so that when Moses left the pastures to save his people, they fussed in their new found freedom and wanted to go back to the way things had once been. Back to bondage. Back to the familiar. This new, unknown normal felt very abnormal and was a scary place. 

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Jesus standing in the temple courts watching as men sold cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14 NIV)

This was a new(er) normal for them. This selling of sacrifices at the temple. It hadn’t always been this way but no one thought anything about it. It just sort of slipped right in. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover so the town had all manner of people, visitors from out of town, shops and restaurant owners open for business, trying to make a living so maybe it made sense to offer these wearied travelers the ease of buying their sacrifices at the temple gate instead of searching for themselves….the way it used to be…the “old normal.” But…

What started out as a ministry of convenience quickly became an established, lucrative business for the priests. (Wiersbe Bible Commentary of the NT p. 234)

Until Jesus uprooted their normal by turning over some tables and using his whip like a radical Indiana Jones. The business was shattered, people, sheep and coins scattered, doves flew and no one knew…what would happen to their normal? 

And I wonder…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

What if we are living in a modern-day table turning? Sometimes it takes normal being turned upside down for us to realize today’s normal wasn’t normal yesterday but has somehow slipped in unnoticed.

What if we were living as people in bondage to things that we had no clue we were so attached to until it was taken away or at the very least changed dramatically?

What if in our quest for getting back to “normal” we completely miss the lesson? 

Don’t get me wrong, I want to hug my people and not just look at them through the lens of a Zoom call. I miss connecting with real people, doing real things. I want people to see my teeth when I smile not the flowers on my mask or me trying to “smile” with my eyes. I miss walking down the aisle of a store and not feeling like I need to shout “unclean”, so people clear out of the way or worse yet, people avoid the aisle altogether because they see me coming. 

But…

What if we so long for normal that our contentment, joy, peace and comfort depend on the shifting sand of normal instead of our Rock and place of Refuge, the One who is the Giver of all things good? 

What if this is a time to wake up, look up and evaluate our “normal” time, schedules, routines, budgets, brand preference, wastefulness, dinners together, quiet times, conversations, kindness, busyness, game nights, mindfulness…the list could go on and on couldn’t it? 

What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly. Be careful chasing after “normal” or you’ll find yourself in the world’s web. 

kw 

25 Bible Verses to Abide in During Anxious Times

A vineyard in the Ohio Amish country. “I am the Vine…abide in me.”

The world can be a chaotic place and we can sure get caught up in it. These are some of my go to verses to stay connected to the Vine…the One who is truly in control when things seem out of control. I pray they help you as much as they me. Memorize them. Write them out. Have them close by. Put them on repeat.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9)

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Psalm 34:17-19)

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) 

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22)

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge. (Psalm 61:3) 

When my anxious inner thoughts become overwhelming, your comfort encourages me. (Psalm 94:19)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25) 

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you. (Isaiah 35:4) 

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 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)

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)

Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34) 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1) 

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) 

So, we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Hebrews 13:6) 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4) 

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

What are some of your favorite go to’s when you’re feeling anxious? 

kw

Women of Means

Platforms, performance and purpose. Competition, comparison and cattiness. We wonder. We work. We worry. 

Bigger is better. Faster is more fun. We fight our way to the top, scratching and clawing anything or anyone that gets in the way. That ladder of success is no longer just in the work world either.

We compare ministries, Mom styles and our mayhem. We compete with Pinterest perfect parties. Our purpose becomes all about virtual friends, follows, likes and heart emoji’s. Busy is a badge of honor.

Buying into today’s culture that screams “MORE” makes us manic with panic and may I go as far as to say..mean? There is nothing worse than a worn out woman whose worth is wrapped up in what she does rather than what’s already been done. 

It’s rather exhausting isn’t it? 

There is a different way. 

The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. (Luke 8:1-3a)s

I love this group of women who follow after Jesus!

There’s Mary Magdalene who has a past spent with seven demons. Seven is a complete number in the Bible and some scholars suggest she was wholly possessed. While you and I may not be possessed or never have had demons come out of us, there are a few of us with a bit of a, shall we say sordid, former life. She was no longer that person because of Jesus and neither are we. 

Joanna was the wife of a highly placed official in the court of Herod Anitpas. She knew people and inside scoops. I image there were dinner parties, dances and functions that kept her in societies eye. Once she knew Jesus, the rest faded away. The power and prestige paled in her pursuit for her Savior. There are those of you who relate to Joanna, knowing people in high places (maybe even being those in high places) but recognizing where real worth comes from…being a Jesus follower. 

Susanna is a bit of a mystery. Mentioned here and no other place in all of Scripture the one thing we know about her is she is a part of Jesus’ ministry and had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Maybe you are Susanna. Ever grateful of what Jesus did for you and in quiet adoration you follow and serve him. 

And many others…I wonder who among you reading this feel as though you don’t have a “big story” to tell so you don’t tell your story at all? You aren’t Mary M. with seven demons or high in the social scene or even mysterious but you adore Jesus and follow him with everything you’ve got. You count too you know. Your story with the Savior is a beautiful one. 

Why do I love this group of women? They are all so different and yet the same because they all recognize their need of Someone bigger than themselves. Each one brought something unique to the table. 

These women were helping to support them out of their own means. 

(Luke 8:3bNIV)

What if this was a group of mean girls instead of women with means? Mary wouldn’t have been allowed in for fear of what others would say about her shameful past. After all, Jesus doesn’t need that sort of reputation! Joanna would never “lower herself” to serve others nor wish to be seen with such people. Susanna would have nothing much to offer so nope, no average folks allowed. 

What a difference that would have made! How much would they have missed out on? 

Thankfully they were women of means and not mean women. They each brought their “something” to support the Savior so he could further his message of hope. 

What if we weren’t meant to be mean women but women of means? Women coming together with all manner of gifts and talents, backgrounds and family histories, stories of healing and adoration for the Healer. We would follow the One we love instead of loving the number of followers we have. We would cheer each other on and be the loudest clapper in the crowd. We would celebrate what has been done so we could stop chasing after do. All for the glory of God.

What if the world saw us women of faith rise up and become women of means? Just imagine it. What if…

kw

The Day After Father’s Day

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It’s Monday. The day after Father’s Day. You can breathe now. You made it. I know it was tough for some. For others, you just don’t think about it too much. I get it. Truly. So I thought I would share the prologue (at this point) to my book in the works, followed by a few thoughts afterwards….

To say that the relationship with my dad is peculiar would be pretty accurate. We do have one, I guess. It’s just…different. We don’t really talk. We don’t spend much time together. We no longer send cards at the Hallmark best times of the year. And yet, I know if I really needed to, I could call him and he’d be there. I could ask him for anything and if it was in his power to do it he would. So strange.

I’ve been so hesitant to write this book because I don’t want you to hate my dad or think poorly of him. I don’t hate my dad or think poorly of him. Our relationship, or lack thereof, just is what it is.

You see, I was born on August 3, 1965 into a marriage that probably should never have happened anyhow. But seeing as how my mom got pregnant her senior year of high school with my brother three years earlier, my dad did “the right thing” by her and so a shotgun wedding took place. And those of us who have lived much life know that if you ever do something because you feel you HAVE to and not because you WANT to…well it makes for a recipe of messy.

So they added another kid. Me.

And then divorced a short few months after I was born. My older brother and I lived with my paternal grandparents from the time we were 3 and 18 months. They provided everything we needed: food, shelter, clothing, stability, love. They were the best. And yet there was always this place within me that was searching. This place that seemed empty. I grew up never quite feeling like I belonged. Like I never quite measured up.

It’s hard to understand big people issues when you’re a little girl. The absence of my father wasn’t so much about rejecting me as it was about his needing to get away, far away; from my mom, from our small town, from reminders of mistakes made. I know that now….years later.

I also now understand why I cringed every time a pastor talked about God as my Father. But I’ve learned, my Father loves me. And I let Him.

This is my story of how I got there… 

Many of you get this. This searching. This yearning. This hole. Maybe your dad was never in the picture. Maybe he left by choice. Maybe he passed when you were young. Whatever the reason, those of us whose dad’s were absent growing up spent some time struggling.

It wasn’t until years (and some therapy) later that I began to understand the role of God as my Father. I was so tenderly stubborn to open my heart to such love. A love that is immeasurable and unconditional. I couldn’t fathom it.

I spent my entire younger life trying to be good enough (or bad enough) to get attention. I wanted to be seen, heard and loved by someone who simply (and honestly) didn’t ever really want kids.

The beauty of this story is it’s not new. The Bible tells us so. There are women all throughout this ancient script that discovered the love of the Father.

He sees you just like he saw Hagar in the wilderness after she had been rejected. (Genesis 16) He sees you in your wanderings.

He sees you just like he saw Leah whose father thought it took trickery for anyone to love her. Leah never measured up no matter what she did, until she turned her eyes on her Father. (Genesis 29) He sees you in your trying.

He sees you just like he saw the woman at the well…thirsting for something more than relationships gone wrong. (John 4) He sees you in your desperation.

He sees you just like he saw Mary Magdalene who had demons. In fact she had seven, which some scholars believe meant she was wholly possessed. (Luke 8) He sees you in your despair.

And so on this day after Father’s Day, breathe and remember…

You are seen.

You are heard.

You are loved.

You are valued.

You are adored.

You are treasured.

You are delightful.

You are beautiful.

You are you.

kw

 

A Kindler of Kindness

This week has been brutal. The election is over. The malevolence is not. Or maybe it’s not about the election at all. Maybe this is about what has been stirring in people’s hearts for a very long time. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). It just needed an excuse to flow over. On both sides. I don’t know, really.  I do know, I’m tired. Wearied right to the bone. You too?

My man and I, our son, and his sons took a walk around the pond last week. There are treasures to explore, frogs to see and the most perfect flat rocks to skip across the waters. A couple times the rocks landed with a kerplunk instead of a skip, leaving a ripple. One here. One there. On occasion when thrown out in unison here and there the ripples merged and created a bigger one.

The stopping of hatefulness has to start somewhere, so why not with me? And you? It sure feels ominous but if we both try together maybe, just maybe, there will be a trickle of a ripple that will somehow reach out and fan the flames of goodness and kindness.

What if just for today, we all agreed to…

Stop Fueling Fear and Kindle Kindness instead.

There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear, says Jesus’ disciple John. Love doesn’t fuel fear. Love doesn’t ignite the what if’s and what are we to do’s, causing an unnecessary roar of a flame.

No. Love shows compassion when times are uncertain. Kindling a flame of kindness by walking beside each other in uncertain times while always lighting the way to Hope.

Stop Hurling Hate and be the Giver of Good News.

It’s so easy isn’t it? In this day and age of technology, one can give their scathing opinion…let it be written, let it be said…without ever having contact with those they are so adamantly opposed to. With a few strokes of the keys we can let the world know what we are for or against. What is right or wrong. What we stand for or won’t put up with.

All the while forgetting, these “issues” are actually people. Loved ones. Those who are also made in the image of God. People who have ears to hear the hateful things said, eyes to see the hateful things done and hearts that are broken by people who have forgotten that we are all in desperate need of the Good News of the Gospel.

This today by St. Francis:

Lord,

Make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, union;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

 

Grant that we 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 the giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen

Stop Spewing Social Media Sound Bites, put down your device and be nice!

You all we are so informed, it does us harm. No one can do anything without everyone knowing, reading or hearing about it. We know who went out with who, what everyone was eating, who’s kids poo’ed, who’s mad at who, who was included, who was left out, who had a birthday, half birthday, un-birthday, who ran, who golfed, who played hoops…you get the picture.

I’m just as guilty.

The problem is we become a sound bite society that’s forgotten what it is to have rich, meaningful face to face conversations with actual people. And when we do have a night with real people we’re so busy documenting it that we don’t see the faces before us.

We’ve become a sound bite people who cannot chew on anything for very long without choking. We don’t look things up for ourselves or study the context in depth. We take sound bites as gospel then backbite leaving teeth marks and deep wounds.

Stop. Please stop.

Can we make an effort to be a kindler of kindness? It’s not hard. I promise. We can…

Open a door for someone.

Load someone’s groceries in their car.

Smile at someone.

Rake an elderly person’s yard.

Take dinner to a shut in and eat with them.

Work at a homeless shelter or an abuse shelter.

Can’t do people quite yet after all the hulabaloo? Then you can…

Work at a pet shelter.

Be a kindler of kindness.

Make eye contact.

Pay for someone’s coffee in the drive thru.

Volunteer.

Serve at your local church.

Rock babies at the hospital.

Handwrite a note of encouragement.

Speak a nice word to the clerk or waitress who’s having a rough go.

Visit a nursing home.

Get creative and be a kindler of kindness.

It starts with us.

What am I going to do today? Be a Kindler of Kindness.

What are you going to do today to be a Kindler of Kindness?

Let’s do this. If only for today.

I adore you!

kw

Thankful for Enduring Love

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

What a magnificent way to start this Psalm! Giving thanks because no matter what, He is good and we have this enduring love. Love that is:

Everlasting

                                        Permanent

                                                                             Patient  

                                                                                                               Long-suffering

Not cheap or crass. Curt or unkind. No. This love is the kind that sticks right by your side ‘til the very end. While this script in the first 32 verses of Psalm 107 is written of people long ago, its cries still ring true today. We are a people in desperate need to know the love of a Father.

The desert wanderer doesn’t even realize she’s lost until all of a sudden she looks around and has no clue where she is or how she got there. For those of us direction-ally challenged, you get this. My middle daughter missed a gymnastics meet (many years ago) in Dayton because I didn’t realize we were going the wrong way until we crossed the Ohio/Indiana border.

It’s so easy to take a wrong turn and end up in places you didn’t mean to go. But this enduring Love? He answers our cries in the desert by showing us the way home. He even stops off and gets us something to eat on the way back.

Give Thanks to the Lord.

The prisoner sitting in a cell because of his own doing. His rebellion against God gets him shackled in chains doing hard time and hard labor. I’ve been him too. When the Lord has told me to forgive and I said, Never! Or be kind was met with they don’t deserve it. Bring peace He said. I brought dissension. We become trapped by the hardness of our heart and the bitterness in our soul.

But this enduring Love? He answers our cries in the prison. He gets us out of the darkness and breaks the chains that bind our hearts. He sets the captive free!

For He is Good

Then there are those that made foolish decisions and are suffering the consequences. Anybody? Even then, in our own stupidity, God is merciful when we cry out to Him. His enduring, everlasting, patient and long-suffering love hears our cries and answers. Not only saving us but healing us. We are never beyond his reach!

His Love Endures Forever!

Then there’s this: The job is prosperous. The family well. Life is good. Things are like a well-oiled machine. Out of nowhere a storm like you’ve never experienced pops up. You are at your wits end. So you turn to the One who stirred up the storm.

Wait. What? God causes storms? You know it. Because sometimes we get a little too comfortable and forget. We get a little to independent and think we can do this thing called life on our own.

Those storms bring us back to the reality of our need for the One who calms the storm with a mere whisper and hushes the waves with a single breath.

Though each circumstance was different, God’s reaction was the same when there was a cry for help. It didn’t matter if we got lost by accident or by our own doing, if it was our own bullheadedness, stupidity or us being lackadaisical. His enduring love is good and everlasting and for that and that alone we can be thankful.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

Getting Stuck

We were having my middle daughter’s wedding shower here on the farm. Several of her girlfriends were coming over so there were cars everywhere. When I opened the door to let one of them in, she was standing there with her dripping shoes in hand, feet soaked and muddy.

“Oh no! Where did you park?”

“Just right there. It’s ok. I just need a paper towel to wipe off my feet and clean up my shoes.”

We had had a lot of rain prior to the party and there are certain areas you can’t park your car. You’ll get stuck. Marais had no idea but I did. I found my man and he drove Marais’ car while one of the other girls used her jeep to pull her out.

As I was thinking this blog post through my initial thought was we often get stuck in places because we simply don’t know the danger of where we’ve parked. We don’t know the terrain. We don’t recognize the danger. While that is true, the thing that struck me is Marais was in a bad spot and still had no idea. She thought all she needed to remedy the problem was a couple paper towels. Anybody?

Unfortunately that’s not the only way we get stuck. I can’t tell you the number of times my man has come in needing my assistance because he drove too close to the edge of the pond that’s on our property. He knows there are certain spots that will suck him in if he drives close enough; and yet he does it anyhow.

Have you ever been there? Living life close to the edge of something that you know could suck you in to some bad stuff? Do you flirt with disaster?

And then there is the time when my man was once again out mowing and knowingly went through an area where he knew was risky. And he sank. He didn’t want to ask for help because he knew he shouldn’t have gone there. By the time he did ask, he was buried in mud halfway up his back tires.  We managed to get him out but it took a lot of effort and a lot of mud was slung in the process of freeing his tires.

In all three scenarios a friend was needed to help get the person unstuck….no matter how they got there, no matter how stuck they were and no matter that they had no clue they were stuck and needed help.

I love the passage in Psalm 40: 1-3:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (NIV)

We don’t know how the person got in this slimy, muddy, miry pit. But we do know that the Lord turned to the person when he heard them cry out. God reaches down when we reach up. Not only that, he set them on solid ground and put a song in their mouth!

Maybe you’re in a stuck place. Maybe you’ve been trying to remedy it with a couple paper towels not realizing just how stuck you are. Maybe you flirted with disaster and got sucked in. Maybe you knew the dangers and plunged in anyhow. No matter the how or the why you can get unstuck!

Cry out to the Lord and he will answer you! It may be in the form of a friend, a counselor or a group. It may be you need someone to walk with you as you climb out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I’ve been there. Sometimes I had no clue. I went to a friend asking for paper towels to dry my feet and clean my shoes and they recognized I needed more than paper towels. They encouraged me to seek counseling. And I did.

There have been other times when I flirted with danger and got burnt. I had friends help me through those times as well.

There have been times when I plunged right in to that slimy pit and stayed stuck for longer than need be because I was embarrassed and should have known better.

Each and every time, when I cried out, someone (and Someone) was there to help me. And the same holds true for you.

I want more than anything for us to live in the spacious places, the green pastures, the quiet waters that the Lord provides. I want us to be out of the slime and mud and mire of the pit. I want us to be on rock solid ground, singing a new song of freedom.

So let’s do this: Let’s agree to help each other.

When I come to you with muddy feet and dripping shoes and ask for a paper towel to clean myself up and you recognize I need way more than a roll of Bounty, don’t be afraid to say so. I’ll do the same for you!

When I come to you asking for help because I flirted with disaster and got sucked in don’t judge me; help me. I’ll do the same for you!

When I come to you neck deep in mud because I plunged in to where I knew I shouldn’t have gone; be my friend with some tough love and lots of grace. I’ll do the same for you!

Then we’ll throw a dance party like no other!!

Crazy about you!

kw

 

Flowers in the Desert

Storms. They’re inevitable. Some bring rain. Some bring rain and wind. Some are like a gentle summer shower that helps the garden grow. Some are destructive and up-end everything in its path. Some you know are coming. Some catch you off guard.

My Gramps would come in from working out in the garden and tell my Granny, “Mamma, you’d better get those lima beans in, there’s a storm a brewin’” And sure enough, no matter how sunny it seemed at the moment he said it, the rain would come. Granny learned early on to heed that storm warning and gather in whatever crops were ready. We would be in the safety of our home, snapping beans (or whatever) while the winds howled and rain blew.

How did he do that? He had learned as a young boy on his parents’ farm to watch, listen and smell. The animals would act skittish. The wind would pick up. The air would smell different. All signs that were obvious when one was paying attention.

Life-storms can be like that too.  We can sense somethings coming on the horizon. We know to prepare ourselves because no matter how sunny life is right now, you can sense somethings brewing. We’ve had to prepare ourselves when our kids went to college, got married and moved away. We knew change was coming so we prepared ourselves for the change in family dynamics.

My father-in-law had battled cancer, kidney disease and a stroke and we knew from the medical reports and more frequent hospital stays we needed to prepare ourselves for his passing. These are life-storms that give you some clue they’re coming. It’s these that allow you to take refuge, gather your family and get the hurricane shutters on before they hit. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to still go through the storm but you saw it coming.

Then there are these…

Mallory and I had just dropped Carson off at football practice and wanted to get as many holes of golf in as we could during the hour and a half we had to play. We had just finished up hole 5 and were debating whether or not to continue. It was starting to get dark and we were on the very back of the course so we decided to head to the car (I hate when I show up to practice and my kid’s the last one there with the coach…)

As we were walking, we both heard a loud noise coming from the direction of the woods to the left of us. At first we thought it was the wind blowing the leaves but then quickly realized it was a line of sideways rain coming right at us!

We both started to run like we thought we could outrun the monsoon about to hit. At first we were laughing. We couldn’t believe how it crazy it sounded and how quickly it hit. But then it hit full on with lightning and thunder, was drenching us both and stopped being funny when I hit a tree root with my pull cart and my clubs spilled everywhere. In the 5-10 minutes it took us to get back to the car we were soaked to the very core. Water was dripping off us like we’d just stepped out of the shower; I couldn’t catch my breath from trying to run from the monsoon.

It caught us completely off guard and vulnerable.

Some life-storms are like that. They catch you off guard, drench you through and through and leave you breathless. I have to say I got caught in one of those recently.

I sure wish my Gramps would have been around to say, “Gathering in those lima beans, there’s a storm coming.” But he wasn’t and I got caught blindsided and gut punched. I looked up what a sudden storm with lots of rain was called. There was a whole list of names but my favorite two were frog strangler and duck drowner because that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling….strangled.

You know those verses that talk about God being your refuge in trouble? Y’all, those weren’t working for me. I guess because I picture a refuge as a place of safety…you know like the first storm scenario, with fair warning to come in from the storm and all. Not getting caught out in it and tripping over a tree root. What kind of refuge is that? So me and my Dad have been having some conversations about feeling like an abandoned frog being strangled in this latest storm.

Here’s what He’s showing me:

~ My Dad is gracious in that He lets me come to Him with full on emotion and put it out there. My Dad has big shoulders and can take my vent. He has an even bigger lap when I’m exhausted from being angry, hurt and scared.

~ My Dad will sometimes lead me into the wilderness. But there’s purpose behind it. Exodus 15 (This will have to be a different blog post…let me know if you want me to share the details I learned at a leadership forum J)

~ My Dad goes to the dark places with me and will give me a Word while there. Exodus 20:21 says “The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” He’s right there in the blackest of nights. Even when I can’t see Him. He really is my Refuge!

We took my grandson Cohen to see my blind Granny when he was just a few months old and she said, “Bring him to me. Even though I can’t see him, I can feel of him.” And she proceeded to feel his face, his ears, his hair, legs, toes. She got to know him by touch. When the storm causes such darkness that I can’t see my Dad, I sure am glad I can still “feel of Him.”

~ My Dad can make flowers grow in the desert. I read the article recently about this phenomenon in a Chilean desert. Here is what it said, “The Atacama region was punished, but also blessed by the phenomenon of a flourishing desert, something that happens only after the rains, this time brought about by El Niño and climate change,”  (You can read the whole article here: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2015/10/29/iconic-chilean-desert-is-bursting-with-color.html) It took a storm of pretty significant magnitude to cause the soil to run onto the desert floor and produce beauty beyond compare….punished but blessed. He is my Refuge!

While the monsoon has let up some and I have had the chance to catch my breath, the flowers have not quite bloomed. But you know what? I have no doubt they will!! Because #mydadsbigger!!

Crazy about you guys!

kw

Dude, You Smell Bad…

“Mom, would you want me to tell you if you had bad breath?”

Oh dear…was my first thought. Followed by a quick breath test to make sure child-who-will-go-unnamed wasn’t talking about me. I passed so let’s see what this is all about.

“It depends on how you told me.”

“I sent her an anonymous note. She figured out it was me and now she’s mad at me. I’d wanna know if my breath smelled bad.”

“Did you have a piece of gum or a mint to give her?”

“No.”

Sheesh…now I’m waiting on a phone call from the parent or the school….

Fast forward two weeks. A different child-who-will-not-be-named comes home from school and in the course of telling me about his or her day says, “I told a kid he smelled bad today.”

“What??? What did you say and why did you say it??”

“I was standing in the lunch line behind some kid who smelled awful so I told him, ‘Dude, you smell bad.’”

“What did he say?”

“I took a shower.”

To which my child replied, “Did you use soap?”

For the love of Pete! Have I not parented these children better than this??

“Mom, you tell us to always tell the truth so that’s what I did.”

Touché! I then went on to explain that there are times when it is best left to say nothing at all or at the very least have some tact. It was confusing to both of them and I have to admit, I sounded contradictory as I was trying to explain the difference.

Oh Lord, help this Mamma out a little. What does always telling the truth look like?

And then I read about it the very next week.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:15 NIV)

“Yes, the Word was full of grace and truth…” (John 1:16 ERV)

“That is, the law was given to us through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 ERV)

Notice the order in which these two words come every single time they are put together. Grace and Truth. Jesus is our example of telling the truth, (for goodness sakes he IS Truth) but he does it full of Grace. He weaves the two together to create a blanket of warmth that wraps around us; that lets us know that he is for us. Yes, the truth is hard to hear sometimes but he brings with him a solution….Himself. Every. Single. Time.

So what happens when one of these is missing? Here is what he showed me…

Grace without Truth is a cover up, real smooth.

I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. I’ve told myself this is a wonderful trait to have. I mean, I’m kind and thoughtful…tending to the other person’s feelings but then this thought popped in my head…unless it actually hurts the other person worse by not telling the truth.

I have taught Bible study for many years and at one point the class I taught was right after the church ate dinner together. I hated the nights we had broccoli because inevitably I would have a big piece of broccoli stuck in my teeth.

I told my class from the very first day to please tell me if I had anything in my teeth, a booger in my nose, or if my pants were unzipped. Friends don’t let friends go around with crap in their teeth or nose or with their business hanging out. You just don’t. It’s embarrassing.

And I guess you could say bad breath either. Sigh…

By not telling me the truth, you’re essentially lying. I cannot fix the problem if I don’t realize there is one!

We see Jesus do this time and time again. He talked to the woman at the well about her five husbands. He told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more. If he was all grace and no truth then he would have never talked to them about their sin for fear of hurting their feelings. Where would that have left them?

Yes, the truth hurts our feelings sometimes but it will always set us free!

Instead he offered them a better way. He offered them a solution to their problem. He offered them grace and truth….Himself on a cross.

And then there’s…

Truth without grace is a slap in the face.

Somewhere along the way in the Christian community we have taken it upon ourselves to speak truth often times without grace. Some shout it, as a matter of fact, from a bullhorn on college campuses and street corners. Or by blowing up abortion clinics. Or protesting a certain establishment because they support a lifestyle that you don’t. Or by making sure that that young college student knows that you don’t approve of something they are doing. Or by tsk tsk’ing the single young woman who is pregnant.

In Jesus name. Of course.

But where’s the grace? Where’s the relationship building? Where’s the love? Where’s the community?

I think it’s ironic that the people who despised Jesus weren’t the sinners but the Pharisees; the upper echelon of all things spiritual. He spoke truth to them too. He called them hypocrites and broods of vipers and as having hearts that are far from the Lord. Their reaction? They wanted to kill him. How’s that for spiritual maturity?

I love that Jesus hung out with sinners. And do you know what else I love? They loved hanging out with him too! The woman at the well? She ran back to town and told everyone to come meet a man who told her everything she ever did. Which was quite a list, by the way! And the adulterous woman? He doesn’t condone her actions but nor does he condemn her.

The Pharisees spewed the law making it impossible to live, that’s truth without grace. It’s like throwing a hand-grenade with the word truth written on it into the heart of someone and then wonder why they don’t see it your way when you shout across the chasm you caused to come meet your Jesus.

Is anybody confused yet? Do we speak the truth or not? I think I’m being gracious by not saying anything only to find someone desperately needed to hear truth and not just have grace extended. Then when I do speak truth, it comes out harsh and legalistic. What’s a girl to do?

Oh the lessons we can learn from the One who is full of grace and truth.

Grace and Truth blending is a symphony unending.

Grace and truth together makes beautiful music!

It’s not just telling someone their breath smells bad. It’s offering them a piece of gum; a solution to the problem.

It’s not just telling someone, “Dude, you smell bad” and running in the opposite direction shouting peeyou. It’s offering them some soap and a shower.

It’s not being afraid of offending someone but loving that person enough to not let them hang out where they shouldn’t be hanging.

It’s not just telling someone the list of do’s and don’ts. It’s walking along beside them even when the do not’s become “but I already did’s.”

It’s a beautiful balance of Grace and Truth. Truth spoken through a sieve of Grace allows truth to fall gently and make a change. Oh. My. Soul.

So, for anyone who I’ve let run around with broccoli in their teeth, a booger in their nose or their pants unzipped, I apologize. You needed me to be your friend and I let you down. I will speak the truth to you with all the grace I can muster.

For those who have been hand-grenaded with the truth in Jesus name, I apologize. It’s uncalled for and hurtful. There is a cross that can reach any chasm caused.

Oh Lord. Help me to be like the One and Only; full of Grace and Truth. Amen.

Love you all something fierce!

kw