Fall Background

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freed to be Free!

Because of deep resentment and unforgiveness I held dear to my heart, I had a white-knuckled position before the Lord.  (Those words make me cringe as I am rereading this in "edit mode."  Yikes!)  Although I wanted mercy for myself, of course, I demanded justice for others.  I knew Jesus as my Savior and I wanted Him to be the Lord of every aspect of my life but to be honest, I struggled with unbelief.  I withheld my pain and grief over offenses against members of my family, a few old friends, and even other precious believers.  Crying is not the same as "crying out" as the psalmist would plead for God's healing touch.  Small things didn’t bother me or at least I would say to myself...sheesh, whatever!  The offenses I felt were somewhat serious, maybe even life-changing (primarily due to unforgiveness...I think of all of the wasted years...boo!), and perhaps even grievous to God Himself.  Sheepishly, I didn’t know how let Him in on my pain although I cried often, and many times, crying myself to sleep for years, so it seemed, trying to console myself.  Everything is exaggerated when you live from the heart of  unforgiveness.  I was hopeless.
Jesus is Lord of Lords all the time or He is not Lord at all?  Amen!  He is King of Kings not a part-time ruler of my wishes and wants? Second that someone, please!  He is Master of everything in my life or frankly, not at all?  Hallelujah!  Right?  I gave total precedence to the pain of my wounded heart.  Because of the unforgiveness, I was tormented by the constant arguments, the justification of bitterness, and the “what ifs!”  (See the end of Matthew 18...now that’s a provoking thought!!!)  As long as I sat on the throne of my pain, Jesus could not reign in my heart as Healer or Deliverer, let alone, as Lord.  I was unrelenting.
This weekend at the PWOC Worship and Study in Willingen, Germany, during the first or second session, we were challenged to write down our struggles, our pain, our offenses or unanswered prayers, however seemingly, or whatever, and exchange it in for a treasure, a precious jewel.  Of course, I knew intimately well the offenses I needed to lay down at His feet.  I rehearsed them all the time!  It was overwhelming! I could just hear my Father gently saying, “Aren’t you tired, yet?” (Go back to Matthew 18...talents are a weight measurement)  Secondly, I was terrified that my heart was impenetrable and that my life was becoming worthless salt...that my light, my zeal to really live for the Lord in His love and for His glory, that my passion for others was growing dimmer by the day.  I was frustrated from the constant “re-hashing of thoughts” that I seemed to meditate faithfully.  I was helpless.
Prior to the conference, a few days beforehand, I heard God speak, faintly, a phrase that really resounded in my heart...like it was an unspoken desire but so unattainable, almost, unbelievable~“I am free to forgive.”  Theologically, it made sense, so of course, I was "in agreement" with it, so to speak.  The agony of unforgiveness was formidable.  I didn’t know how it was going to become a reality.  Spiritually and emotionally, I was exacting an additional payment for offenses I felt...as if the Blood of Jesus was inadequate.  Rarely, if ever, did I consider my part in the grievous offense I felt.  I required more and more justice as the years passed.  If asked, I could talk about it as if it happened yesterday (a quote from a confidant...ouch!).  With a self-inflating thought life, I lacked the humility required for living a life pleasing to the Father.  His glory and my obedience were numbered far down my list of real-life priorities.  My unbelief dominated my being.  I was powerless.
Responding to the challenge presented at the conference, I wrote down three things that I felt were the deepest offenses and walked forward to get my treasure, "my own jewel," in exchange for my pain.  I have committed them to the Lord and take no pleasure in repeating them...to you or to myself. I will tell you though, one of them I have been carrying for over 25 years and another one of them for at least 10 years.  I prayed with a woman named Shondalyn wearing a prayer shawl and then talked with Sherry, our Titus II “Momma.”  She held me so close, I began to sob uncontrollably, heaving.  Repeatedly, she told me that I was loved, that she loved me.  Honestly, I was ashamed to admit it that I needed to hear that I was lovable.   Why do I grimace while typing that truth about myself?  Her arms became the arms of my Father as if she spoke on His behalf.  I was exhausted.
During one of the songs on Saturday's group session, a chorus rang, “You’re the Name above all Names, You are worthy to be praised," the names of my offenders were flashing before my eyes...one after another...like a blinking billboard.  Jesus spoke plainly to my heart, “These are the names that are higher than Mine.  They [offenses] have power over your life.”  Not only was I free to forgive but I understood that I have been freed in order to forgive.  It was a mind-blowing revelation.  I was overjoyed!  I was repentant.
The re-entry into real life after such a mountain top experience, that commitment to give Jesus my pain, has already had it's moment-by-moment challenges.  It is totally different as my heart is light and untangled.  I am surrounded by His presence and experiencing joy and hope, again.   My thought life and my speech are changing each time I sense the arguments stewing-and-brewing! It’s hard to express gratitude if there is a “but” involved and you know what I think about the conjunction “but.” It’s a crack that divides two sides!!!  No longer would I be talking out of two sides of my mouth. Ouch!   The Lord has quickened my spirit, mind, and heart to the wilily schemes and trappings set around me by the enemy of my soul.  I HAVE BEEN FREED TO FORGIVE, FREELY!  Let a new chorus ring:  “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free...”  I was relieved. Truly.
The treasure I picked up from the altar was a small pearl.  At an elementary level, (for that is where I am, girls!) a pearl is formed by an irritant that wedges its way into the shell and muscle of the oyster.  The oyster reacts to it by covering it with a substance to protect it from further injury.  This irritant gives birth to a pearl through a process, a metamorphosis-like change, and for a season, it is hidden.  Precariously,  the oyster must die for the pearl to be discovered and even valued as a treasure.  There is a time to grieve, and yes, the pain is real.  Tragically, unforgiveness is a cruel, tenacious master.  Pain must be processed and dealt with in the arms of a loving and perfect Father.   I am learning to "cry out."  I have a greater understanding, graphically, that my old nature...my flesh, my "what-if’s" and "wish-it-didn’t’s" must be constantly taken captive in my mind and put to death (not entertained...big dah!).  (I need a little Romans 12 action...a renewing of my mind with His Word)  The life that is luminous and light-filled...pleasing, desirable, treasured, glorifying, only comes from that death and that is where freedom from captivity is found.  It’s either take those damning thoughts captive or be held captive by them.  Christ came to set the captives free~I get it, in living color!  Becoming like Him, living in His forgiveness, for others and myself, is the treasure He has longed to impart to me...for years!  He wants to shine through me, for His Glory!  I am free!
Oh, did I say that already?  How about one more time?


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mile-High Slide, Winter 1976

Paiten, 2009
Have you ever braved the Mile-High Slide at Harmon Park? I remember my first time staring at the metal steps with the wide and worn handrails. It towered above anyone beckoning for a different point of view. Bundled liked A Christmas Story, my older brother Tim and I caddy-cornered to the park grounds from Grandma’s. The placid tundra of snow drifts were waiting to be trampled and crunched and the tree-lined horizon, baring its arms of hesitant buds, shivered with the ice-covered equipment. It seemed that everything in view was yearning for longer days.

The Mile-High Slide proudly stood some distance while hiding its taunting form among the tree trunks. It appeared approachable yet each step closer shouted its childhood conquest. I can almost sense the air of crystal-covered snow drifts, a bit more frozen from the night cold, and the tasty scarf wrapped around my face. With courage, I risked each tongue-sticking metal step, enclosing my bundled form between the worn handrails. At the top, the railed-platform displayed a protected view wider than the furtherest imagination. The only places higher known were grain elevators and the Plainsman Hotel downtown. It was the sole sky-scraper, boasting its five-stories, and neither views were open for curious comparisons.  

Defying first-grade common sense, standing on that railed-platform, I concluded I would ride it this time, on my stomach, as if to fly. Bending down with my quaking legs hanging off the edge, I launched myself, head first, arms spread open wide to catch the wind. The thrill and shrill of laughter broke forth from my innocent lips. The antiquated, shallow-sided metal slope held my bundled body for just a few seconds before I was dumped onto the treacherous ground.

Having the "air knocked outta yah!" is a tearful milestone most accomplished without reservations. It's not quite baby book-worthy or endearing enough for scrapbooking~just personal enough to be entered into the legendary book of Hard Knocks...a pain that commiserates itself to future conversations.

I would have howled had it not been for the crushing, voiceless pain. Only gasps for unavailable air could be heard in the frozen woods of my mind. I was commanded “to breathe!” but my unbelieving mind refused to obey. I can faintly hear the words: "You got the air knocked outta yah!" Instantly, my small-framed body, ordained with authority, offered a few shallow heaves for desperate air. With tears dripping down my reddened, hot cheeks, it took the necessary, guttural breath to charge sound from this wide-eyed first grader.

Bewildered, I looked long onto that the metal slope feeling betrayed by the view from Mile-High Slide. Only God could account for the visiting multitudes seeking its thrill. It had stood there, maybe for 60+ years, as a witness to conquering children and youth-depleted, reminiscing adults. It is gone now. It has been removed from the park due to its lack of approved standards for child-safety. I noticed its absence when I was home last Fall. It saddened me a bit to know that it only remains, for me, as part of my "projector clips."

With God’s grace, it has become a reflection of God’s comfort as I read Psalm 34:18 MSG. He commands the necessary, guttural breath despite my regretted decisions. He most assuredly provides the air in the midst of my crushing voiceless pain. "I got the air knocked out of me" is a tearful report I could still give today over some decisions. Less haste, more reservations. My more recent and heartfelt prayer has been, “Lord, please line up my mind, will and spirit with the Mile-High view You have over my life. You are our El Elyon! Overflow me with the breath of Your Holy Spirit. Your Word is the railed-platform of which I now live fully as a grown-up first grader of a much hopeful and bigger imagination.”

Projector Clip Series, #1 (Reprinted from February 2010)
Williston, ND

"If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, He'll help you catch your breath.”
Psalm 34:18 MSG

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Before & After...How important is beauty?

"Before," obviously...

I am going out on a limb here by posting an unkept, untouched-up self-portrait to hear your response.  How important is beauty and personal upkeep?  To what degree of first impressions is weighted by self-presentation?  What about secondary and tertiary impressions?  How do you initially respond to someone after you have met them for the first time?  What if there was a vast difference between degrees of self-presentation?  Beyond brushing your teeth and showering, why do you do what you do in general before leaving the house for the day?

Just to save a bit of face, here's my "after."  Sheepishly, am I so self-conscious that I must quickly come to my personal defense???  Boo!  It's the same person, through and through~hopefully!  Which one would you rather receive and why?  Think naturally, not piously.  How does the Law of Natural Attraction fit into the heart of a believer?  Should it?  Is that even real?  Where does grace fit in?  Truth?

"After," ...it's hopeful?

How does beauty affect you?  I am not discussing vanity or character, I am talking about self-presentation and reception by others.  What attracts or repels other people?  What about different spheres of influence?  Does beauty affect influence?  What is affluence?

Wouldn't it be interesting to go clothes shopping with me in my "unkept" state~sweatpants and t-shirt for added texture?  What type of service and response might we expect?  Shouldn't that clerk just do her job if she's a professional?  Why won't she wait on me while I thumb through her racks of designer jeans?  Isn't there a flirty, ruffly top to match those skinny-legged dark jeans?  (I wish I could wear those...NOT!  Cute, yes, but they don't look very comfortable!) Where is she?  Doesn't she know I have a wad of burning bills inside my frumpy pocketbook?  What's a girl gotta do to get some attention?  Why is she ignoring me?  Plausible Julia Roberts syndrome, for reals?

Would you tell me if I had something caught in my teeth?  open zipper?  a running snag in my pantyhose?  eyebrow my lack of discretion?  What holds you back to keep me from embarrassing myself?  Is it all up to me to figure it out?  Yikes!  If so, I'm in trouble!

Honestly, I can't make it on my own.  I need help everyday.  Hands-down, without a doubt, all that I am is because someone showed me the way!  Thankfully, ninety percent of the time, it was sandwiched with L-O-V-E!  Spiritually, emotionally, and physically!  God has lavished my "growing-up" with tremendous ladies in every season of my crazy life.

Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes and heart to being a better me.  Strangely, though, less like myself, more like You.  Kept or unkept.  Hopefully!

"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
Luke 2:52 NIV

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who am I?

My dad and I when our family
lived in Jacksonville, FL
(Proof that I was blonde once!)

Who am I? It is easy to describe roles of duty than to meditate on the content of "who am I?"  Regretfully, and at times, smugly, it's  easier to say "who I am not." Or with dreamy hope, "who I wish to be!" What would my family say? Or my husband? Our friends? The cashier? The waitress? And even louder still, chiming in, the Accuser chants without mercy, "I know who you really are!"

Who am I?  My steadfast reply wakes me every morning: "I am a child of God, a daughter of the Most High, King of all the Universes, Creator of all things."  I call God, "Abba, Father."

Let all that describes "who I am," be worthy and fitting as His child~whether it be my duties, relationships, aspirations, conversations, thoughts, and to the absolute inclusion of my mistakes, disappointments, and stubborn, unconquered walls~will somehow bring Him pleasure as I grow up in the Spirit each day!

Who am I? I am His. He's my Abba!  It's more than an affiliation. It's family! I hope you see the resemblance!

"But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."

John 1:12 ESV

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lord, help this food be delicious!

My husband had a hankering for stuffed bell peppers. For the last two years, I have been graduating to more whole foods and rich add-ins such as milled flax seed to give my family more nutrition and variety. Stuffed bell peppers are no exception! Hamburger, onion, brown rice, a few spices and marinara sauce. Simple and delicious. What could go wrong with this basic combination? I consider myself to be an average yet adventurous cook with a slight ambition to do things on my own. I love to explore and create! (Maybe that's why I have never been successful in baking bread~yeast only grows at a certain water temperature, eh?) I admit, that viewpoint has spoiled its share of nights around the table leaving our family hungry for dessert. Evidently, whole grains such brown rice are vastly different to traditional 5-minute instant white rice...two hours covered in tin-foil could not conquer the tough exterior of that nutrient-rich and fiber-filled grain. Sheepishly, I ate every crunchy bite. Dessert, anyone?

PS: Blog Title is a direct quote from our youngest child whose turn it was to bless the meal before him. Cute and honest. Just love that boy!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

With a friend...

This August, my husband and I will have been married 14 years. He is approaching his 20th year as career Air Force officer. I am very proud of him and have enjoyed being a military wife!  He really is my best friend and we love being together!

One of our dreams was to have second honeymoon visiting Germany on our 15th anniversary.  Well, here we are and our children can share in on the experience.  We are very grateful for all that God has given us!  This scripture passage was a part of our wedding ceremony.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 MSG
9-10 It's better to have a partner than go it alone.
    Share the work, share the wealth.

   And if one falls down, the other helps,
   But if there's no one to help, tough!

11 Two in a bed warm each other.
   Alone, you shiver all night.

12 By yourself you're unprotected.
   With a friend you can face the worst.
   Can you round up a third?
   A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.

Trusting in God with our marriage and as parents, He has made the difference!  He's our Third-Strand!  Thank you, Lord, for your everlasting love and faithfulness!  You exceed all that we long for with Your marvelous ways!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Never Judge a Congealed Dessert

I had a craving for Strawberry Pretzel Salad today. With a ride to the commissary, I bought my ingredients in eager anticipation. It's a chilled, warm-weather dessert common to potlucks and picnics of which I completely avoid. I am not a big fan of congealed foods in general or fluffy cottage cheese salads. Their appearance is simply unappetizing and sold in delis and cafeterias alike to whom? I don't know!

(Converted Disclaimer: My mother-in-law makes the best ever mandarin orange and pineapple salad with cottage cheese...yep, one of those unapproachable salads but its the only one I am willing to put on my plate. She had been making it for years and my husband loves it! It's delish! It is now one of our favorite summertime side-dishes.)

My first experience with this mouth-watering concoction was brought to our small group a few years ago by my dear neighbor. Until then, I dare say such a dish has never entered our home...not even on the Blacklist of Picky Eaters. It simply didn't exist. Forcing a cheerful smile while ushering it to the sideboard, I was having a 2-minute mental face-off with this averted wiggly dish of my suspicions. My inside voice was saying: "Don't force your over-rated gelatin goodness on me...you make me shutter!"

There it was, in its accidental frozen state yet somewhat held an appeal in its presentation. Everything my dear neighbor touches or creates is beautiful and it had temptation of its own despite my prejudice. My small list of aversions are not public record so no harm in trying something new, right? She continually apologized for it being too firm to serve. "It was too slow to set-up" in time for arrival so she placed it in the freezer but forgot to monitor it. She was short of horrified. It was very stubborn and refused to exit the pan in pretty portions well beyond the proverbial first serving.

Our guys split off to another area and the three of us sat there with our frozen strawberry-pretzel salad. It was comical as each one of us tried to eat it without flipping it off the plate unto the floor. Lots of giggles and comments later, we lapped up every smooth and crunchy morsel. I was enraptured by all of the textures and flavors including its congealedness. I regret the decades of denying myself such heavenly goodness. Thank you, dear neighbor, for opening my eyes to a time-honored potluck and deli delight! YUMMO!

So, back to my craving, with our limited selection of kitchen tools, I had to crush the pretzels with a large plastic spoon against the side of a bowl. I wanted to double the amount of pretzel crust because it is my favorite part! That proved to be very laborious. I was missing my nice professional-grade Kitchen-Aid food processor as I poured more pretzels into the bowl. (It's still in a crate being shipped overseas.) Crunch, crunch, and more crunching. This was quite pain-staking for a dessert and I drifted off into personal reflection. For whatever reason, I began thinking about all of the mommas in the world who were presently hand-milling their own ration of wheat for the day. What do they think about while preparing bread for the day? What do they hope for or desire for ease? How weary they must be and yearn to provide more for their families. Sheepishly, I was just making a congealed dessert.

Lord, forgive my smallness of mind and shallow outlook towards Your provisions. I am amazed at how You speak to me in simple ways. Help me to be mindful of those without and to do all that I can to help those around us in need. Show me ways to be Your hands and feet. May Your name be lifted up and Jesus seen clearly. Thank you for reminding me to exercise greater humility and thanksgiving for all that I am blessed with to take care of my family. Help me to train my children to be sensitive to the things that are on Your heart. Amen.