Crazy Like a Fool–What happens when we forget who God really is and what he really does for us.

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child looking up

I was talking to Kevin Smith today, one of those young, intellectual Bible School students that roam the campus where I work.

In the middle of our conversation, I heard voices outside my office window.

Considering I have a stunning view of the student parking lot, I didn’t pay much attention.

Finally, Kevin said, “that sounds like you outside.”

I smirked.

Perfect opportunity to show off my wit.

“Oh, yes,” I said slyly, with a lift of one eyebrow and a lowering of the other. (Not easy, but I practice.)

“That’s me.”

I paused for dramatic effect and to give my eyebrows a chance to level out, “I’ve learned to split myself in two. Much more efficient that way.”

I’d like to say that Kevin was impressed, even astonished.

Of course, I’d like to say a lot of things.

To be honest, the words, “crazy talk” did come up in the conversation.

  • So, sue me for talking a little crazy talk, Kevin.
  • Convict me in a court of law for trying to be hip and cool like you despite my advancing years.

Fact is, we all talk big sometimes. At home, at work. even in Church.

Especially in church.

I’ve been known to throw around a little

  • Praise the Lord, hallelujah.
  • I believe, brother, I believe.
  • Look at me, I am blessed.

That’s wonderful.

Unless,

  1. I strut my faith around like I sewed it together with my own hands.
  2. I act like every thread of my holiness has been spun by my precious little fingers.

Then, it’s crazy talk.

It gets even crazier if some pitiful soul comes to us, holding their  shattered faith in their hands and I just shake our heads.

“Just believe,” I grin because I am so glad I didn’t end up like them. I smirk as if the glory of my salvation was all up to me.

All. Up. To. Me.

Now, that’s just crazy like a fool.

  1. We cannot save ourselves.
  2. We cannot justify ourselves.
  3. We cannot sanctify ourselves.

The battered soul with his pitiful collection of doubts and fears is more honest than we are.

Don’t take my word for it.

Ask Paul.

A tough guy. A get-to-the-point-and–get–it-done spiritual leader.

He didn’t mess around when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthian Church.

“…I delight” he said,

  • “in weaknesses,
  • in insults,
  • in hardships,
  • in persecutions,
  • in difficulties,”

News alert – This was not some reality show set in 55 A.D.

Paul was simply laying down the truth, one word at a time.

“For, when I am weak,” he said, “then I am strong.”

We all are.

Strongest when we need God the most.

Most powerful when we hold on to hope so hard our nails turn white and our fingers start to cramp.

Most sane when we have no where else to look to but up to the heavens.

Daybreak–When the Sun Comes Out After a Long and Stormy Night

 

morning light

 

I woke up this morning with one thought on my mind.

Not the way I usually roll.

Most mornings I wake to discover several thoughts racing around in my head.

  • What time is it?
  • Where am I?
  • What can I have for breakfast?
  • Am I really the lead singer for the Rolling Stones or was that just a dream?

Today, just one.

Weeping endures for the night but joy comes in the morning.

I looked it up on Google. It was a quote from Psalm 30:5.

Made me wonder,

  1. if I was morphing into some kind of prophet that would soon take the world by storm with deep revelations from God
  2. or if I was simply mulling over the events from yesterday?

After staring up at the ceiling for a few moments I decided – this had to be about yesterday.

How could I forget yesterday?

How could anyone else around me forget yesterday?

I sniveled and gasped like a fish flopping on the sidewalk because my son was leaving the country.

But, the moment I dropped him off at the airport, it hit me.

This was his morning.

This was the dawn that had not shined very often in the last few decades of his life.

Mostly, he lived in the shadows of

  • Insurmountable obstacles
  • Overwhelming disappointments.

I remember praying and praying and praying. Not for hope or dreams to come true. I just prayed that we would somehow survive.

And yet, the morning came.

I know, I know.

There will be other “dark nights of the soul”.

It’s a part of life.

For now, I’ll just enjoy the warmth of the sun on my skin.

There’s A Fire Burning In My Soul–how to shine for Jesus when you really want to lash out in anger.

 

gaza-child-candle-independence1

 

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,”

For some folks this song conjures up a gospel choir

  • swaying to the music.
  • long robes flowing.
  • Voices soaring to the heavens.

In my mind’s eye, I see a chubby, nail-chewed finger held up like a candle.

God’s love is the light”, my Sunday school teacher used to tell me, “That’s what should be shining from our lives.”

I remember her belting out the second verse.

“Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine.”

Great song. Amazing concept.

But, like most dazzling musical ditties for kids, there were no instructions offered on how to live it out.

All I had was a finger waving in the air. To an uninformed observer, it was a tossup as to whether I was about to

  1. pick my nose
  2. or poke my eye out.

Dangerous business.

Still, I don’t think I set any alarms off on the dark side.

I know now that Satan is more sinister than some character in long red underwear who waves a pitchfork  and runs around blowing out creepy little candles in the shape of little kid’s fingers.

Nor, does he work overtime actually blowing out the light of God’s love.

He lets us to the dirty deed ourselves.

Somewhere, someone will eventually

  • question our faith.
  • defy our beliefs with their own reasoning.
  • Threaten our right to worship the living God.

That’s our cue to shine. To respond with love.

And, that’s when we lose it.

Rarely with physical violence. Mostly with words.

  • Name calling.
  • Doctrinal tirades.
  • Disapproving lectures.

We rail against politicians, atheists, homosexuals and even those of our faith whose worship lifestyle appears much different than our own.

The pulsating force of heaven’s heart that reaches down to embrace the most heinous soul, starts to flicker.

Until hatred finally blows it out.

News alert:

Every four years, around voting time, this threat of the unknown can make us a little crazy.

And very forgetful about whom is really in control. Not

  1. politicians.
  2. special interest groups.
  3. the religious right or left.

God is.

He doesn’t need

  • Our anger.
  • Our red faced condemnation.
  • Our scathing defense of the gospel.

He can take care of Himself.

All we need to do is let His light shine.

 

The power of community in a busy world

siblings_autism_1

“Dear Sir/Madam”

That’s how the letter started.

Talk about covering all your bases.

Old man, teenage girl?

Gender confused? In the middle of a sex change?

Didn’t matter. This letter was addressed to anyone, anywhere.

My mom, whose address appeared on the outside envelope, just shook her head.

I think she felt a bit generic at that moment. Sort of invisible.

Don’t underestimate the power of calling someone by name. It colors the features of the faceless masses.

It’s what makes community.

I grew up in the church. Been involved in

  • big programs.
  • stage productions.
  • growth strategy meetings.

Great ways to expand in numbers but not to foster life.

It takes community.

A sitcom from the 80’s called “Cheers” addressed the need for community in a simple but profound way.

Every day, after work, an odd assortment of characters met at a neighborhood bar after work to talk, relax and just have fun.

I’m not advocating the consumption of alcohol in dark corners of speakeasies and honky-tonks.

Trust me, I know a few hardnosed conservatives whose minds run down that trail faster than my dog Molly when she gets off her leash.

I’m talking about the innate need that every human being has to connect

  • to God.
  • to other people.

There is a reason the show ran for 11 seasons. It filled a void.

At some point we are all

  • lost.
  • Lonely.
  • Left out.

The show’s theme song sums up the longing in each and every one of us.

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

Cannonballs, Big Toes and an Examination of an E-book on Writer’s Courage

 

children at the edge of water

Ever do the Cannonball into the water the first time you get to the lake?

Not me.

I ease one big toe in first.

Check on me ten minutes later and the water is lapping at my waist.

It’s the northwest. Lakes keep their winter chill far into the summer. So I just ease my way in.

I approach writing the same way.

Absolutely NO cannonballs.

I put one toe in at a time. That way if someone what I wrote and didn’t like it I could back away real quick.

That’s right. I’m afraid.

But, I still feel like I have something to say.

So, I started this blog. It’s my Cannonball move.

The first time I posted I stayed up half the night.

“Are you insane?” I asked myself as I stared into the dark, “Why did you write that? What are people going to think?”

Honestly, not much.

My first readers were all blood related. My storylines were inbred versions of my favorite books and sitcoms.

I discovered an online blogging course. I tossed out my initial “Hi-its-me-and-I-feel-warm-fuzzies-every- time-the-sun-is-shinning” approach and started being honest about how I felt about the world around me.

I started to blog.

Then, I got a kick in the pants.

In his new ebook, You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) Jeff Goins hit me where it hurt. Sure, Jeff encouraged and inspired writers to embrace their passion develop their passion and network their passion.

But, Jeff had to go even further.

“None of this matters one hill of beans if you aren’t brave. If you do not persevere,” he wrote.

you are a writer

Ouch.

The dude’s a hurt machine.

But, it’s a good kind of hurt. The kind that gets you thinking that maybe you do have something to say.

Roadrunner, Bugs Bunny and a Princess come Undone – Heavy Duty Truth in the Middle of Madness

road_runner-5222

I remember watching the Roadrunner on TV.

Wiley E. coyote was always after him.

Sure, it was a cartoon.

But, to the coyote, it was serious business.

Wiley E. Coyote was out to destroy the pesky roadrunner.

He constantly ordered packages from Acme products such as

  • Dehydrated Boulders,
  • Bat-Man Outfit,
  • Rocket Sled,
  • Jet Powered Roller Skates,
  • Earthquake Pills

All this to take the roadrunner down.

Most times the gadgets backfired.

Wiley E Coyote ended up burned to a crisp or flattened like a pancake.

Now, Bugs Bunny was my favorite.

  • Never lost his cool.
  • Never lost his sense of humor.
  • Never lost his manners
  • Never forgot his byline “What’s up doc?”

Elmer Fudd, a rabbit hunter, carried an oversized gun and sang “Kill the wrabbit, Kill the wrabbit.”

He got out maneuvered by Bugs Bunny every show.

And, then there was the princess.

It was a sort of generic filler cartoon. The slapstick storyline lasted less than five minutes.

The princess lived in the forest. She longed to be married. Her parents decided to help her chances by wrapping her body round and round with cloth until she was about a size three.

This maneuver transformed her into a slender beauty.

Immediately, a handsome prince asked her to marry him.

Then, it happened.

Maybe, she sneezed.

Maybe, she moved a little too fast.

The tightly wound fabric loosened. Her body swelled to its former size.

Obviously, this was before Dove soap’s campaign to “love the skin you’re in” and “real beauty”.  It was before anorexia and bulimia were as familiar as the common cold.

And yet, a truth pushed up through the storyline.

We are who we are.

No amount of tugging and wrapping and tightening can change the shape of who God created us to be.

So why not (forgive me, Dove Company, I couldn’t resist) enjoy the skin that He put us in?

Try it this week.

Don’t let anyone wrap you up in their own idea of what you should be.

Just be you.

Empty Spaces–When longing and yearning and aching are a good way to be.

 

crying-kids04

Empty spaces.

I’m not talking about the ones between my teeth.

It’s a hollow crevice somewhere within our secret self. A mining shaft of loneliness.

Toss in a penny and listen as the echo of its clatter spirals lower and lower,

Farther and farther away.

I get it. Even though I’m

  1. United with my husband body, soul and spirit.
  2. Bonded to my children with a mother’s heart.
  3. Connected with a community of believers.

It’s not enough.

It was never meant to be.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. Shaken and restless.

It’s as if a homing device has been activated. My senses long something I cannot define.

Sometimes,

  • it’s a song that ambushes my emotions
  • or a glimpse of windswept sky that penetrates my complacency.

The ache starts, way down inside the chasm of my being.

For a few seconds, the truth emerges like a phantom and whispers,

You are not complete.

Creeped out?

Don’t be.

It’s a good thing. This ache.

This feeling-like-a-homesick-kid

  • On the top bunk
  • In a cabin
  • Wondering if he will ever get home.

“The only ultimate disaster that can befall us…is to feel ourselves to be home on earth.”

wrote Max Lucado in a blog post called

Longing for Heaven: Going Home to God,

“As long as we are aliens, we cannot forget our true homeland.”

Our homeland.

Heaven.

Go ahead.

Yearn for a connection that cannot be satisfied on earth.

Ache for the day when

  • the presence of God
  • will reach into the bottom of our bottomless pit
  • and touch the deepest part of us.

It’s a good thing.

To long for home.

Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones–How to Stop the Opinions of Other People from Ruining your Life.

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I read something on Facebook the other day.

“If you don’t live by the praises of men you won’t die by their criticisms.”

That hit me in the gut.

I live on any little tasty tidbit of  praise that I can find.

Every single day.

I judge myself by how others react to me. If someone complements me, I get giddy. It’s a rush, like winning the lottery.

If someone doesn’t like what I’m doing and expresses it, I feel like I’m shriveling up inside.

Essentially, I’ve strapped my emotions onto a roller coaster of opinions.

It’s a wild and crazy ride. 

Bad enough that I’m menopausal as well.

After I read the Facebook quote, I had weird dreams. Not just too much Indian spice or Taco sauce kind of weird.

This was ache-in-the-brain weird.

  1. Shapes and shadows raced through my mind over and over again.
  2. Then, I was in a South Carolina university trying to find my classroom in a maze of old buildings.
  3. Next thing I knew I was driving down a two lane  highway trying to reach Canada before my kids got out of school.

I woke up.

Stressed.

Exhausted.

Then, I remembered.

I’m free.

If I choose to be.

I know all you emotionally healthy people are probably shaking your head at the simplicity of my epiphany.

So be it. I’m not going to worry about what you think.

I’m free.

  • to take risks.
  • to be creative.
  • to have an opinion without the compulsion to quickly apologize.

Free to

  • change and
  •  grow and
  •  achieve

out of passion.

Out of an untamed, reckless love of an almighty God.

Not obligation.

Does criticism get to you more than most people?

Have you ever found yourself making decisions on the basis of what people will think of you?

Dancing with Disappointment- Part 3 Let go, Move on and Grow up.

 

hee haw

 

Ever heard of the show Hee Haw?

The name may sound strange.

It’s onomatopoeia.

Important fact. Onomatopoeia is not a

  • Rare type of bladder infection
  • A medical instrument used to extract crayons from a child’s nostril.
  • A museum in Pickville, Arkansas designed to house the very pea from the fairy tale Princess and the Pea.  (Get a grip. It’s a fairy tale.)

Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates a sound.

For instance, when you say Hee Haw you might as well have buck teeth and big lips because you sound like the braying of a donkey.

Get it?

The show is about being funny.

Hillbilly style.

The CBS variety show was set against the fictional backdrop of Kornfield Kounty.

Cohosts Buck Owens and Roy Clark popped up in cornfields and haystacks alongside Grand Ole Opry legends like Minnie Pearl.

There was also a lot of

  • country music
  • Hoedown style dancing.

Admit it, modern dance snobs, there’s something catchy about the fiddle and hoedown dance steps. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.

Sounds like some the disappointments I have experienced.

Once you start tapping out the rhythm of your pain, it’s easy just to go on and on and on.

I’m not talking about profound lost or utter devastation.

I’m referring to every day disappointments. Cultural expectations beyond the necessities we need to stay alive.

For me, it’s Christmas.

I was eleven.

Our living room looked like Grant’s pass- packages heaped up to the ceiling.

When mom and Aunt Jennie decided to sort out the presents on Christmas Eve, I hid behind the door.

“Every kid’s got plenty of presents except for Renee,” I heard mom said as she pulled out a long tube covered in antlers and hoof prints, “Where are they?”

Aunt Jeanie held up a plaid skirt.

“This is it,” she said.

For the next hour, Mom and Aunt Jennie changed the gift tags of books, puzzles and other generic gifts so that I would have something under the tree.

But, I knew the truth.

I’d been overlooked. Forgotten.

Guess what?

I’m not eleven any more. (Just thought that you should know)

But, I still dance with that same disappointment every Christmas.

I feel left out.

No matter what presents I get, I feel like I’ve been forgotten by the ones I love.

  1. Selfish?  Extremely.
  2. Embarrassing? Absolutely.

Sometimes we wear ourselves and all the people around us out with our disappointments.

Every detail.

From every angle.

Now, there is a simple solution. But, it’s not easy.

 

  1. Stop the music.
  2. Let go of the disappointment.

Start living again.

It’s that simple.

 

So, what do you think? How do you handle disappointment?

 

Dancing With Disappointment Part 2; How to help another soul make it through the day

dancing with disappointment

Witch Nose.

That’s what the kids in High School called my sister.

They made fun of her in Choir class

Laughed at her in the hallways.

Who said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”?

They lied.

She had one incredible gift.

She could sing. She sang at church. She sang at home. Singing helped her forget the meanness in the world for just a little while.

But, it wasn’t enough.

Day by day a bit of her was dying inside. My Mom and Dad knew that had to do something.

But, what?

They didn’t know anything about homeschooling. Talking to the principal didn’t really help.

So, Mom and Dad started their own school. They worked with an individualized curriculum-based program called ACE.

Pretty radical, right?

I think it saved my sister’s life.

Bonus. The company that made the curriculum held conventions where students competed in in music, sports, various mediums of art and even checkers.

“It was unbelievable,” Mom told me several months later while we ate toast for breakfast, “Your sister was called up to the platform for a female solo award.”

“Finally,” I said, “Something good.”

Then, Mom told the rest of the story.

All the winners made their way to the platform. Fourth place, and then third place received a ribbon. They sat down. Only first and second place were left.

Strange.

Three girls waited for only two awards.

Second place was called.

Then, “first place goes to…”

The girl beside my sister stepped up to get her ribbon.

My sister stood alone.

While the next category of winners was called she slipped past them on the way to her seat.

It was like she was invisible,” Mom said.

“What a bunch of idiots,” I banged the salt shaker against the kitchen table, “How can Christians be so stupid? How could they treat my sister this way?

· Life wasn’t fair.

· People were flawed.

· Only God was truly just and truly good.

But, that didn’t stop the anger from swelling in my chest.

I imagined squashing

· the taunting classmates

· the distracted master of ceremonies at school competition

· anyone else who helped with awards

like they were a couple of June bugs.

I wanted to fix my sister’s disappointment.

I couldn’t.

My sister needed a friend to talk to. Someone to hang out with.

Sometimes just sharing in the pain of another person is enough.

*Stay tuned for Monday’s part three – Dancing with Disappointment – when courage cuts in.