Splurge with your words-You can bring life to a discouraged world.

 

mondey

This weekend I’m up in the woods with my husband. The northwest foothills of the mighty Mt. Baker.

Sure, it’s no fancy hotel.

But, who needs that? We are together. In a tiny trailer just reading books and chilling out.

It’s times like this that make me realize just how rich I am. Just how vast the resources I possess.

The intangibles.

Don’t overlook those. What you see won’t last forever. It’s what you give and how you live that will stand for eternity.

Want to go on a spending spree this weekend? Live extravagantly for once? Go crazy with those invisible resources.

Here’s a good starting place- splurge with your words.

That’s right. Don’t hold back the good thoughts. The thankful feelings. Let people know if they have

  1. encouraged,
  2. inspired
  3. or just plain made you feel a little more at home in this crazy world.

It won’t empty your pocket book.  

But, it will make you think. That’s right. This is not an exercise of platitudes like “Oh, you’re 

  • so great.
  • So wonderful. 
  • So amazing.

Be specific. It’s much more honest. It someone has truly impacted you, there will be details.

When you are encouraging someone else, do the same. Sincere encouragement is more than just blurbs like

  • Hang in there.
  • Be cool.
  • Smile.

Smile? Really? You can do better than that. Get down and dirty with encouragement.  No long distance I-can-barely-see-you-but-I’m-rooting-for-you kind of encouragement.

The Bible says that life and death is in the power of the tongue.

So don’t let anyone waste away from discouragement on your watch. Get busy. Bring hope. Speak life.

Taking care of Jesus–Sometimes we’re so busy in ministry we forget how it’s done.

 

lonley

Remember Monday’s blog? It was about being nice.

I’m still struggling with that one.

Today, I was in a hurry. I was late. And, I still had to get to my office.

So, I ran out to the garage. Reached for the car door. And, looked up.

A young woman stood in the driveway. She clutched a notebook to her chest.

“Need some help?” I asked as I fumbled with the door lock.

“Is this the IMM house?” she responded. The IMM house stood almost directly behind her. It was a hastily restored heritage home where most of the college music classes took place.

“This is a private residence,” I said quickly and pointed the IMM house out, “The place you are looking for is over there.”

After I got into the car, I looked in my review mirror. She was gone.

As I drove away, I felt irritated. With the girl. Her need. My hectic day.

“What if that had been Jesus?”

The question came at me like one of those pesky little gnats that hang around lakes in the summertime. It buzzed around my consciousness as I headed to school.  

“Jesus would have known which way to go,” I argued, “He’s God, after all. Besides, finding the IMM house isn’t exactly brain surgery.”

I know. Not very nice. But, I wasn’t in a very good mood.

Then, I imagined the eyes of Jesus looking back at me from the face of the girl. The image grew in me. It wouldn’t go away because it was true. 

In the book of Matthew Jesus talks about the end times. That is when the King will reward people with a great inheritance. 

“I was a stranger and you invited me in,” the king will say, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’’

No one will remember such a time. 

“‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,” the King will explain, “you did for me.”

The least of these. Like the girl in the driveway.

Talk about putting a busy day into perspective.

The Color of Weird versus the King of Cool. Who makes the rules anyway?

 

cra cra 2

Ever since I read Blue Like Jazz I’ve been off my game. Sure, Donald Millar had some

  • great stories,
  • and riveting spiritual insight.

But, the title of the book makes me want to dial the Crayola police. I mean, blue? the color of Jazz?

Sorry, I’m getting carried away. It’s the “rules girl” part of my personality.

Don’t get me wrong.

Some rules are good. They keep us safe. Promote harmony. Encourage spiritual growth.

Other rules are toxic. The result of

  • unbridled snobbery.
  • Control freaks bent on destroying creativity.
  • Elitists demanding a social cool that  stifles the unique beauty of individuality.

Not what I wanted for me. Or, so I thought.

When I pulled into a shopping mall parking lot today, I saw a van with stuffed animals all over it.

crazy van 2

It’s like the driver forgot to put on the brakes when he parked in front of ToysRus.

crazy

My first thoughts-

  • How crazy.
  • Ridiculous.
  • Not cool.

And, that’s when it hit me. I was acting like the King of Cool. Legislating the placement of cheap toys on an ordinary car.

Then, I remembered that there was little chance that my preferences would ever become law.

That’s a good thing.

Part of the adventure of life is

  1. creating
  2. dreaming
  3. and expressing joy in weird and wonderful ways.

Who knows? If stuffed animals can ride around the top of mini vans, maybe the sound of Jazz really is the color blue.

What keeps us sane? An unchanging God in an ever changing world.

 

hoarders

I’m a hoarder.

Don’t get me wrong.

  • My garage still holds two cars.
  • No towers of old newspapers line the hallways of my home.

It’s the nooks and crannies of my mind that bulge with stuff.  Every memory I can get my hands on had been squished and squeezed into any available space.

You see, my daughter is going away to New Zealand for six months. That’s a long time.

So, I’ve been trying to

  • go out to coffee with her.
  • stay up for late night chats.
  • clear my schedule for shopping and spontaneous lunch dates. 

Can’t stop. I’m a mom. Holding on is what I’m wired to do.

That’s why I pretend nothing will never change. Everyone will stay the same. Life will stay on pause just where I want it to.

I just can’t let go.

Deep down I know the truth.

  1. Kids grow up.
  2. Parents age.
  3. Family dynamics change.

Basically, nothing is this world stays the same. neighborhoods change.  Churches Change. Even the weather patterns change.

Only God stays the same. Yesterday, today and forever.

  • He is always with us even though we cannot look upon His face.
  • He understands us even though we are sometimes confused about who we even are.
  • He knows where we are headed even if we are not sure where we have even been.

Best part of all – He keeps us in the hollow of His hand. You. Me. The ones we love. We are together there.

Makes New Zealand seem not so far away.

Grumpy, whiny me and the way God wants me to be.

 

be nice

 

Be nice.

I’m not talking about a squishy-wishy-you’re-so-wonderful kind of nice. That’s manipulation dressed up in fancy clothes.

Just treat other people like human beings. Creations of God. Precious souls stamped with His image.

Not something I’m always inclined to do.

When I forget how much God loves me I get insecure. You should hear the rant that follows.

“I’m dumb. I’m stupid. Nobody likes me.”

And, so, I treat people accordingly. Avoiding eye contact. Rationing words like they’re the last rolls of toilet paper on the planet. Sniffing and sniveling like an elephant with serious sinus problems, I make quite a scene.

Disturbing.

But, not very nice.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try again. Beginning the day focusing on how  much  God loves me and how much He loves other people, too.

God does love the world. So much He gave His only Son to die for us. To save us from our sin.  The demonstration of that love starts with you and me.

No need for strobe lights. Big bands. Oversized TV screens. We can show the world God’s love one compassionate moment at a time.

Be nice.

How will one of the greatest musicals ever produced survive the big screen?

les 3

My first response -nausea. Then, I roll my eyes. Shake my fists at the nearest movie theatre.  

A little melodramatic, I know.

But, the musical Les Miserables means a lot to me. It’s a great work, a masterpiece on suffering and redemption. No way do I want to watch it trivialized in theatres.  

Yesterday, I watched the trailer. 

Now, I’m ready to buy my ticket. 

It was Anne Hathaway who  changed my mind. She captured the heart of Victor Hugo’s magnificent story in one scene.

It is the moment when Hathaway’s character realizes that a dream is just a dream.

Now don’t get all huffy and tell me I’ve lost my

  • vision for greater things.
  • faith in God’s provision for my life.

I’m talking about the fantasy we tend to have about our futures.  The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The happily ever-after ending. Riding off into the sunset. The God-is-in-control-and-everything-is-hunky-dory syndrome.

Usually such imaginings do not make room for 

  1. serious medical conditions,
  2. the onset of mental illness,
  3. violent crime
  4. or devastating betrayal.

In the early 1800’s, Fontaine had a dream. But then, she  got pregnant. Became an outcast. Was fired from her job. Ended up selling herself on the streets to pay for the upkeep of her child.

All alone, she sits in the rain and sings

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,
When hope was high and life, worth living…fontaine

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Recognize that moment anyone?

It’s the moment when we face reality. The raw truth of living in a fallen world.

That’s when we find out who God really is.

Not the Sugar Daddy of some people’s dreams. A deity somehow manipulated by our tantrums and demands. 

He’s the rock that braces our feet when we fell ourselves falling away. Unmovable. Unchangeable. All knowing. All powerful. Present everywhere.

God is not a fixer-upper kind of guy. He is the almighty redeemer. A builder of hope, of a future that goes beyond the grave.

When all our dreams are gone, we turn to Him. He is life.

Confessions of a sniveling soul-when life is all about my survival.

 

gollom

Mind if I make a confession?

I’ve always imagined myself  as a James Bond type Christian.

  • Courageous.
  • Unshakeable.
  • Calm with that I’m-not-going-to-crack-even-if-you-steal-the-fries-off-my-plate kind of face.

But, I’m not, you know, always calm. Solid as a rock. Brave as a Grizzly bear. 

Sometimes I come off more like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. I start out with good intentions but by the end of the day I’m

  1. groveling for attention.
  2. Consumed with self-preservation.
  3. Scrambling like some kind of prehistoric life form over other people just to get to the top.

Top of what?

That’s a very good question. I guess the top is where all the important people are. The top of the list of who’s who in my social world.  Who’s the most spiritual. Who’s got the busiest ministry. Who gets the most answers to their prayers.

It’s silly, this climbing. And, it’s sad, this focusing on myself. The more I fixate on getting what I want and protecting what I have the blinder I become.

Blind to the goodness of God. Blind to the brilliance of His mercy, the stunning glory of His grace.

The Day of the Spider–a lesson on facing those little fears.

 

spiderpic taken by the very brave  and intrepid Renee Hixson 

 

“There’s a spider on your sweater,” my daughter yelled as I walked across the family room.

“Get if off me,” I responded casually. I figured it was one those Daddy Long Legs looking things. A flick of the hand and it would be gone.   

“Not this spider,” she said and ran out of the room. Now I was concerned. So, I ripped my sweater off.

No spider.

When I looked down I saw a massive blob with stubby legs sprawled on the floor.

I stepped back and lifted my sweater

  • not knowing that
  • the conniving little insect
  • held on to it with a tiny little thread.

That’s when the spider flew up into the air and down the front of my shirt. 

No more be-kind-to-spiders day for me.  I sprinted to the laundry room and pulled my shirt off as fast as I could.

I looked down. Again.

This time the spider lay curled up like a miniature basketball.

After I redressed, my daughter appeared. She held a wooden flute in her hand. 

“Where were you,” I asked, “when I needed your help?”

She claimed that it took time to find the right weapon. I countered that I could have died while she rummaged through her room.

But, I didn’t.

Note: My daughter and I banished the spider from our residence. We continued our day without seeing anything like that spider again.

Still, I felt weird, like tiny little legs were inching across my back. I imaged a blobby little belly bouncing through my hair.

“Hope that spider was an introvert,” I thought, “cause I don’t want to  face a million of it’s friends looking for revenge.”

Crazy thoughts, I told myself. It was  just a spider.  A life form smaller than my little toe.

But, it shook me. Dominated me with it’s weirdly striped legs and puffy body segments. Stayed in my thoughts even though it was gone.

Fears are like that. They play with our mind. Build a vision of a nasty future with fragments of what is already in the  past.

Matt 6: 34 encourages us not to “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Take it from me, a spider encounter survivor.

Don’t load up with fears of tomorrow. Focus on the blessing of today. 

Getting rid of pesky kids and other ways to destroy the Church.

girl praying

It was the 1970’s in southeast Texas.

The church in our swamp water town was full of female prayer warriors. They were tough. They had to be. These women

  • fed the hungry,
  • clothed the naked
  • and made the best gumbo stew this side of New Orleans.

Most importantly, they kept the pastor’s kids in line.

No, my dad did not enlist them for this task. He’d rather they leave well enough alone. But, seriously, have you ever tried to hold back the wind with your bare hands?

Not an easy task.

“Look at your fingernails,” we were told, “Go home and scrub them clean.”

“Stop whispering in church” was followed by a poke in the back.

Not so fun. That’s why I avoided any church gathering that did not require that kids attend.

Not my youngest sister.

She would have made a great employee at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. To her the world was full of wonder and sweet as an everlasting gobstopper.

My sister saw

  • visions of sparkles and soft lights
  • snowflakes and candy canes

in a household of hand-me down toys and second hand clothes.

Even the old cinder-block church shimmered with promise and hope in her eyes. Perhaps that’s what prompted her to interrupt the weekly ladies bible study with one simple request.

“I want a damnation dog,” she announced.

If gasps had been coins, I could have collected enough to retire at the age of 15. These women were beyond shocked. They were horrified.

“Wash her mouth out with soap,” one pious church member said.

My sister stared. Her brown eyes widened. I’m not sure if she even understood that the words Dalmatian and damnation were from two very different worlds. But, she knew she had done something wrong.

That was over 30 years ago.

But, I still wonder how such seasoned saints were able to justify their rage. Maybe they thought she was sliding down the slippery slope of moral decline.

Unfortunately, some did not see her eagerness to be around the church, the hunger for acceptance in her big brown eyes.

Bottom line – Kids are not just noisy clutter. They were not created just to be swept out of the sanctuary when it’s time for Sunday school.

  1. Kids are people.
  2. They have fears and hopes like you and me.
  3. There is no age frame to their eternal soul.

Jesus said, “Suffer the children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”

They belong. In the church. With the rest of us.

Sometimes We All Hit the Wall.

 

dean gone wild

 

It must have been a crazy night at the Fall college retreat. Someone hit the wall on the weekend. Literally.

This time, the wall gave in.

Seriously, it happened during a spoof of “Do you think you can dance?”.

Gyrating far beyond the sophistication of most human beings, a professor slammed into the wall. Left a dent. In the drywall. It was the actual imprint of a very focused man.  

Yes, I missed this dramatic moment. But, just watching the YouTube video reminded me of the time I hit the wall in College. The proverbial wall, that is.

In was a cold, winter’s night. The library was getting ready to close. In an attempt to prevent death by boredom, a  student challenged me to a car race.

“Double bonus,” I said to myself, “I’ll get the attention of this cute guy and show everyone on campus how cool I am.”

Heretofore, I was not exactly known as the smartest or the most witty girl on campus. My grades sagged like an old back pack. My attempts to be funny prompted more eye rolls than chuckles.

“Start your engines,” yelled my competitor from the window of his car. I turned the key.  The motor roared.

“Come on, come on,” I said as I drove across the parking lot. The other guy shot out ahead of me.  

Not ready to admit defeat, I yanked the steering wheel toward the wide expanse of lawn at the Collage entrance. If I drove straight through I could cut the other guy off and win. With my foot on the gas, I surged forward.

And then, I hit the wall.

Or, I should say the old foundation for the School sign.  It was like smashing into a massive speed bump.

The car shuttered. All four wheels left the ground. When we plummeted back to earth, my surprised grin just about slammed into my brain.

Propelled by the force of the flight, the car shot onto the road and through a red light.

I cringed, expecting the implosion of side doors. Surely, cars would slam into me on both sides. 

I survived, only because the road was empty.

I slowed down, let the other guy win.

Ok, it wasn’t my finest hour. Not only did I launch a vehicle in the air, I hit the proverbial wall.

  1. Went to far.
  2. Too fast.
  3. Lunged out beyond my ability.

All you folks who are shaking your heads, just calm down.

Be honest. We all hit the wall at sometime.  Maybe it’s

  • poor planning,
  • unavoidable circumstances
  • to just not knowing when to slow down

that slams us against the odds.

Not always a good outcome. Like my college stunt. Not something to try at home.

Why not just watch Top Gear or spend the day riding bumper cars? Live to die another day is not just a great movie title. It’s smacking good advice.

But, please, fully live each moment.

Which brings me to my conclusion. Just because you hit the wall does not mean you should never attempt to do the almost impossible. 

Maybe it’s

  1. a calling that doesn’t make sense to anyone else.
  2. a book inside you that burning to be written.
  3. a longing to marry and have a family.
  4. a dream of starting a new ministry.

God cares about you. He will always be there for you. Even it you hit the wall.