Spring planting

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Here in No. California we’ve had crazy up-n-down weather patterns.  When it’s supposed to be cold and rainy…it’s been crazy hot and breaking temperature records.  When it’s supposed to be warm and balmy…it’s pouring down rain and blowing 50 mph winds.  Like I said – crazy!  It’s hard to plant or make plans for seeding a new lawn with such unpredictable weather.

I love green grass.  If there is grass next to a sidewalk, I will choose to walk on the grass.  The feel of it under my feet is divine, and a game of touch football on a lush lawn is nothing short of heaven.  That’s why two years ago when our back lawn was infected with a fungus (I’m just gonna go ahead and say it….there was a fungus-amongus!) and it quickly spread down our sloping back lawn and touched everything in its path – I was devastated.  Soon our entire lawn was dying, with a brown rolling wave of withering grass spreading across the entire backyard.  We finally came to the difficult conclusion that we had to kill the whole dang thing in order to replant and grow it again.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?  When you have to purge the old in order to regrow and reinvent something new?  Something better?  There’s a spiritual message right there (II Cor. 5:17) but I’ll continue on.

I felt horribly guilty.  Killing something I loved so much so that it could come back better.   However, we quickly learned that this killing thing wasn’t going to be so easy.  Fungus doesn’t go away without a fight.  We had to resort to killing it over and over again for several months because that pesky fungus kept trying to hide amongst the remnants of the good grass attempting to sprout.  Again, another spiritual message there, but all I can say is them fungi is sneaky lil’ boogers.  Finally, just when we were ready to make plans to reseed the lawn, the California drought caused us to initiate water conservation measures.  That meant no new lawn that spring / summer, and we went through the next year with dead grass and just dirt in our backyard.

At first we felt a bit proud of our barren wasteland.  We had vowed our support for the cause, decided to be good sports about it, and made mud pies out of dirt – that right there  was my literary making lemonade out of lemons attempt.  So we set up horseshoes and baggo, and the Yorkies enjoyed a summer of rolling in the dirt and tracking it into the house.  As our second spring rolled around, our hopes for green were once again dashed with the continued water restrictions (we really need water out here, and thank you, Jesus, that as I write this it’s raining buckets outside!) and so we muddled through a second full summer of dirt, horseshoes, baggo, mudpies and dusty Yorkies.  We hardly went out onto our backyard patio because it was so depressing.

There’s always good that comes from the bad, and as a result of all this time it gave me time and inspiration to come up with a great new landscaping plan to divide our back lawn into two sections – one flat with green grass and the other a raised area with a more drought-tolerant landscape.  So Salsa Guy and I began digging up dirt eight weeks ago, leveling the grass area so that we got rid of the slope that let the fungus travel willy nilly , to and fro, and began tilling the soil and getting rid of rocks before it was time to throw the seed out.

Grass seed is a bit like baby sea turtles.  You saw them on the Bachelor  in the Jamaican sand when Ben and Lauren helped the little guys make it from the beach out to the sea.  Wait….what?  You’re too spiritual to watch the Bachelor?  Don’t judge me – remember this blog is about grace.  Anyway, not all those cute little newborn baby turtles will make it out to their destiny in the ocean, and their journey is a difficult one.  After they hatch, they’re very vulnerable and need to be protected.  Some of them can be eaten by birds, some might be eaten by other sea predators.  Not all that are deposited in the sand by their mother will grow successfully into the adult sea turtles they were designed to be.

And so it is with grass seed.  We knew our seeds had a difficult journey ahead of them. Some of those little seeds would get trampled, or fall under little rocks where not enough sun or water would get to them and they’d never germinate.  Spiritual lesson No. 2 (Luke 8:5-8).  If the wind was blowing, some of the seeds might blow away.  And even though we covered the seed with topper dirt, birds seemed to flock to our backyard to dine on our grass seeds al fresco, trying to thwart my dream for a green backyard once again.  Air soft guns come in handy for battling this, by the way.

So three weeks ago, as I stood with seed in hand, my dreams of grass beneath my feet weighing in the balance, I began to turn the crank on the seed spreader that allowed the little seedlings to fly out onto the fertile ground.  This is sounding more like a dramatic novel by the minute.  I’m not ashamed to say I said a prayer for the perfect blend of sun, rain, air and accurate aim.  I felt like a mother blade of grass…”grow little seedlings…. grow!”

And guess what?  Grow they did!  I’m happy to report that a week or so after our inaugural seeding, tons of little green heads began popping up across our backyard.  You should have seen me – I was like a new mother!  I would run out each morning to see how my little seedlings were doing.  I would talk to them, encouraging them to lean into the light.  I checked the sprinkler system constantly, afraid that my babies might get too much water and drown.  I shot at birds with the accuracy of a marksman, and shoo’d the pups off my newborn lawn.  I even asked my small group to pray for my lawn – I believe God cares about the little things.

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So now here comes the spiritual application – if we’re talking in gardening terms (and Jesus often did), we all need a little opportunity for a “do over” along our journey, don’t you think?  Perhaps getting rid of the old – some withering branches or infected lawn – or perhaps it might be the old way of doing things, and trying a new direction.  Turning away and taking a new path.  God is in the business of recreating us, trimming a little off here to allow for new growth, and even sometimes asking us to change a habit, or a way of thinking, perhaps a sin or even an attitude that is doing us harm.  It’s called pruning (John 15:1-11). But the ultimate payoff is that we grow stronger….better than we were before.  Isn’t that gracious of Him?   He wants us to grow and be better than we were.  Rebirth.  Regrowth.  Renewal.  We don’t often find that in all other relationships, but a Father who loves his children will do that for their benefit.

So we’ve had a successful Spring of planting seeds.  We now have a beautiful green lawn coming in thicker by the day, and Salsa guy and I enjoy just sitting on the patio, looking out over our green kingdom, and sipping special lemonade with our air soft guns in-hand.  How are your seeds doing?  Seeds of change?  Seeds of friendship?  Seeds of patience?  Seeds of kindness?  Seeds of grace for another human being?  Seeds of grace for yourself?  Be sure to care well for those newly planted seeds, because grace is lush and nothing short of heaven when it’s nourished.

Making Space

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Life can be messy sometimes.  Sometimes we have to make space in our lives for things and people who are different than us.  The quirky.  The odd.  The broken.  The struggling.  The “but for the grace of God go I” people who cross our path.  Because underneath it all we are all the same – struggling with something ourselves and wishing we were better, and wanting to be known.  Wouldn’t we want someone to take the time to offer us a cup of cold water…. or the gift of their time?

When a broken person crosses our path, we have the choice to either make space for them by jumping into the chaos with them, or passing them by.  Obviously, that decision depends on where you are in life, and what kind of time you have to offer.  But there is great joy found in helping someone who is broken come to life again.

God’s been convicting me lately about certain people who cross my path.  I can be fairly kind and loving to others, but don’t tell anyone – I can also pretty righteous sometimes. I know…hard to believe, huh?  NOT!  There have been a handful of folk that I bump into in ministry that I just don’t want to bring myself to connect with because there is some trait or characteristic in them that makes me feel uncomfortable.  So, I make the truly mature decision to avoid them.  I’m not hurting anyone by doing that, am I?  You know the type – faces that might hide pain or suffering, disabilities or disorders.  Or they might be mega talented, or creative, over-sized or scrawny, a little needy, confident or bumbling.  And why, for heavens sake, did they make me feel weird?  Could it be possible that what made me uncomfortable with these folks is the reflection of myself – past or present – that I see in them?  Oh Lord, you are up to something now!

We are all broken and needy.  Our relationships with others around us are sometimes like a mirror to show us where we need fixing.  When I taught school it was the kids in my class who were silly, and couldn’t focus, or wanted a lot of attention.  Why….because that was the kid that I was.  We sometimes see our own traits in others and want to run from them…or fix them….or tell them they need to change.  Or you can go about it another way and love them, and value them, meet them right where they’re at.  Maybe remind them that God is crazy about them just the way they are.

So I’ve been trying to be better at making time and space to love those people who rub me the wrong way.  Validating them – stopping to talk with them which translates into letting them know that who they are and what they have to say is important.  Ugh….I just hate it when God uses my own words to hold me accountable.  It’s so disruptive.

Following Jesus can be disruptive.  He can be a speed bump at times – slowing us down – sometimes making us stop to look at something we’ve not taken the time to think about. But I’m learning to listen better to who and what God intended me to be.  Not bound by my misconceptions, but trying to be better at opening up and risking relationship with broken people just like me.  Making space in my world for those that He might want me to care for….even if just for a season.  So I’m going to fight for a soft heart and a right attitude and a kind spirit towards people who are different than me.  Because wouldn’t I want you to do that for me?  It’s not just making space for one of God’s beloved, it’s making space for grace.

How to respond to the work of terrorists

This is simple…but appropriate for today….

A sign you’re growing in grace:  your peace from the occupied throne of heaven trumps your unrest from the work of terrorists“.  ~  Scotty Smith

I’d be interested in hearing what you think that statement means.  To you.  In how you maneuver through a messy world. To those around you.

~ Kris

P.S. – A friend sent me this post that Sheila Walsh put on her blog about the Brussel’s bombings.  It has great insight….

WHAT DO WE DO ON DAYS LIKE TODAY?

We dread days like this.
We turn on the news and hear of another devastating terrorist attack. Our hearts ache as we see the frantic faces of men, women and children running through acrid smoke, trying to find a place of safety.  As I began to pray for those involved and those who are yet to discover that a loved one is gone, the Holy Spirit directed my heart to the book of Habakkuk.

How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence.
I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight.
The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts.
The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NLT)

It’s tempting to believe that these words are as true today as they were to the prophet Habakkuk thousands of years ago. As followers of Christ we cannot live there. We must hold onto the Lord’s reply to his prophet,

Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.”  (1:5)

Either God is sovereign or He is not.
Either God is completely in control or He is not in control at all.
We have to live differently in these difficult days. We have to live as those who have hope when hope is a rare commodity. This was the plea of the apostle Peter when he wrote,

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:14 (ESV)

These days could be the Church’s finest hour if we will rise up with love and mercy, faith and hope, courage and gentleness.

We’ll pray, we will weep with those who weep, but we will not give in to despair because God is on the throne and we are His signature of radical love in this world until He comes again.

Preach it, Sista!

Christmas Comfort Zone

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Every year Christmas seems to be changing for me.   It has been taking on a different feel – but not  in a bad way.  I use to stick to traditions and routine, even down to decorating the tree the same way each year.  The traditional way.  Our Christmas tree was always in the living room window (so passerby’s could gaze upon it’s beauty) and my mom put three balls and a bow together as her ornaments on her Christmas tree so that’s how I did it too.  Sort of like the birch tree scam that says three birch trees must to be bunched together for them to be beautiful.  Why, when I wanted to buck my parents authority in so many ways as a young woman did I find it so important to hold onto this piece of them?  Do you suppose my fear of getting out of that Christmas comfort zone came from a subconscious feeling that if  things were changed then that meant the old was lost forever?

When I dug a little deeper and peeled the cellophane off the cheese ball, I  think that train of thought reflects the loss I feel now that I no longer have a parent that walks this earth with me at Christmastime.  As if changing how I hang my Christmas balls has anything to do with the way I maneuver through family relationships and memories.  Ohhh… now we’re getting into some deep psychotherapy.  Can the old and the new co-habituate the same celebration without loss? Does the color of my Christmas wrapping paper truly mean a final goodbye to Ruth and Vic?

Well, whatever the case, in the last year or so I’m learning to lean into change.  Bend a bit with the new and the possibly more fun.  For pity sake – it took me 4 years to be OK with the new lime green and red Christmas colors they use for the latest wrapping papers and decorations.   Ask my friend Robyn…she embraced the new look with gusto, but as we stood in front of her tree a few years back I told her I was very uncomfortable with the new unconventional colors.  It seemed so un-Christmassy. So non-traditional. However, we’ve had a break though and I am proud to tell you that just today I bought new lime green and red Christmas wrapping paper and bows.

My mom, Ruth, was a Christmas bow Nazi.  They had to be hand tied and “just so” (“Tina…you can’t just tie a bow and slap it on a gift!  You have to fluff the bow and work with it”!).  I’ve given myself some bow grace in the recent past and much to her chagrin Ruth would be disappointed to know that I now do just that – I buy the store bought bows and I DO simply slap them on each gift.  I’m a big fan of bow grace!

This year I’ve bucked the system entirely and decided to move our tree to a different room completely (what a rebel I am!) and I made all new Christmas ornaments of burlap and wood.  Not a Christmas ball to be found on the Glass tree this year.  Give me time and I can change the world!!!

Last year was the first real stretching and pushing back of my holiday comfort zone when our Christmas morning together started later mid-day.  Usually our tradition was to gather together around the tree in the morning with some of my husband’s scrumptious coffee cake, sparkling cider, with eggs and bacon.  Never let it be said that we don’t eat well at the Glass house at Christmas!  We would take our time and open our gifts together and it would be about a three hour extravaganza.  However, newly married B&S were going to have their own Christmas morning together, stop by at her sweet grandparents for a quick appearance, and then head over to our house around noon. I was able to give everyone the impression that I was completely gracious and OK with the change, but the reality was that I found the change  to be to my own benefit because I got to sleep in on Christmas morning.  It’s all about me, don’t cha know.

The latest in this brutal crash course on stretching me out of my Christmas comfort zone is that I learned just the other day that Christmas day at the Glass house is going to take on an even more different look so kids and spouses could share more in festivities on both sides.  That means I won’t see my kids until much later on Christmas Day. Ugh!  The Department of All That’s Fair is screaming “What is this nonsense? I HATE LEARNING TO SHARE!!!  It’s so…(what’s the word?)….stretching!  I HATE STRETCHING!”   Can you just picture me sitting in the sandbox with my poochy lip protruding?

On the UP side…as I think about it – not only do I get to sleep in on Christmas morning – I also now have time to wash my hair and do my makeup so I can look like I have it all together for the annual Glass Christmas photo.  Not a trace of the early morning bags under the eyes and you’ll actually be able to see my blond eyelashes and eyebrows!  Sigh…this selfish vs. grace thing can get ugly sometimes.

Are you stuck in the Christmas comfort zone of bucking any change or new direction your holiday seems to take?  Are you afraid the old will be lost in the new traditions and styles of the holidays?  Don’t you worry – if it’s anything like bell bottoms or tie-dye – just give those old traditions and colors a little rest and you wait and see…they’ll come back around again in your lifetime.  Or are you like me – focusing your eyes on yourself so that when writing a blog about grace you run head-on into the reality that grace doesn’t come naturally to you….hmmmm….then you might have some hard work still to do.  Oh wait!… Christ did that work on the cross 2015 years ago!

Yep….the good news is that although grace doesn’t come naturally to me, I still am changed…and I am already a new creation.  That happened when I was 14 years old – now I just have to patiently trust Him to work that out within me.  It starts with knowing that I am complete in Christ.  That I am righteous right now because of who He is in me.  This allows me to extend love to the wounded and the angry and unlovely (except maybe when I’m tired).  Ugh.  It allows me to live out WHO He made me to be.  I already know He is pleased with me – no matter how I perform.  It’s a messy process and my sweet family gets the privilege (NOT!) of seeing the real me as I bumble through this adventure of learning how to emulate grace more often.  But I am safe here…in the Glass family…warts and all. And I’m not in a hurry to be perfect!  That’s the theology of grace for me this Christmas.

I hope you find it too.  MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

Gathering Grace

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Where did you and your family gather this Thanksgiving?  Was it around the table with a house full of family?  Maybe just the two of you gathered in the den with TV trays and watched football over a turkey sandwich?  If you’re like us, we have no family in the area other than our kids, so we make an effort to invite folks who cross our path who also don’t have a place to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  This year we had the five of us, plus three friends we know from church, but we grew from there the last few days before Thanksgiving.

I have the distinct privilege of acting as host at our church now and then to a lovely group of folks who are down on their luck and find themselves homeless.  They come to us through a non-profit organization called The Gathering Inn that is based out of Roseville, Ca. which my pastor, David George helped get off and running many years ago.

What I love about TGI is that they offer a warm meal and a place to sleep for the night during the cold winter months with the help of over 60 local churches.  These churches are part of a rotating schedule that offer the homeless a safe place to sleep each night of the week, and the host church cooks for them.  Our guests sleep on mats and a lot of thought goes into providing for their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.

Some of our guests are alcoholics, some have other addictions, but some simply, as I said, are down on their luck.  I once met a young man there who just a year prior had a successful construction business, a local home, one in Hawaii, two cars, a boat, and a motorhome.  Then when the recession hit and people stopped building, he lost everything.  It’s eye opening when you realize some of us are just one paycheck away from the possibility of being in his shoes.

This past Monday was my night to host, and I was asked to also share a message with our 70 guests.  I am known as The Sports Lady at TGI, because I usually do a little shtick of updating the guests with the latest standings in the NFL, NBA, or MLB with a hint of humor and sarcasm and “smack talk”.  Once I was asked why I didn’t update them on the Iditarod….and my response was “because no one gives a rip about the Iditarod“!!!  Last week, since the 49ers  STINK this season, I chose to just touch briefly on sports, but then to share some thoughts on Thanksgiving.

Talking to the homeless about reasons to be thankful can be challenging.  It was a gamble, but I chose to be honest and real…with just a touch of humor…and I spoke about how we often want to blame God for our hardships.  How God’s purpose  never was to be a “fix it” man here to make our problems go away.  That the promise never was that life wouldn’t be without suffering, but rather the promise was that God would walk beside us, show up in the midst of the suffering, and offer us amazing comfort – should we choose to accept it – for the hard times.

Their overall response to the message was one of thankfulness – for the reminder of all they did have, and gratefulness for God’s love.  As I spoke, my eyes glanced about the room (because every good speaker knows they need to speak to all areas of the room) and they landed on what I thought was a familiar face.  Was this woman I thought I recognized someone I knew?  Hmmm…I just couldn’t put my finger on how I could have possibly known her, because surely I wouldn’t know someone who was homeless!

Being middle-aged and having no memory cells left in my brain, I did the cowardly thing and asked a friend to go over and start a conversation with her and find out the woman’s name.  Somehow the letter “P” stood out in my cell-less mind….Pricilla?  Penelope?  Paula?   Hmmmm….no, that couldn’t be….I must be mistaking her for someone else.

My friend came back and like a sleuth she had a lovely conversation with this gal, and found out her name was Phyllis.  YES!!!   That’s it!  PHYLISS!!!   I know her!!  As it turns out, Phyllis had gone to our church 15 years ago, and she and I had been casual friends.  Her husband died of cancer at the age of 36, and left her and her 10 year old triplets to fend for themselves in this life.   Phyllis was a survivor, and 15 years ago she was doing well – had a good job, and a place to live, was paying the bills and life was good.

I went over and re-introduced myself and she remembered me.  As it turns out, life in the last few years had taken a different turn.  She is now on disability because of mercury poisoning from fillings in her teeth, and 4 months ago they had been evicted from their rental home over a miscommunication between the new place she and her kids were planning on moving into, and the notice she had to give to her old place.  Unexpectedly, they found themselves homeless.

I immediately invited Phyliss and her kids to come share our Thanksgiving meal with us, and what a joyous time we had.  From the cranberry salsa, to the playing with the Yorkies, to the delicious food and wine, to football, to my chair breaking at the head of the table in the middle of our meal and me landing on my patootie, and to the yummy desserts that followed – a grand time was had by all.  There was wonderful grace found in this Thanksgiving gathering.  Grace for Phyliss and her kids…and grace for our family.

So now Phyllis and her family need a roof to gather under.  She has an income, and her kids all have jobs.  One is out on her own.  They just don’t have a roof over their head.  She has money in the bank to put down as first and last month’s security on a place, but finding a place that will rent to her with an eviction on her record is nearly impossible.  I’m praying for a gracious landlord that will rent to her regardless of what it says on paper.

Grace can be found in the hard.  And grace was truly found in this gathering at the Glass house this Thanksgiving.

 

Arguing with the Gospel

Stapler & pencilThere are certain things in this life that I somehow feel like I’m entitled to.  Things like sharp pencils.  Or a fully stocked stapler.  Nine times out of ten when I go to staple something it makes that empty “kerpunch” sound that tells me (once again) there are no staples in my stapler.  Ugh!  Evil stapler! Or that my adult kids would still need me.  Or that we could live in a world where beloved friends aren’t ripped from my life unexpectedly by disease. Is that too much to ask?  Am I being needy to want for those things?

The reality of the gospel is that we’re not promised any of that.  I hate that – I really want sharp pencils at my beckon call.  Some might think that if the gospel is to be believed, then we should be able to live lives that are free of inconvenience, frustration, pain and suffering?  Don’t shoot me – I’m just the messenger….and I hate to be the one to tell you, friend – but what I’ve learned is that this was never the promise. Why, then do I get so frustrated when these little expectations aren’t met? When I don’t get to see my kids as often as I like?  The gospel is telling me that although there’s nothing wrong with those desires, I need to do away with believing that they are “due” me.  That’s when it translates into neediness.

In Tim Keller’s book Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything he states…

The gospel, if it is really believed, removes neediness – the need to be constantly respected, appreciated, and well regarded; the need to have everything in your life go well; the need to have power over others.  All of these great, deep needs continue to control you only because the concept of the glorious God delighting in you with all His being is just that – a concept and nothing more.  Paul is saying that if you want to really change, you must let the gospel teach you – that is to train, discipline, coach you – over a period of time.  You must let the gospel argue with you.  You must let the gospel sink down deeply into your heart, until it changes your motivation and views and attitudes.

Ah HA!  So that’s whats been going on in my life these past 20 years!  I’ve been arguing with the gospel.  When I think MY way is the best way, the Holy Spirit gently walks me through a conversation of why my thinking may not be the best for me. The gospel has been coaching me all along…and when my heart goes into default mode I argue with it – butting my head up against what frustrates me about the world and about truth.  But my heart’s desire has been to be different than I used to be.  To be changed from the person I use to be, and so through the arguments and the wrestling with the gospel I am coming out the other side a new person, and understanding the grace of God just a little more than I did going in.

Yes, God is crazy about you.  Yes, God delights in you. Yes, God wants His best for you. But the gospel can be a real pain in the patootie.  My spell check doesn’t recognize that word, and I could spell it another way to make it easier to understand – but I’ll refrain.  The gospel is disruptive. When it’s little feelers start penetrating your heart and soul, it messes with every aspect of your life.  How you drive.  How you talk to your kids.  How you interact with the people you work with.  How you maneuver through marriage.  How you get rid of your dirty laundry.  Even with the guy with the sign on the street corner asking for a hand out.  “Get a job” might have been your go-to response in the past to one such as he – now the gospel argues with you to do something different.

When we yield to this transforming discussion with the Holy Spirit, a peculiar thing happens.  We begin to store up deposits of grace for others.  And grace for the long haul.  And grace for the worst of the disruptive times in your life.  Like when a dear friend unexpectedly dies and gets to go home before you do.

That’s what has been happening to me this past season.  My dear friend, Tom, died two months ago from the ugly effects of cancer, and my pastor, David George performed the service.  Then two months later we were sitting in the same place, at David’s funeral when he died unexpectedly from a rare form of pancreatic cancer that took him in three weeks.  He was my spiritual father, a mentor, and a dear friend.  He even read my blog regularly.  How could I not love the guy?  Now another dear friend, Rob, is giving all he’s got to kick lung cancer’s butt, but it’s a tough battle.  Sigh.  I don’t get it.  I just don’t get it. As David would say….”I wonder what God is up to?

The truth is it’s not my job to “get it”. It’s my job to rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign and the author of all their stories….and I’m grateful to have been able to walk in & through their story lines.  God is faithful…God is just….even though MY story line would look way different than what the kingdom’s story line sometimes is.  But ultimately His ending really has the very best ending.  I can’t see the why, and even though I’d like to kick and scream and shake my fist at heaven, I choose to trust that Jesus does.  And He’s the reason Tom and David and Rob’s future is secure.

David George was most certainly the most influential man in my life.  All three of these men are extraordinary.  But now that two of them are gone and another in the battle of his life…how do I pray?  I desperately cry out for Rob’s healing, and am in an argument with the gospel over this topic of healing.  However, when I do this arguing, I also have to pray that I wouldn’t doubt His goodness in whatever His answer is – no matter what the answer looks like.  I understand that healing can take on many forms.  David and Tom WERE both healed…just not this side of Heaven, but I found it a very difficult prayer to pray all the same because I wasn’t in control of the outcome.  But grace flows out of our grief and our anxiety and comforts us right where we are.

So I challenge you – even if you don’t have someone as extraordinary as these three gentlemen in your life…there is One that longs to be extraordinary to you.  So pursue God, argue with the gospel, and go out there and change the world with joy.  BE extraordinary!  Be extraordinary by showing grace – even when undeserved – to those around you. Be extraordinary by serving others before self. Be extraordinary in humbleness.  Be extraordinary by “taking it” when misunderstood. Be extraordinary by showing up in the lives of those around you. Be extraordinary by caring for those that might seem quirky, or different, or unlovable. Be extraordinary by caring about what’s important to those around you. Be extraordinary by bearing the burdens of those who God brings across your path. Be extraordinary by being kind…because it truly does matter. Be extraordinary by loving your neighbor and choosing their good over your own. Be extraordinary by enduring the mundane and long battle we walk. Be extraordinary by choosing life!   Be extraordinary with your life…your story…because what’s going on in your story is not the final chapter. The good news is that the ending has already been written and we know its a good one.  How do I know?  Because I’ve peeked and read the last page of the book.

The hard will end one day, my friend.  That’s the grace in all this.  The unmerited love of God promised to us.  Today.  Tomorrow.  At the end of our journey.  Meet Him in this place of grace today…. after you’re done arguing with the gospel.

The wisdom in Raisins

Raisins

I’ve always had a love for older adults.  You know…we call them Senior Citizens.  I get a big smile on my face when I’m around them – kind of like how some people get when they’re around babies. There’s just something sacred about someone who has walked this earth way longer than I have.

In high school I would jump at the chance to drive the hour to Seal Beach to pick up my sweet Grandma, Cora for a family get-together.  It gave me the chance to talk with her in the car, love on her a smidge, and it did my own heart good to have been with her.  I always walked away feeling as if I’d been blessed to sit at the feet of someone who had lived in another century than I had.

My friend, Robyn calls these people “raisins” for reasons that I assume you can figure out.  She has funny names for all sorts of things; body parts, people, abbreviated words, etc.  She is one of my joys and keeps me in smile mode regularly. I wonder what word she would make up for young people?  If we’re staying in the fruit category….maybe peaches?

Raisins have experienced both suffering and joy for more years that I have lived.  They’ve been beat-up and blessed, and I just feel like they deserve respect and grace.  Sometime even E.G.R…..”extra grace required”.  What a shock it was to me when I realized that not all peaches feel the same way I do about raisins.  Is this generation less inclined to find value in the wisdom of their elders?  Are they not able to look outside themselves and appreciate the wisdom gained through wrinkled skin?   I’m a smidge worried about that because I’m gonna be a full-fledged, card-carrying raisin sooner than later.

I think it would simplify the process of seeing wisdom in others for young whippersnappers….oh sorry…I mean peaches if there were a way to take blinders off their eyes and give them the gift to see wisdom in someone’s face.  To be able to look and simply see it in someone’s eyes. To be able to recognize that there is truth-telling going on when a raisin speaks truth into your life.  What young peaches don’t know is that this super-power is oftentimes built in to those with wrinkles on their face in their downhill years.  I’m probably not the first to tell you this, but it’s true; the longer you’ve walked this earth the more you know.  By the way…you’re officially a raisin if you use the term “whippersnappers”.

It works the other way, too.  That same super-power comes to raisins in reverse; to be able to look at peaches and see the potential in them.  To look past their young mistakes and see the possibilities just oozing to get out of young peaches.   Something I’ve learned by being a parent is how God’s love for us is a similar picture of how we view our kids.   Because of grace, we potentially can see them not as a screw-up, but as a caterpillar working towards becoming a butterfly – starting on the inside and working out.  Oh my….I just jumped from fruits to insects.

I drove past the local high school back in May just as the kids were getting out of finals.  Traffic backed up, and as I drove through the droves of kids excited about the end of the school year, I looked into those young faces.  Its interesting when you look at a high schooler and you can project what they might physically look like when they’re older.  That’s one of those abilities that only comes with having been around the block a few times.

I saw the confusion in some of their eyes.  The hope in others.   And as I saw the crazy hair do’s, the acne on their faces, the overweight and the scrawny, and the fashion faux-pau’s…I smiled because I knew 80% of them would be completely different in 20 years.  I know that because that’s what its like when you age.  Most are transformed from what they looked like and were when they walked across the stage to receive their diploma.  Some get better looking, some will bald, some will completely change their hair color, some will change habits, some will become nicer, some will become crankier, some will adopt healthier lifestyles, some will become bitter, some will overcome addictions, some will become passionate about a cause because of a life-changing event in their life, some will suffer undeservedly, and some will die at a young age.  And then some stay right where they are – in high school until they’re 90.

My hope for the peaches of the world is that you would adopt grace for the raisins in your lives, and spend time regularly with someone over 60.  Be intentional about it.  Call your parents on the phone.  Take a vacation with them.  Respond to their texts and phone calls.  Take cookies to an elderly neighbor who is lonely.  And quit honking at them when you’re driving – for gosh sakes!  You’re gonna give them a heart attack.

And my hope for the raisins of the world is that as you age you would keep moving – walk, cycle, run, jump, or roll your wheelchair up and down the street.  In other words…”move it or lose it”.  And try to keep up with technology so when those peaches do email or text you, you know how to respond.  And  my prayer is that at the end of your journey you can look back with no regrets and say that you’re less stupid that when you started because of the good and bad choices you made.  Now that’s being a grown up.  And that’s God’s grace.  What a gift to us all.

Gotta go….I’m having this unexplainable craving for some fruit!  🙂

My Cloud

Cloud heart“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

Our journey, or our race as Hebrews talks about is never one that is walked or run alone. The story we write of our lives has many contributing authors. We have a cloud of “witnesses” that float in and out of our lives that we watch and look to during the course of our lives that impact how we live life and love those around us. Some are good and some are not so good. Many of mine helped me be braver. Some taught me humility and grace. Then there are some that looked a lot like me – and I didn’t like what I saw. We watch people and rub up against them in the hopes that the good in them will rub off on us.  That’s what it means to be a witness.

One cloud that hovered over me for 52 years was my mom. I needed to have someone to look up to – to try to emulate. She was funny and feisty, and always trying to figure out where she fit in this world as a sister, daughter, wife, mother and as a Christian. She was a child of the depression – a woman who was flawed, hurt and disappointed, but who showed love for others by caring for them. She was graceful but struggled to understand grace. I watched her get angry, then mourn when her anger cost her dearly. I have a deep desire to know her stories, her roots, her regrets and her victories. She taught me a lot of good things – like how to care for people. Because we were so different in personality, she once told me I was a “pistol”, which I eventually figured out she didn’t necessarily think that was a good thing.

I ran from the shade of my dad’s cloud because I could never figure him out – but now I wish I had taken the time.  He was old-school in his thinking of what women should and shouldn’t do, and I never seemed to fit into that scenario the way he thought I should.  He did teach me what hard work and discipline looked like, for which I’m grateful, but I always felt as if I disappointed him.  He taught me prejudice…only because that’s what he was taught…but thankfully the dove told me at a young age that was wrong.  But later in life, as I learned the analogy of our Father in Heaven’s love…I grew to trust and honor him for the part he played in growing and caring for me in his own way. He was a good man with some regrets, and we got to have some faith talks later in his life that I hope were a deciding factor in where he is spending eternity.

Two clouds that I loved were my grandmothers, Violet and Cora. Violet was a strong-willed Danish woman who lost her husband early, was caregiver to her sick Father, and stood up for my rights. She was opinionated about women’s rights, and taught me women could be strong and athletic and should be chosen early when picking teams for backyard baseball. One of my favorite memories of her was Christmas Eve circa 1964 when she thought she was alone in the Living Room looking at the lights of the tree.  I peered around the corner as she sat and sang Silent Night in Danish, and I watched as a tear trickling down her cheek as memories flooded over her.

Cora was a strong Christian woman who loved to tell stories (boy could she talk), loved the Los Angeles Dodgers and always smiled, or had a headache and seemed tired. She taught me about faith, for which I am eternally (literally) grateful. She was a tea-tootler who almost didn’t come to my wedding because we were serving champagne for the toast.  One of my favorite things I loved about her story was how she learned to drive when she was 60 years old.  What a determined trailblazer she was.

I loved them both for the traits that I inherited from them….determination, strength, a sensitive and caring heart, and faith-filled… and you all know how I love a good story! Their personalities are part of the blood that flows through me.

I had several friends growing up, but a special part of my cloud-cover was my high school / college friend, Carol.  Her friendship and care for me was unconditional, which I had never experienced. She was the first friend who treated me like a sister, and I so regretted not having a sister to grow up with. We were both getting our wobbly faith-feet underneath us around the same time, and she taught me how women can be supportive of one another without competition or as being a threat, not as insecure or jealous or weak, but instead as a sister in Christ. That’s a powerful force for good. Eventually the wind blew and this dear cloud blew away as we leaned into marriage and life in different places.

I had two clouds in my early 20’s that came and shaded me with their mentor marks that I will never forget – Nancy C. and Carol H.  I saw in these two women a peace and confidence in their faith that I lacked and I wanted to get me some of that! I wanted my faith to be strong like theirs, and they gave me the tools to help me build that. Their mentoring planted such great faith seeds in my life, and I am so grateful for the watering they did before they drifted off to bless others.

My favorite cloud is my husband, Ken. He blew into my life just when I thought all the good guy clouds in the world were taken or had dissipated, and he redeemed my faith in true love. He can be soft and fluffy, full of love and life and joy. But sometimes when he’s been floating too long without a break or support he can be dark and foreboding, and rain all over my parade. He challenges me, and has taught me to listen, love unconditionally, and keeps me on my toes because he’s almost always right. I hate that about him. What a pistol!  But he is one cloud that isn’t going to drift away any time soon.

I’m passionate about my kid clouds, and my latest struggle is letting go of their consistency in my cloud cover. I know our kids are given to us for only a season, and that our job is to teach them how to fluff and puff out their cloud wings and float out into the world (I couldn’t think of a good cloud analogy for kids coming and going from our lives…so don’t write back and tell me clouds don’t have wings please!) but this ache I feel around a much different relationship with Brady and Bryan brings rain to my skies regularly. I miss the comfort of their shade and comfort. But I trust that I will learn new and exciting things from their examples as they move out into the world and I get to watch how they offer shade to others.

Finally, I am finding great comfort in the shade of many friends that have chosen to bless me with their friendship. Woman (and men) who are passionate and alive in their faith, knowing their purpose is to come alongside others with joy and laughter and vulnerability. I get to watch them be brave as they walk in sickness and hardship. I get to watch them be real in their marriages. I watch them care for the people God has placed around them with kindness and forgiveness, and they help equip me in the knowledge that I can do the same thing. Laurie, Robyn, Cindy (1, 2 and 3), Janis, Mickey, Kathleen, and Lori are just a few who I am honored to float through this life with. Thank you that you make me feel as if I am enough – you are the wind at my back and you make me brave.

So these are just some of the “witnesses” that have clouded my skies and walked my story with me.  Both good and bad.  As I’ve tried to make sense of my life, I’ve had to learn that not all the dark clouds I bumped into were as they seem.  Paul Tripp says it this way; “What looks like the end my be the beginning.  What looks like hopeless may be God’s instrument to give you real and lasting hope.  What looks like disaster might, in fact, be grace. Your Father is committed to taking what seems bad and turning it into something that is very, very good”.

So some of my witnesses have shown me grace, and some have shown me the opposite of grace.  But that’s all a part of the lesson and the growing in grace that I’m so passionate about pursuing.  Grace in the hard places.  Grace in the everyday stuff.  Grace in the clouds.

You knew I HAD to end it with a cloud, right?   Be the cloud for someone today.  Be their shade and be a witness of grace to them.