Love, Dimples, and Age

My man was gone for the weekend, so I took our dimple cheeked daughter out on a date. She is miss drama herself so there was plenty to talk about as her brown eyes looked soulishly into mine in expression of her thoughts and feelings.

There’s this boy……” .

What? Her, already?

I listened in amusement. And as I listened, I looked around. People, I love people.

Talk about the guy, girl situation, and there are lots of observations. Middle aged couples sat, seemingly a tad bored, guys on their i-phones while the ladies looked a bit wistful or sat quietly.

But in the corner sat a wrinkled old man, seemingly enthralled with his lady who was wrinkled and old as well. He held her hand, cupped into his, as she shared her heart. The attention he gave her was blissful, the desire for her was obvious.

People joke about men not needing to communicate, but I’ve seen enough men in love to know that they have amazing capacity to dig right into a woman’s heart and get her to be vulnerable with her deepest feelings. The wrinkled old man with his wrinkled old lady, well, he had her leaning forward while he gazed into her face and cupped her hand in his.

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It was the sweetest picture I saw all day. And I saw a lot of sweet ones today.

I saw a one year old digging into his first piece of cake, chubby cheeks smothered in frosting. Pure sweetness.

I saw large, soulish brown eyes looking into my face while dimpled cheeks filled with cotton candy ice cream. I heard her dump her heart. It was sweetness itself.

I saw my nine year old son walk up to the woods with my four year old, dog in tow. The four year old turns and says, “Mama, we will be OK. Don’t worry, Mama.” My heart melted at the sight of them.

I saw a husband bring his wife a plate, then ask if there was anything more she wanted. Sweet thoughtfulness.

But none trumps the comparison of those two middle aged men, bored and preoccupied while sitting with their ladies, and the wrinkled elderly couple who were so in love.

If love grows with age, if wrinkles are a sign of long years together, if old-age love successfully defies the lie that to be loved you must be beautiful, then, well, I guess I’m ready to be old. And I’m thankful that age is not to be feared by Christian women who know that true beauty comes from aligning our hearts with the purposes of God.

The brown eyed, dimple-cheeked daughter may grow older with her worth aligned to truth, that the true essence of a woman is the soul–not the skin.

That true beauty is as beauty does–not as beauty looks.

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That cultivating one’s appearance is healthy while fretting over an appearance you don’t have, is not.

That every woman has beauty to offer, regardless of age or appearance, and we have only to cultivate what has been given us.

That the day of one’s birth has been planned, just as the day of one’s death—and every single day in between is beautiful.

Let her know, just as she does now, that true love grows better, not worse, with years.

Join Me in Shedding Light?

I carefully placed another lamp on the side table, and worked the extension cord over.

Purchasing a large home with not enough light had me roaming the isles of Goodwill in search of lamps, and that day, I was happy to find two matching ones for the living room.

Goodwill boasts of less than beautiful décor, though, so I set them in the garage and painted them lavishly with metallic spray paint. God bless whoever invented the stuff, because it has saved my day!

I pulled at the extension and plugged it in. The lamps burst into a beautiful, soft glow over the living room area, and I was satisfied. Next time we had guests over, I wouldn’t feel like I sat them in the dark.

This week, I’ve been feeling a bit gloomy. Like perhaps my own atmosphere needs a little more light to shed on those around me.

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I’ve been to a conference, and the faces of the staff were healing just to watch. I rarely see joy and clarity light up faces as I saw on the lovely people of Joann Moody’s team. I was mesmerized, struck, drawn in.

I couldn’t wait to be prayed over. Eyes clear as day looked into mine, and life poured out of lips. Life-giving words, confirming words, words that could be known only by the spirit of Christ giving knowledge for someone he didn’t even know.

I came home, all lit up as if my heart was ablaze. And we went back for more.

Something about the Spirit of God had even the kids in tears. The girls don’t usually sit in their chairs at a church service with tears pushing from their eyes. People don’t usually receive words so vital to their lives, so personally tailored to their own lives from someone who has no idea who they are except as he prays by the Spirit of God.

These people pray in the airports; they pray on the streets, they pray everywhere and all the time. And, they love it. There is no duty-bound, guilt-ridden sense of obligation—only a love relationship with the Infinite God Who created the finite world, and holds it all in His hands.

Jesus says to us, people of God, that we are “the light of the world.” He says that when we light a lamp, we don’t put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, so that it lights up the house.

“In the same way,” He says, “Let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father Who is in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16, ESV]

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He also tells us that we are the salt of the earth, but if our salt has lost its flavor, it’s not good for much except to be thrown out and walked on. [verse 13]

Wow! Thrown out and walked over?

His words echo my heart when I see the name of Christ being claimed while His life isn’t lived, and I see the world turn away in disgust.

Or when someone who claims to be “extra spiritual” goes about hurting others, giving off a distinct sense of self more than casting the light of the person of Jesus Christ to hearts needing a touch of something more than they know.

Could it be worse to claim the name of Christ but not cast the light of Christ, than it is to not claim Him at all?

A false representation of God’s glory is the chiefest cause of people not believing in the glory of God at all.

If we claim the name of Christ, we are to be salt, flavor, light. We are to bring about the better and good in our homes and cities. We are not only to speak life, but to give life.

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Hear this—we are not asked to give rules, but asked to give life. When we give life, those who are touched by that life will be changed by the Life-Giver.

More than ordering your life perfectly, make certain your heart is ablaze with a Presence greater than your own. Make certain His love is pouring out to those around you. Make certain you are changing the atmosphere in which you live, and that, when you enter a room, you cast off light and warmth.

Allow the Spirit of God to dwell in you mightily, and shy not away from bringing His presence with you in your home, at work, in the airports, and on the streets.

If He is truly in you, He will shine His light on all those around you as they look at your countenance and enjoy your presence.

As the lamps shed warmth and light in my living room, so I am to shed light in my atmosphere today. I am to live out the gifts He’s put in. I am to be light, salt, and flavor. I am to touch lives in ways they dare not hope for, because Christ in me is the Giver of Hope.

Friends, join me in shedding light today?

How to Love the Offender But Hate the Offense

What about another person’s sin?

My mind has struggled to grasp how to forgive another while being entirely at odds with what he or she did. And I hear people say, forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to be OK with what happened; forgiveness means you release what happened, and move on.

Forgiveness means we can be entirely not ok with what occurred. We can forgive another without being in relationship with another. We can forgive someone without approving of someone’s actions. We can be entirely upset by the sin, but have a heart of love for the sinner.

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Loving someone doesn’t always mean you’re in relationship with someone. I’ve seen some of the best women need to walk away from relationships because they were destructive in the worst kind of way.

Well-meaning Christians [or the wrong-doer him/herself] imply that if you’d only forgive, everything would be fine. People forget that forgiveness for the offended can happen without the offender changing at all, and if forgiveness means we put ourselves in harm’s way again, we may have a wrong understanding of it for our particular situation.

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Forgiveness is wise.
Forgiveness is safe.
Forgiveness is freeing.

The freedom of forgiveness means you walk in life. If your version of it takes you right back to death, perhaps Christ would want to give you His version instead?

Forgiveness doesn’t imply hiding abuse. Like the one mother who had hidden for her abuser since childhood and was now struggling to know whether her version of forgiveness was the right one, I encouraged her that true love brings things to light so that he has a greater chance of forgiveness before his death.

In the name of forgiveness, she was allowing a child offender to go free—and who knows how many other children were abused because of her willingness to “forgive.”

When we hide for another, we make the sin of another more possible.

Does your version of forgiveness bring you freedom or keep you in fear?

Jesus died for the sin of the entire human race. He forgave, but He still hated the sin so much that He died publicly for it. Sin demands an answer.

Galatians 6: 1-2 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

See this—God never asks us to ignore the sin; He asks us to restore the sinner.

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We can be entirely hard on the sin without being unloving toward the sinner. You can be merciless toward the act itself while showing mercy toward the one who committed the act. In this way, sin is dealt with while the soul is loved on. Was not that what Christ did?

Realize that the sin toward yourself is a symptom of great need in another. Rather than react toward the person who failed you, look into his/her life and try to understand the why behind it. Learn to pull out roots more than chop off plants.

When roots are pulled out, the plants don’t grow again. But chopping off the plant while leaving the root cause only ensures the same old plant will sprout back. Many times, those who fail us need us to stick in there and walk back to life with them.

There’s another side as well. Remember Jesus, when He entered the temple and threw the money tables over while demanding everyone get out? This wasn’t so gentle. There are sins that demand firm aggression and an absolute denial of access into our lives.

The Gentle One became strong.
The Meek One became as bold as a lion.
The Loving One refused to tolerate.
And the One Who knows all things didn’t cover for them.

He is the epitome of Love. Look to Him for an example of how to show love, and how to forgive. Realize that even the Son of God didn’t allow sin to pass by unchecked, and for people to benefit from His offer of reconciliation, they must also accept His offer to help them change.

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Forgive another, and walk with them to healing—but know that, when you need to, you can also forgive and never walk with them again. For one sinner, Jesus walked, talked, and graciously continued relationship; for another, He overthrew tables and demanded them to leave.

Neither one had Him locked in bitterness. The Son of Man walks free regardless of what happens around Him, and so can you. Simply know His heart for each person and each situation, and He will show you what you need to do.

Simply know this—in either case, you are free.

Owning Our Need…..and Seeing What a Gift It Is to Do So

I’m sitting on the bed, choking back the words in my throat.

You know, that time of choking on words because you’re hearts rather choking on you? That was me the other day.

I’d been telling my man what a hard time I was having with the kids, and he told me about the hard things I needed to hear, myself. Ouch.

It’s never fun owning your wrong when all you want is for someone else to own theirs. But I had just read in Proverbs 10:17 that “whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.”

The words had jumped at me. Because for so long I had had a beef about the kids not wanting to own their wrongs………and here I was, doing the same thing.

You always have to be right.” The words stung me because it was what I hated most in them. My inner slogan had rather become, “Just own it!”

I swallow hard, and I own it. I’m not hearing them like I need to, and I project my thoughts onto their own hearts, feeling that I know what their motives are. Many times, mothers are spot on when the growing babies are in denial, stubbornly refusing to admit their wrong—but here I was, determined not to get my toes stepped on, and taking it too far.

Just because someone does something 20% of the time doesn’t mean they do it 100% of the time. And when there’s conflict, another is rarely 100% at fault even if they do have a fault.

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Bitter words can be saving words. And I knew in that moment that I had to do what I want others to do. I had to own my failure. Because when we claim the grace of God, we must also embrace each word of God—whether it feels good, or not.

If Jesus owned the failure of the entire world, how can we not own the failure of our own, one, small person—especially when He’s already paid the price for what we’re about to admit to?

The photo of the cross and nail pierced into its wood sits before me. What on earth do I think I’m doing when I don’t want to own my sin? How can I want to hear words of grace but ignore words of rebuke?

Jesus heard words from His Father that were so difficult to hear that He walked the garden late at night with drops of sweat glistening on His forehead as He begged God or a way out.

Really get this, soul—the Son of God was about to be blamed for, be crucified for, be mocked and whipped for, lie in a dark tomb three days for, this very sin you almost can’t even admit. He was about to own the burden of, carry the weight of, hold the shame and guilt of this sin you want to pass onto the back of someone else for the sake of your own skin.

Perhaps our crooked places would become a bit more straight if we listened in on every word of God, not just the easy ones. Perhaps we would save more souls than lead others astray as it mentions in Proverbs 17.

If the earth, which holds the only tangible source of power we know will vanish in light of God’s power, how can we hold onto anything of this earth that has no power at all?

God’s words have resurrected the dead. They’ve brought creation to existence when there was nothing. And each word He speaks to you is purpose-filled for a grand culmination of good in your life and those lives affected by you.

I choked back the words I wanted to speak on that couch, and allow freedom to wash over my heart instead. Because of it, I hope to bring more freedom to those around me.

Because every single word of God is good. And repentance, as well as grace, is a gift.

In fact, I don’t think we get to have one without the other!

When Moms Want to be Lit up More Than Burnt Out

I stare at the wall hanging in one of my favorite stores, then carefully place it into my shopping cart.

It was perfect. The words, the font, the message. And I purchased it without guilt because somehow I knew our home “needed” it.

I had just finished cleaning the best gun shop in town, and enjoyed chatting with the bright eyed little boy who occupied one of the back rooms while his daddy put in a few hours of work.

He walked on my wet floor and chattered incessantly when all I wanted was quiet. But he taught me a lesson.

I had left my own little boy at home with his daddy while I did my weekly job away from the house. It was hard to leave. Somehow, I always feel I’m not good enough of a mama when I pull out of that driveway.

Feeling like I’m not enough is a constant challenge for many of us mothers. But here was a little tyke with eyes so bright and happy they nearly blazed with confidence, and he was, get this, occupying himself in the back room of a gun shop.

And here I was, feeling badly that my own little boy was running around a large house and property with his dad and three siblings. Perhaps the boy alone in the room was happier than my own boy in the house—because love isn’t felt with things as much as it’s felt with rest and freedom in the atmosphere—and it may or may not be happening in either place.

 

I wanted to meet his mother. I did get to observe his father, and there was this relaxed, all is well with our world type of demeanor. He had the bright face, too.

Mothers, our kids do better with our sometimes-absent bright face than they do with our constantly present, stressed out countenance.

I’m thinking knee-deep into this dilemma of wanting to fill every single gap I think I need to fill—and then find myself snappy and exhausted as a result. This summer, I’ve been taking a step back.

It’s hard. I’m wondering if my friends are offended because I haven’t had them over as much as I’d like to.

I’m wondering if my husband’s thinking I’m slacking on taking care of his needs.

I’m wondering if I’m enough, enough, enough—and I’m choosing to let go, anyway.

I fill that gigantic glass jug [the one I found at a yard sale for two dollars] with granola so the kids can eat breakfast before school, and I’m hidden away in my office with my Bible, laptop, and coffee. The next week, I purchase cups of instant cereal at the outlet store for a treat. My kids thought I’d finally joined the “fun mom” crowd until they read the ingredients—get this, the first ingredients were beans and lentils, and the fruity cereal was colored with paprika and beet juice.

I let go of two weekly commitments so I could add in two others for the benefit of our family.

I quit pinching every penny, and I purchase a few lovely things for our home along with teaching DVD’s to create a more restful school atmosphere.

Because the mind that never quits will soon have a brain that doesn’t know how to shut down. And when you’re pushed so hard for all things good you soon can’t be anything good.

I speak it to my husband, this thing of trying so hard to create a perfect life for my kids that I end up creating a stressful atmosphere. Because the body that never stops will soon have a brain that doesn’t want itself or anyone else to stop, either.

We were born to be, not born to perform.

Be kind.

Be loving.

Be full of smiles.

Be rested.

Be connected to the people who matter.

Somehow we’re conditioned to think that the busier we are, the more productive we are. Did you know we can spin crazily for a lifetime without producing the product of a moment?

Life is not so much about what we say or do or what model of parenting we choose as it is about what kind of presence we host. The peaceful presence of God determines what we say and do; therefore, taking time to know and commune with God is the most important gift we can give to our kids and spouses.

Cut your corners but don’t cut your time. If you’re willing to cut corners you will soon notice that you enjoy your extra time much more than you need the satisfaction of accomplishing everything.

And if you wonder if you’re a good enough wife, mother, or friend, remember that you are a human being more than you are a human doer.

I’m noticing an extra smile twinge the corners of my mouth these days. An extra moment to give. Extra energy to put out. I’d rather have extra energy to put out than have no energy because I’m constantly stressed out.

God is a Being, and you are made in His likeness. Because God is the Being He is, He does the things He does. He doesn’t do the things He does so He can be the Being He is. In the same way, you can’t afford to push too hard to do many things so you can be something.

You do the best thing because you already are something—and you don’t need to prove what already is.

When you allow His Being to enter your own, you will be love, peace, and kindness.

I pick up that wall hanging. I drink that coffee, alone. I have that quiet time. I create space just to be, simply to enjoy, breathe, and smile.

I’m done rushing about trying to do everything I think those around me need me to do—because I’ve seen that doing so much good takes me from being all things good.

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There is never too much to do—there is only an inward push to be too much because we think we’re not enough. Mothers get this—that push is a lie, and if you need to, drop that paring knife and go purchase onions that are already chopped.

In a burning world, we don’t need to be burnt out. We need to be lit right up, because we were made to be long before we were stressed with too much to do.

When Bitter Means Better

I’m standing outside a small meeting place in Seattle, chowing down food with a vengeance I hope no one sees.

For crying aloud, some of the friends I came with are fasting. But I’m this starving girl with a mouth so full I turn my head so no one notices. Those fasting days have been gone for awhile and life seems to demand a steady supply of food just to keep going strong.

A gentleman walks toward me, nods, and taps a finger to his brain. He knows. I need this food just to be able to think.

But there’s a booming voice inside and I tilt my head toward the open doorway as the African-American preacher shouts it out. “Bow in the name of Jesus Christ!”

I’m spellbound as he continues. His passion draws me in and engages my soul in all that matters most, as does the older lady with glasses on the mid-ridge of her nose, speaking of things that bring her to righteous anger.

I smile, then reach out and thank her for saying what I want to say. In a world of relativism where truth is perceived as judgment, seeing one dare to speak up for truths that are dying out is refreshing to say the least.

Friends, it’s still wrong to cheat on your spouse.

It’s still wrong to lie and steal.

It’s still wrong to beat your kids.

And get this—it’s still wrong to embrace a gay or transgender lifestyle.

Most of the people who say truth is relative and life should be gauged by one’s own happiness [if you want to live a gay life-style, do so], don’t truly believe what they say. When rubber meets the road and their spouse cheats on them [for the sake of his own happiness], they have no trouble labeling it wrong with the most severe judgment.

The problem rises when we choose to label certain things wrong because they affect us, but claim truth to be relative for other areas that don’t affect us.

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A sovereign God Who created the universe gets to choose what is best for the whole of His universe. The fact that humans are able to pronounce such great displeasure and judgment on things that rock their world, but declare others judgmental for hanging onto truth in a rocking world, is but proof of their mortality.

We are humanly capable of defending our own hearts but mortally incapable of living for the heart of God—unless we are indwelled by the Spirit of God.

Spiritual warfare doesn’t just happen. We must speak it out, seek it out, proclaim it out.

We must fight for it, deny for it, reach for it.

We must dare push through the wall of apathy in our culture, and engage the deepest things of God in a world which allows things of the surface to rule.

You don’t have to be burnt up in a burning world; you must be lit up in a dark world. And you must know that, as light overtakes darkness, so every single truth of God will overtake the apathy and relativism of man.

I bite into a flax seed, and its bitter flavor pierces my mouth. Where did that come from? Sweet granola with bitter seeds?

They’re bitter, but entirely nutritious—and the whole of the granola is crunchy sweetness, chock full of nutrition for a day out.

When truth seems bitter, know that it is God’s invitation to wholeness, a life made sweet with His presence. You cannot claim the Presence of God without giving yourself wholly to the heart of God.

Some of the bites you take may have bitter flavor. Take them anyway, and your life will be blessed with the entirety of God’s gift of life, just as my granola was crunchy and sweet even though it was filled with bitter flax seed.

If I had left them out, that bag of granola would have missed one of the most nutritious ingredients. Leave out the truths with a bitter sting to them, and you begin to merge away from the entire picture of wholeness God wants to grace your life with.

As the booming preacher shouted it out, “Bow in the name of Jesus Christ,” so may your life walk it out, “Truth is found in the heart of God.”