If given a choice, would I choose better?

Do worrisome life situations seem to follow you around? Do cycles of anxiety find themselves recurring in your life? If stressful moments have turned into recognizable patterns creeping up every year…. Then, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. It’s not hard to look around and find worry and anxiety. The data reports it is affecting even children with 1 in 5 kids suffering from anxiety, and 30% of those being young girls (source.) Sometimes the culprit is a lack of choosing well, or a loss of appetite for things of true value. In the dawn of technology and uber-consumerism, chasing after happiness with the next best thing has become a way of life. Our need to stay technologically current is a given and with it comes benefits. It’s less time-consuming, easier, and safer to communicate behind round emojis than in face-to-face conversations. I know because many times I have chosen to text rather than talk. There is deep value in connecting with family and friends, and I am thrilled to live in an age where technology allows us to do this with such ease. But sometimes consumer trends leave me searching in counterfeit places for things of sustenance. The next iPhone, a big screen TV, the perfect app all to create the best jobs, cars, schools, and bodies. Together, I am told, they produce happiness. But do they? While consumer striving grows louder, the authentic voice for what will genuinely make my soul happy grows quieter. And therein lies a tension. Living alongside this tension begs a crucial question: If given a better choice, would I choose it? Jesus...

Listen up— today, there is good news and a reason to celebrate the future

The book of Isaiah captures a beautiful, and yet foreboding, story of God’s judgment and redemption for His beloved nation of Israel. In it, the southern kingdom of Judah has a long track record of making choices that consistently focus on present danger; they eventually end up in Babylonian captivity. One of Judah’s idolatrous sins is short-sightedness concerning their current situation: they are fixated on present woes. Even on the precipice of invasion by the Assyrian army, Judah’s looming fear prevents them from listening to the prophecies of Isaiah urging hearts to return to God. Ironically, 500 years earlier, when entering the Promised Land, God actually warned Israel of this nationwide trap: Deuteronomy 6:10-12 10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied,12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. The nation of Israel forgot God. They forgot much of what He had done for them starting at the Exodus. So, through prophets over the course of 100 years, God reminded them to examine their ways and repent so He could once again lead them. Yet they fell captive to the snare of idolatrous thinking: deeming the woes of tomorrow as more powerful than the God who had already proven Himself a fortified defender even through hopeless...

May Our Feet be Quick to Move in Peace

  Hebrews 6:13-17 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Most all the armor items in this verse are straight-forward: breastplate, helmet; shield and buckle; sword. When I read this verse I imagine soldiers standing upright as their commanding general walks down the line yelling out preparations. Each item’s roll call is met with a collective and guttural “Yes sir”, indicating a battalion ready to be part of a respectable war. But when I get to the word peace my mind comes to a screeching halt. Confusion fills my head like smoke at a NASCAR race.   PEACE?!   I mean what in the world does peace have to do with a formidable fight!? My thoughts go from the valiant Braveheart to Goofy at Disneyland. Understandably swords, shields, helmets and flaming arrows make sense to me as requirements for a war. But then I ask myself, why would God cover the body with armor and then stop short at the feet? And why mention the word peace on the checklist for such undaunted combat? There are 52 bones in our...

Harvesting Quietness

One day last month, I found myself chuckling during a moment of self-awareness in front of the kitchen sink. As I sipped some morning coffee, the prayerful chattering of my mind was in full gear, even though my body struggled to wake up fully. My thoughts were already in communication with the Lord before my feet had hit the floor, and as I crossed over to the window I saw two squirrels in our backyard. They were clamoring non-stop and jumping wildly across the tree limbs. Suddenly everything got quiet. A soft hush filled the air and that is when it hit me. It was as if I heard God say, “You see, even creation practices silence. You should try practicing it too." Now, I have grown very comfortable in my relationship with God. I am completely myself as I go through my day with God by my side as a trusted companion. I talk, mostly, never running out of things to say. But, this particular day God wanted me to practice self-control. He had something to say that required my full attention. It was important I stop my tongue-flapping and listen. It was important I be silent.   Mother Teresa In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.   Harvesting quietness during the day is not always easy, especially in the hectic pace of our 21st century lives. Silence doesn’t feel natural to us. It is not a widely practiced discipline in our culture, so its importance goes demurely unnoticed. But God’s Word says that...

God’s grace— a stark and rewarding reality

The other day I saw a mother whose son had acted out at school. The boy snapped and made some poor choices in words and attitude toward a classmate. He was emotional about what happened, as was his mother. Taking him by the arm, she pulled him aside where she spoke to him quietly and then hugged him tightly. As she returned to her group of friends, she sheepishly started her Rolodex of excuses. He did not have enough sleep the night before. The classmate who started the argument is not a nice kid. A strong sense of justice is inherent in her son’s demeanor. He really likes his other classmates. The list was received by caring faces who coddled soft excuses for her son’s behavior. Haven’t we all been here? The inexcusable child. The coddling mother. Friends who struggle with telling other friends the hard truth. Enter, grace. Ah, amazing grace. Such indelible grace makes us feel better about our lackluster selves. [Pause] But God’s grace didn’t hide in the shadow of excuses for our behavior. It stood on a hill in our shame, bloodied and naked for the entire world to see. God’s mercy came to earth for our deeply depraved souls. So, if we minimize our personal “crud” as a way of feeling better about ourselves, the sober awareness about our redemption gets sidelined in the process. We miss out on why grace was so amazing. Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself...

Keeping the shutters of our hearts open

I Corinthians 3:16  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? Every morning after making my bed, I open the white plantation shutters above the headboard in our bedroom and I stand in the sun’s light that brightens the room. As I slide the anchor bar upward, I call to mind something my mother told me 5 years ago. She and I were in a conversation about the heart and the spirit of God. She said to me, “keep the shutters of your heart open. Let the light of the spirit of God come through and touch those around you while it simultaneously comes back and touches you. Keep your heart an open conduit.” Every time my fingers move over those shutters, I clearly see the image my mom spoke of: the image of God’s spirit in me flowing out around others and then returning back into my life. In my mind, it is the quintessential picture of how God’s love flows through and in all situations. Also in the picture of that motherly advice, I am reminded of a certain role I have to play. That role is to open, and keep open, the shutters of my heart in order to allow His presence the room to roam. Oftentimes, especially with relational conflict or struggle, my desire is to shut down my tender heart as a way to block uncomfortable conflict or vulnerability. It is quite natural for me to do just that in difficult situations. But my mother’s gentle advice held the idea to leave myself open, still allowing God to move during those...

Truthful Terrariums

Twentieth century technology has opened access roads to real time events of people everywhere. Our world has evolved into a technological dinner theater of sorts, where we are all actors in our stories and sometimes in the stories of others. This never-before-snapshot of the world in which we live is fascinatingly instant in its delivery with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ leading the pack as great vehicles for sharing our lives with others. Before this century, rapid-fire texts and instant downloads were unheard of. As a young girl I remember trying on clothes in front of my bedroom mirror. Yet now, instead of a physical mirror hanging on our bedroom or bathroom wall, we gawk at brightly cloaked rectangular mirrors fixated in the palm of our hands. I watch my daughter fire out sequential messages to a group of friends allowing mass market appeal to decide which of her outfits makes the cut for the day. Who could have known our little fingertips would become one of the largest assets of the modern day global economy? Yet, as we place our vanity before the world’s mirror of insta-likes, compliment trolling, and uber-hits on social media, if we are not careful, this binary tree of reality and make believe could have the same emptiness as Adam and Eve’s apple. Its filter-focused postings tend to romanticize non truths about our make-believe lives. Before long our house of tricks may come crashing down as we glimpse double chins or rough looking skin in our side view mirror. Ecclesiastes 7:29 “This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone...

Agenda Bruising

Luke 10:38-40 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” I wonder if Martha’s agenda got bruised when Christ called her out in Luke 10. Mine would have, especially if I was “doing” something I thought useful and important while Mary sat star-struck at the Messiah’s feet (I can see Martha’s eyes rolling at Mary). Martha was making things comfortable for her guest. She was doing a good and customary requirement in preparing her home for him. I would guess that her right to exercise the word “but” to the Messiah was invoked: “But, Lord, I’ve worked so hard.” (translation: Lord, my work is just as important as Mary’s attitude) “But, look at me!” (translation: Notice me!) “But, how can what she’s doing be better?” (translation: Lord, I’m jealous that you are interested in her more than me) “But, Lord, I did this so you would notice!” (translation: I need you) There there, Martha. What if deep down you have a need— a need to be noticed in a place where emptiness grows? What if you desire to validate a version of you, without addressing your connectivity issue with a Savior? Mary recognizes her inadequacy because of her awareness that she is...

Honor and Rebellion

Urban definitions for a rebel: Someone who does not conform to popular trends; A person who questions established rules; Someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action, Not swayed by what others think; A true rebel stands up for what they believe is right, not against what’s right. Somewhere between exiting the womb and stomping through the world, I became a rebel at heart. I have not always, however, used this character trait in healthy ways. I remember in my early 20s audibly voicing to God my intention of abandoning my faith and the belief He loves me. I quickly stumbled down a road of deep loneliness and despair. For many years I grappled with the lie that sin is free, fun, and no harm to others. Eventually by grace, God carried me to a place of better understanding who He is and who I am to Him. Twenty years later, I often wonder if those innate parts of me that lead me to think deeply and question often could have run toward better goals, and not such damaging ones. For years I considered my renegade spirit a bad thing. In my head there were two options: get rid of it, or bow down to it. Seeing it as a mistaken part of my chemical make-up, I questioned it as a gift from God. How could this part of fierce DNA have worked with the sweetness of my Christ-centered soul? Could those feisty parts of my character actually produce goodness? Is there a way to rebel without sin? Enter the image of Christ— powerfully intense, impassioned and righteous...

Echoes of Eden, and the Case of Perfectionism

  Sometimes I find myself partnering with perfectionism to restore my belief that I am strong, independent, and loved. When I complete a task with every detail in place, it makes me feel fully competent. This feeling of competency saddles up next to my personal worth and I take it as an indication of how well I’m riding in this life. However, other times, perfectionism looms overhead like a black cloud. As it funnels closer and closer, I hear the words “not good enough” and my thoughts darken. My mind translates whatever task I failed to achieve as an overwhelming lack of worth, esteem, respect, and confidence. These feelings initiate an emotional storm where my sense of self gets washed away. Our world longs for perfection. Our obsession with beauty and youth is one small reaction to that longing. I seek perfect experiences in many areas of my life: my relationship with God, safety, provision, health, children, family, love, and the list goes on. But I don’t believe God ever intended the longing for perfection, or these echoes of Eden, to fall into the either category of pride or self-loathing. When I get caught in between these two harsh realities, I remind myself that God’s garden was perfect. Ezekiel 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.   I become aware that perfection on earth falls flat as it is measured against the...