If You Give This Girl a Cookie

I’m sure you know the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It tells the story of a sweet little mouse who is hopelessly trapped in a circular tale of desire. He gets the cookie and realizes he wants milk. The milk makes him need napkin. The napkin reminds him that he wants to color. Coloring reminds him that he’s hungry. And so it goes… A couple of months ago, I re-read this book inside Minneapolis’ Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Children. As a chicken ran around my feet and a cat nuzzled my leg, I was struck by this bedtime story’s similarity to my twenty-something life. Then again, isn’t that often how it goes with things that were meant for little ones? Because, for as far as I’d like to imagine that I’ve come, I’m really no better than the mouse. Except we’ve swapped cookies and coloring for larger circumstances, life-related answers, and more adult-sized longings: If the Lord gives Maddie a cookie, she’ll probably wonder where she’s going to eat the cookie. When the Lord tells her where she can eat the cookie, she’ll probably wonder who she can share the cookie with. When the Lord tells her that the people she will share the cookie with aren’t here yet, she’ll probably wonder when they will show up. In waiting for them to show up, she’ll probably realize she wants some milk to go along with the cookie. So she’ll start praying for milk. When the Lord gives her a glass of milk, she’ll drink it (probably forgetting to say “thank you”) and then ask for a napkin to wipe her face with....

No Ordinary Love

Matthew 27:45-46, 51-53 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I began the week wading in thoughts of the selfless love of Christ on the cross. The time between the famous “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and his last mortal breaths was where I dropped anchor. I pondered the suspension. It is a picture of unprecedented darkness. A place where God seemingly abandons his son by placing humanity’s plight on his back to burrow. The darkest of dark. Abject abandonment and withdrawal of God from earth.  As I sipped my morning coffee, I let it sink in. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. A probing question circled up from my warm cup: “Why did Christ (who was above reproach) at the stygian hour continue forward in what must have been a most unusual experience for the Trinity— something completely unnatural— an unbearable separation?” As the only place in scripture where Christ’s words imply triune separation, I imagine it was a new experience for the Godhead. And I presume no person since has experienced that kind of complete withdrawal of God on earth. Hebrews 13:5b And God has said, “Never will I leave...

Saint Patrick: A Blessing

  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 15.20 NIV). Saint Patrick was not Irish, but he is now known as the patron saint of Ireland. How did this English young man make such an influence in Ireland during the fourth century AD? God was able to use what was meant for harm to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Patrick’s real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, and he was kidnapped at the age of 6 and sold into slavery in Ireland for about 6 years. He finally made his way back home and dedicated his life to God. He spent the next 12 years studying under his mentor, St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. When he became a bishop himself, he had a dream that the people of Ireland were calling out to him. He received the Pope’s blessing to return to the very people who enslaved him, and he began a massive spiritual awakening in the hearts of the pagan people. Not only did he win many souls to Christ (including both the rich and the poor), he established monasteries, schools and churches all over Ireland. Because of Saint Patrick’s time as a slave in Ireland, he knew the language and culture and could preach to the people in a way that made sense to them. He had so much zeal for the Lord that even after being arrested many times by the Celtic Druids, he still continued his quest to win the hearts of the Irish...

Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Teaching Our Kids Not to Mask Their Pain

I answered the phone and on the other end was a dear friend sobbing. She was going through a debilitating depression and was making the decision whether to get on medication or not. She has teenagers like myself and I asked her if the kids knew. I could barely hear her whisper on the other end of the line: “No, and I don’t want them to know.” Oh, I knew the feeling all too well. I had just experienced the same thing and had to sit my kids down and explain I had depression and was taking medication. But I too had hidden it from them for quite a while out of shame. We chatted for a while and in the following days we both wrestled with these questions back and forth to each other: “How will we teach our kids the path to wellness if we don’t show them? “How do we explain to them that it’s okay to sometimes not be okay? “What if they someday go through depression like us. Are we teaching them to hide? To run? To be ashamed?” I was taught from an early age how to cope with my pain. My father was a severe alcoholic/addict and I learned early on how to numb it by stuffing it down with a substance or food, or to run from it altogether. My dad ended up getting sober when I was eighteen and was clean for twenty-two years before he passed away two years ago. Through watching him in active recovery all those years and watching him come out of hiding, God began leading me...

Our trials Are NOT Our End

“It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalm 119:71. It was good for me. Affliction is good for me? Trials are good for me? Tests and temptations are good for me? Why? That I might learn. That I might grow. That I might serve. The Scottish minister, James Stewart, profoundly stated, “In love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.” The wounded soldier has felt pain, he has been hurt, suffered, maybe even had to crawl out of a hole to get back on his feet. He has had to dodge enemy fire; he had to keep getting back up, time and time again. But he does. Psalm 147:3. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” It doesn’t matter what caused the broken heart or how the injury got there, God is ready to heal us of our wounds so we can move on and help someone else. Psalm 51:17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” He sees our broken heart and spirit and that is just what He needs to work with and work through! “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39. Our trials are not our end. The scripture doesn’t mean we will not experience difficulty or even suffer in this life. We will! He did! But He promised...

Little Things

  Tonight was one of “those” nights when everybody is ill and getting on everybody else’s nerves. I think I actually heard my little one say that her brother was breathing her air. It was more than I could stand. I thought I was going crazy, but just before I told my family that I was moving to Montana to grow Dental Floss Bushes, the Holy Spirit reminded me of something…. Trust that what Scripture says is true…like when it tells me:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Does this verse apply when my children are fighting over stuff that they don’t even care about? Does this apply when everyone gets on my nerves, when my feelings are hurt, or I’m misunderstood? Does it apply when I’m just grumpy? The verse doesn’t say “Pray about the big stuff.” It says to present EVERY situation to God. So, tonight I did. I ordered my two precious bundles of joy to get their bottoms over to the couch “Before I count to three”, threatened to sell them to the circus if they so much as THOUGHT of touching each other, promised to tape the mouth of the next one that spoke a word, and, with both of them staring at me with that “yep, she’s finally lost it” look in their eyes….I prayed. For their benefit, of course. I prayed because they need to know how to ask for forgiveness.  I wanted God to...

Mortally Wounded Hearts

Recently, while running, I came upon an older gentleman with hat on that said “Army Vet.” I was immediately prompted to thank him for his service because I’ve lived through sending a brother off to war. I’ve wrestled with not knowing if he would return alive. I’ve heard his stories. The sacrifice is real. Immediately, he told me his name was Joe and explained he was an Army medic. It was a pretty surface conversation initially. Joe went on to tell me how he was shot while saving a fellow soldier on the battlefield. Right then, Holy Spirit prompted me, “ask Him about Jesus.” I don’t like that I’m always hesitant in sharing Jesus. I love Jesus and I want to share His life-giving power, but I find myself doubting my words so much that oftentimes I shy away from it. But, hesitantly I asked, “did you come to know Jesus during this time?” Naively, I thought I would share Jesus with Joe, but the truth is he already radiated Jesus from head to toe. For three miles we walked together and he shared Jesus story after Jesus story of God’s faithfulness in his life. Being shot at 18 years old, 13 major surgeries, twice having open heart surgery, battling cancer, having three girls(two adopted), losing his wife unexpectedly to cancer … the stories went on and on and on. Yet, of all the stories he told, one stuck with me. “One day,  I went out to save a soldier and I was also shot. Right here.” Lifting his shirt, Joe revealed a scar on the right side of...

Changing Your Perspective

This morning I took a walk on the beach. The sun was bright and warm on my skin which was a much needed contrast from the brisk wind that almost took my breath.  The sand was powdery white and felt like heaven under my feet. The water from the sea was crisp but it woke my insides up as it made contact with my skin. The ocean is where I feel the most alive. The most connected. It is my place. My soul is refreshed at the ocean. I am renewed. The last several months have been hard for so many people. The feelers of the world are struggling (we are feeling all the feels right now.) Our country is more divided than ever.  Instead of being used to connect people, social media has become a platform for debate and argument, which has led to disconnection. People are drawing lines in the sand… “What side are you on?” I have been occupying this strange space as of late. It’s a lonely space. I do believe a lot of people are in this same space but we have been quiet (for the most part). I have been sitting back watching the division worsen. People on both sides of the political lines aligning themselves with fear, anger, and hatred. Because of the fear, anger, and hatred people have become very close minded and unable to see things from another perspective let alone engage in healthy conversation. This morning as I was walking down the beach and around the bend at the end of the island, I walked up onto a large...

Self Imposed Fog

I read a devotional the other day on trusting God through the fog, the writer recounting a difficult drive down a foggy mountain road and trusting God to take her safely home. I have not had that experience of driving down a foggy mountain road. And yet, recently…I created my own fog on a bright sunny day. Nothing had changed. A blinding fog did not roll in and obscure my view. I just took my eyes off what God can do and let circumstances overwhelm me with doubt and fear. I was not a friend to myself. I was a saboteur of my own journey. For a while I let a thick fog swirl around me and swallow up my hope and faith and pull me into a dark place where discouragement filled my heart. We all have those days when praying, waiting, and working toward something are met with discouragement. We often find we derail our confidence in the Lord with our own weakness and wrong thinking because for a while we take our eyes off of Him and instead let a fog of doubt and worry surround us. The fog comes rolling in when I take my eyes off of the Lord. It is a miserable place to be when we feel like we have lost our way and can’t find a clear solution. There are multiple possibilities for our discouragement. We become impatient because we have already waited a very long time for answers. We might convince ourselves we have asked for too much or too big and back down from our asking. We don’t see...