Forgiveness Is Cake…

“It’s a piece of cake.” How many times have we said that about simple math, riding a bicycle, or learning a new task? How could I even suggest that such an important, often monumental, usually painful, task as forgiveness simply be a piece of cake?

I’ve heard forgiveness, or lack of, compared to various tangible items and situations: drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, chain2carrying heavy rocks around in a backpack, being chained to another, laying down a heavy load, cleansing your hands, burying a hatchet…and so many more.  But this week I heard a whole new spin on forgiving…it’s like cake!

I like cake.. but a good cake can be really complicated. The right ingredients and measurements, containers and preparation, altitude and preciseness all factor in to the final outcome… the appearance, the taste, and the satisfaction. And if you want it to look really good and appealing…that’s a whole other story!

As I sat with a trusted friend discussing the intricacies and fallacies of forgiveness, she said it:

Forgiveness is like cake. We can say we have forgiven and cover it up and push it to the side saying ‘there, that’s done’; but it’s better to cut into each piece and see what’s in it…deal with and really be done with it.

Colossians 3:13 says: Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins say: Your health depends on it…Forgiveness is not just about saying the words. It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not.

My friend says: Cut the cake.

c5b7b73f-72e1-4e8e-ab79-14c28703affeI like word pictures. To me that was an incredibly practical piece of advice. How many times have I forgiven someone…just like throwing a blanket over a virtual plate, or crate, of offenses and shoving it off to the side. Out of sight, checked off my spiritual to-do list, a temporary respite from the heaviness, and presumed guilt and shame? Or felt like a good girl, doing the right thing and forgiving as Jesus commanded… Until something rose up in me again…a face, a memory, another offense.

Cutting cake can be messy…scattered crumbs and icing clumps can be annoying, sticky, and hard to clean.

Relationships can be messy too. Just like cake…the result of improper ingredients, faulty measurements, broken containers, poor preparation, attitudes, expectations, and simply being broken humans in a broken world.

Cutting it open means exposing it. What’s really inside and behind 76b26c41-036b-4ea0-b62f-9e787045eb9bimg_8611and under? It can be messy, painful, hard…but freeing. It means naming it: the offense, the hurt, the pain, the injustice, the whys, the why nots, the what-ifs, the never-going-to-be. It also means uncovering truths, lies, fears, expectations, hopes. It doesn’t mean we will get all the answers. It simply means we will really be able to see the full scope of our hurt and know that we  are intentionally, specifically forgiving the offense and all that it has meant to us. It is emptying our plate and starting fresh, expectant.

Three of the biggest challenges I have heard about the difficulty of forgiving are:

  1. It’s letting the offender off the hook
  2. It’s not recognizing the depth of the hurt /or saying it really didn’t matter.
  3. It’s too painful to remember.

Oh, but it matters. It deeply matters. You matter. And you will remember…consciously, subconsciously, in your patterns of behaviors and responses…you remember. And you can live out of that place of woundedness, pain, and unforgiveness; or you can be healed to remember and live from a place of deliverance and freedom.

Mark 9:42 says Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

Romans 12:17-19 says Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

I love the Old Testament story of Joseph. Hated, rejected, betrayed, sold into slavery, misused, falsely accused, forgotten. He knew exactly what had been done, what he was forgiving, and most importantly how God had given him the resiliency and faithfulness to be able to proclaim in Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  He cut the cake. He recognized the evil intent, the mistreatment, the unfairness… but also recognized that God had used all the mistreatment, all the detours, all the pain and suffering to bring him to a place of growth and purpose. A place of freedom. I believe He still does that in our lives today.

So if you’re reading this, maybe you’re just curious or maybe you have a need. A hurt, an unhealed tender spot, a nagging dark shadow, an offense to forgive. 56629803-26a9-4966-a3d4-ea47fe65f090So pull up your cake plate, a knife, and your willingness. Find a trusted friend or counselor  and cut the cake. Inspect it. See what’s inside, what it’s made of…piece by piece. You’ll be glad you did. Then frequently consider, what’s on your plate?

Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.         Proverbs 11:14 NASB

Another Prayer For My Hometown

In 2017 I wrote a post titled “A Prayer For My Hometown.” img_5200At the time, it was to address a specific situation happening locally. There was an outside hate group that threatened to come in to stir up division and discord…right here at our little town square. It was trouble threatening us from outside our boundaries…uninvited, unwanted, unsupported.

While that was addressing a specific time and event, I’ve noticed something interesting about the post: it has been viewed by people from 35 different countries in the past year. Thirty five!  It is by far my most widely read post. South Africa, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Pakistan, India, Kuwait…just a few. Queue Walt Disney’s melodious musical tones of “It’s a Small World After All…”

I traveled to Guatemala on a mission trip in college. Since then, I haven’t really traveled very far. I don’t speak another language. I don’t really engage in varied cultures. But as I thought about people from all over the world sitting at their computers or on their phones doing a search for words and prayers for their hometown, the world suddenly became very familiar and very small to me. bd7936c9-c694-477f-a3b3-8c2473696a27It became my hometown, my familiar space, the place where I live and work and worship and love. I saw so much more than colors on a map.

As I have thought about the needs that would drive people to seek and to pray, I don’t believe it’s simply a black and white issue, a right or wrong issue, a peace or chaos issue, or an us and them issue… I believe there is an underlying common theme of human frailty, hurt, and need…and hope. People are hurting, people are searching, but so many people still cling to hope. And sometimes that is enough.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come…

I don’t really understand war. But parts of the world are always at war. Always. I don’t understand merciless killing or torture or captivity or terrorism. I don’t understand deceit and hatred based simply on appearance or social stature. The band Nickelback imagined it well:

If everyone cared and nobody cried,                                                                                                  If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
 Then we’d see the day when nobody died.

But that’s just a song. Of course people die. And people do cry. Some deaths are mere echoes and celebrations of a lives well-lived. Some church1tears are joyous and cleansing and freeing. Some tears come from depth of pain and need. King David cried. Jesus wept. I have cried. I imagine you have too. Tears of sorrow, pain, loneliness, helplessness, anger, injustice, and hope. Tears for ourselves and tears for others. My heart hurts for people who are lost, displaced, discouraged, hopeless, or in fear. For people who feel cast aside and forgotten. Unwanted. I see it in the news and pages of magazines. I see it in people’s faces that I encounter daily. Some are in physical wars, others in emotional and spiritual battles. But many are searching for solutions, for remedies, for a moment of peace and hope in a sin-ravaged, war-torn world.

While I don’t really understand actual war,  I know that there are things and people and ideas that are worth fighting for. When I think of all the people in countries where their own government suppresses or sabotages them, where their children go hungry or die from treatable diseases, where the poor are treated as less-than or disposable…What can I do? Are they the ones who are searching for prayers for their own hometowns?

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places…

When I see the devastation and loss and incredible tragedy as natural disasters are unleashed with destructive, uncontrollable, unpredictable power destroying everything in their paths…  When people lose their homes, their hopes, their communities…What can I do? Who is praying for their hometowns?

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…

I have recently traveled to several cities close to home where terrible tragedies have brokenchurchhappened. Two church shootings, other public shootings, serious widespread fires, racial unrest, tornadoes, unexpected violent deaths… When people are intentionally wounding others: abusing, exploiting, rejecting, abandoning, killing…What can I do? When people are overwhelmed with crippling fear, crushing anxiety, and debilitating depression…trapped inside their own heads, battling torment, mental health, or addictions….what can I do?

…but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved…

Yes, there are some tangible ways I can intervene. I can spend money and time and effort and kind words…but sometimes the bigger battle is fought on a different battlefield. When I can speak, I will speak. When I can give, I will give. When I can go, I will go. But sometimes… I can pray. I will pray. So this is my prayer for my hometown, for me, my family, my friends, my neighbors…and for you and your hometown too:

img_5729Lord, I pray that you will give me an abundance of faith, hope, and love…A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over… (Luke 6:38) I pray for: faith to seek and to believe, hope to want and to know, love to care and to intercede.

In addition, I pray for hunger. Not for satisfaction of an earthly longing, but for an insatiable desire…a hunger for truth, for action, for kindness, for mercy, for justice. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8) 

Lord, could I pray for world peace and brotherly love, with an end to war and strife? An end to abuse, addiction, murder, and disease? Yes, but you told b5d10f36-f91d-4d3e-906d-b4d2cce03689us in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  So I pray for God-given peace regardless of circumstances.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim 1:7) I pray that we will not lose heart but will look to you.

I pray that each member of the church body will arise to the full function you have designed. Lord give us eyes that see worth, value, purpose, and God’s design. Eyes that see your way where there was previously no way. Eyes that see your image on each face we encounter and your hand on each unexpected miracle.

Give us ears that not only hear the cries of the lonely, the destitute, the needy….but also the gifted, those designed for service, the divine ideas whispered to our spirits in the quiet times.

Give us hearts open enough to love deeply but strong enough to be solid in conviction and truth. Sensitive to you and your leading but guarded enough to be aware of the enemy’s schemes.

Give us hands that reach the unreachable, that hold onto truth and hope, and that hold our families, our friends, our brothers and sisters, close and point them to you.

547275cc-c827-4d14-83e0-c081ec2a20a9Give us feet that stand firm on your word, your truth, your promises. Feet that go where you lead and create a path for those who are lost or searching to follow.

So while these may sound like simple personal prayers for the individual, healing begins with one. Encouragement begins with one. Discipleship begins with one. For as I am overflowing with faith, hope, love, and truth…I will be changed, my neighbors will be changed, my world will be changed. I will be praying for you and your hometown.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Prov 31:8-9)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.   (Mt 24:6-14)

 

My Therapist Has Fleas

My therapist has fleas!

Well…she doesn’t now, but she did for awhile. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Don’t we all feel like that sometimes? Like something small and pesky is nibbling at us. At least…that’s how I felt…like tiny, little, barely-seen pests were nipping and biting and annoying me. Not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Have you ever tried to get rid of pesky little fleas? img_2066It takes dedicated work…an investment of time, energy, and multiple resources. I suppose it’s just a complication of living in a flea-ridden world.

Although I know it’s just a season…it has been a long, difficult season. I saw a funny quote recently:

This too will pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

That’s pretty funny…unless it’s your kidney stone!

I’ve walked through an unusually trying season with friends, family, patients, and even personally. Several months of struggle, frustration, loss, sickness, heavy burdens, and life-change made me feel like I needed assistance outside myself and my own thought and prayer life.

I didn’t actually go see a real therapist but I did find a pretty accurate definition of therapist:  a licensed mental health professional who helps clients improveimg_2080 their lives, develop better cognitive and emotional skills, reduce symptoms of mental illness and cope with various challenges. Hmmm…my new therapist isn’t actually licensed but she has had all her shots. 🙂

I didn’t really get a puppy as a form of therapy. She just sort of fell into that role: friend, support, encourager, motivator, snuggler, and confidante. So what actually makes a good therapist? Well…

My therapist always meets me at the door. I guess that means she is happy to see me! Don’t we all need that warm welcoming smile and excitement? That pure, unbridled joy of someone running to meet you, embrace you, and love you unconditionally.  It has definitely improved my outlook,  life, and emotions!

img_2060My therapist has big ears. I guess that means she is a great listener. She never judges or minimizes anything I say. She holds everything in the strictest and most reassuring confidence. She doesn’t gossip, murmur, or complain. She has never said anything negative or demeaning to me but I still sense truth in her eyes and attitudes.

My therapist sometimes pees on the floor. Well…nobody’s perfect. And when ya gotta go… She is teaching me patience, awareness, and how to really watch where I’m stepping.

She sometimes chews my shoes. Again…nobody’s perfect. More lessons on patience and accepting others’ flaws and imperfections. Other lessons: it’s only money and material possessions, live a little, take a big bite of what tastes good, find happiness in the small things, be humble, and stay near your Master’s feet.

My therapist sleeps with me. Ha! I considered making that the title of this post but decided against trying to suggest or sensationalize the inappropriate. 😉  She calms me and exemplifies peace and rest in the quiet stillness of her closeness and comfort. Or sometimes she wakes me up to play at 3 a.m. She has taught me both the importance of rest and the flexibility of being available when needed. And snuggling in close to those you love. 🙂

My therapist wears a Santa Claus Suit. Really. She does.img_2059 Just to have fun and celebrate the season…and to remind me that life is a gift. Companionship is a gift. Beauty and fun are gifts. Other lessons: be bold, wear red, let your hair (or ears) down occasionally, and be confident because even lanky and awkward can be beautiful when they’re worn well.

img_2058She meets me where I am. No expectations, no pretense. Just unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Other lessons: scrunch in close, be attentive, maintain eye contact, be seen and heard.

She assures me that we all img_2088need a helping hand from time to time. Don’t be stubborn, prideful, and self-sufficient. Allow others the opportunity and blessing to support and care for you too.

She models being present for your friends. It’s actually a ministry: the ministry of giving time and presence. She may img_2093not have the “right” words to say or the solution to the problem, but there is comfort in the warmth and closeness of someone who knows, cares, accepts, and loves. The old song was right on: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong; and I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on.”

She lets me know that it’s img_2090okay to enjoy a drink with a friend. Live it up, loosen your inhibitions, get your face dirty, laugh, and indulge. Responsibly, of course.

img_2089She shows me that a hug is always a good choice. People don’t always need your knowledge, your advice, your money. But most people want and need your touch. Hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek, heart to heart.

In no way am I telling anyone to get a puppy or not to see a therapist. There is wisdom, support, and tremendous healing in time spent with a caring, wise, invested counselor. But for now, my therapist has blue eyes, knobby knees, four paws, a wagging tail, and puppy breath. And she is bringing comfort and healing to a world ridden with pesky little fleas.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.  Prov 11:14

 

 

 

On Guilt and Grace…

I’m not a theologian and this isn’t exactly a deep theological post. I am merely a bearer of guilt and a recipient of grace more often times than I can recount. And I’m a firm believer that God uses simple, tangible things to teach our simple minds.


guilt
/ɡilt/
noun
verb
grace
/ɡrās/
noun
2. the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
verb

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the hard decision my family had to make about choosing life or death for our old dog. While ultimately everyone said it was the merciful decision, it still caused me to wrestle with guilt and all the “buts and what-ifs.” Was I betraying my dog? Was I being irresponsible or taking the “easy way out”? Was she really ready to go, as many people suggested?

Guilt is heavy. It makes you question, judge, and condemn thoughts, motives, and actions. Sometimes guilt is appropriate and helpful to convict, correct, and even clarify beliefs, patterns, and purposes. It can be saving and transformative…providing you use it as a stepping stone to get safely to the other side of the raging sea and not a millstone tied around your neck, dragging you down to drown with it.

But grace. If you believe there’s a God and He is really concerned and deeply involved in people’s lives, you see things differently. Not perfectly, not always 20/20, but differently.

Now to the totally non-theological part. Two days after the difficult decision, I received a text from a friend who knew I had struggled with the loss of my dog.img_1822 Good news! A friend of a friend had six week old puppies she needed homes for. Free puppies! I would like to say I wrestled with the decision. I prayed about it. I sought all the veterinary or psychiatric advice about trying to fill old paw prints too soon. But I didn’t. With a resounding “yes!”, we committed to a little bundle of puppy joy. We contacted the owner and she confirmed she had a little black and white, blue-eyed puppy she would save for us until I returned from a trip the following week.

img_1821While on the trip I wrestled again. Was it too soon? We hadn’t even seen or met this puppy. What if the owner gave her away before next week? It’s so easy to rehearse unnecessary worries and fears. And this was just a puppy! How often and easily can we get consumed by day to day whys and what ifs! Was it coincidence or a God-inspired reassurance that everything was going to be okay when I found a little token of reassurance in gift shop 200 miles away from home?

Welcome, Maggie Grace…img_1823

My daughter calls it “Jesus-juking” when someone overspiritualizes or credits everything to divine intervention. Let me Jesus-juke for a moment:

  • My friend’s nephew’s friend (complicated) had puppies available at just the right time. Free!
  • We were first told they were all taken (tragedy) but someone wasn’t fully committed and backed out.
  • I went in a store in Gatlinburg to find a small garden flag and found one with the close likeness of the pup’s pic on it. (In the colors and flag theme we were wanting!) It even said “Welcome” on it.  🙂
  • While we were waiting to meet the pup, we visited an old antique store that had an old red truck like the one on the flag.
  • She was even more beautiful and cuddly in img_1824person than in the pic.
  • She snuggled in and fit perfectly in our home and hearts right away.
  • She gets along great with the cat and all the other dogs that come and go.

So ultimately…it’s just a puppy. But healing and happiness can be found in small gifts of the ordinary and everyday sights, sounds, and presences in your life. It’s grace.

There’s a song I really like by Matthew West, “Grace Wins”

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing, hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
The broke inside begins to heal
And grace returns what guilty stole

And in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear You call my name saying it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat so loud now
Drowning out the doubt
I’m down, but I’m not out

Maybe that seems like a stretch when I’m just talking about a puppy. But it’s really all grace. All a gift. All unearned.

img_1839
My friend, Sharon, who found Maggie for me.

Today is Maggie’s birthday. She is three months old. Since we brought her home, she has been lavished with love and attention. She has been taken for walks on the Greenway. to PetSmart, to Petco, to Dunkin, to Sonic. She has received treats and toys, beds and blankets, snacks and snuggles. What has she done to deserve it? Nothing. We love and accept her…chewed blankets, house accidents and all.

img_1840
She brought new life and hope to my son.

Loving a puppy isn’t difficult. Training, disciplining, watching, protecting, going outside in the rain and early morning hours… Well, it’s grace. We all stumble, mess up, and need a little extra care now and then.

She is growing so fast…not as fluffy; long, lanky legs, a little awkward… She’s still growing and learning to trust and to become her real self. But aren’t we all: awkward, changing, imperfect. But hopefully we can rest in the knowledge that we are loved, we are learning, and we are growing in grace. Happy birthday, Maggie Grace.  🙂

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Phil 1:2-3

 

 

Fully Alive

Once in a great while a book comes along that grips you, challenges you, encourages you, and changes you. It grabs you and makes you shout a resounding “yes” or “me too” or “I understand” from the comfort of your favorite reading chair.  A book that you wish you had written. A book that will remain on your shelf of favorites indefinitely. I recently read a book like that.


fully  \ fo͝olē/  (adverb)

1. completely or entirely; wholly; to the furthest extent

alive  \ ə-ˈlīv(adjective)

1. having life; living; existing; not dead or lifeless

2. in a state of action; in force or operation; active

3. full of energy and spirit; lively; having the quality of life; vivid; vibrant

So…being fully alive means: living a vibrant life, full of energy and spirit? Being whole, complete…to the furthest extent?  Jesus said it like this:

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, til it overflows].   John 10:10 amp


Fully Alive by Susie Larson arrived in my mailbox at the precise time I needed it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was about to walk through a hard struggle, a dark valley of a very emotionally trying time. I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe God has perfect timing. One of the first quotes to jump off the page was this:

What happens in our souls happens in our cells.

Wait…did I read that right? “What happens in our souls happens in our cells.” She went on to say “A distressed soul creates a distressed body.”  That’s it! FAsetfreeThat’s what I’ve been trying to tell myself and my friends and my patients for years. I’ve said it in so many different ways but none as direct and easy to understand as that. It’s cellular…foundational, a building block on which everything else is built.

cell – the smallest structural unit of living matter capable of functioning independently

Do you see how important that is? The very building block, the blueprint, the structure woven within us responds to comfort, love, peace, and joy…but also to pain, anger, unforgiveness, shame, fear, grief, anxiety, and so much more.

People are resilient. They can go through all types of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and FAwholeevery imaginable adversity; but why do some thrive but others  stay stuck forever? Always wounded, always a victim, never an overcomer? In the Old Testament, after God had delivered the young men from the heat of the fiery furnace, it was noted that:  the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! (Daniel 3:27)

They didn’t even smell like smoke. What does that look like in our world? To not have any lasting, contaminating residue from our fiery trials, afflictions, and wounding from others? “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god.” To be walking around, even in the midst of trial and adversity, unbound? Unrestricted in our walk with God and others? Fully Alive. I see people so wound up,FAiknow stressed out, frazzled, and going in so many different directions that they never consider how everything brewing beneath the surface is affecting their current physical and emotional health.

Autoimmune disease, obesity, poor nutrition, chronic pain, addiction, depression, anxiety, despair, and suicide are at an all-time high: physical, emotional, and spiritual sickness, injury, and disease. I think Susie may have tapped into so much more than she realized with that simple phrase: “What happens in our souls happens in our cells.”

So…what’s the next step? To identification, to healing, to restoration?

We cannot and must not keep grinding our gears through life while ignoring the physical and emotional toll that our hardships have had on us. Neither can we ignore the mental and/or emotional symptoms that are trying to get our attention.

Susie describes FAuneartha gentle “unearthing” process…like a farmer carefully preparing his field for sowing seed and new life, like the gentle strokes of artist creating a timeless masterpiece, or the life-saving hands of  skilled surgeon.

Discovery takes work. Healing, renewal, and restoration take work. Each chapter of the book concludes with opportunity for soul-searching, prayer, reflection, spiritual resetting, and digging deeper. It’s a good work. A life-changing, healing work.

Part of our healing process involves resetting our perspectives around our suffering and the sufferings of others.

I studied Genesis last year and couldn’t help but be reminded of Joseph’s words: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” Not that the author addresses that specifically; but she does address the battle we’re in, peace in the storm, trust, and rest for our bodies and souls.

In the midst of the specific storm I was facing a few weeks ago, I had an unexplainable peace. As I sat in my cozy chair with the book, I read these words:

There’s a time to engage and contend for the promises of God, and many of us know how to war on that front. But in the midst of the battle, so few of usFAfight know the warfare power of a heart at rest. Jesus modeled this when He slept in a boat that was about to be capsized in the storm. He didn’t worry. He didn’t panic, He didn’t feel an impending sense of doom. He took a nap. And when He got up from his nap, He took authority over the storm.

He took authority. His mind, body, and spirit were at rest. Fully Alive. At that point I realized what “a peace that passes understanding” meant and what it felt like to be walking, and resting, in it. To be Fully Alive is to feel: joy and pain, but hope. Heartache and victory.  But being Fully Alive is also to fight…sometimes with the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith; sometimes with rest, trust, and dependence.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” Is 30:15

There is so much more I could write about the book img_9377and its encouragement and impact on my life during this season. But maybe it’s your turn to explore and dig and unearth and walk in rest and freedom…to be Fully Alive.

But message me if you want to study it together!  🙂

All quotes from Susie Larson’s book Fully Alive: Learning to Flourish-Mind, Body & Spirit

#FullyAlive

 

 

 

 

Dogs, Days, and Decisions…

I’m a terrible decision maker. Not that I make bad decisions, I just have a hard time deciding what to do. Something as simple as where to eat after church on Sunday, what color to paint a room, or where to go on vacation can send me into a dizzying tailspin of confusion and indecision. So for someone who has trouble deciding on tacos or pizza, beige or gray, the beach or Boston, what do you do when faced with a decision of life or death?

I made a very good decision about fifteen years ago.

img_7161Sitting at a computer screen perusing an animal rescue site, I saw her. Little bitty ears, bright eyes, and a playful face…I knew we had to have her. So we packed up the family van with a little clothes basket and blanket in the back and drove to the Franklin County Animal Shelter in Belvedere, Tennessee. There in the front office we met the little black and white pup we had seen on the screen. They had affectionately named her Bonnie and she was the unofficial office pup, scampering freely in the office with her other little furry partner in crime. Bonnie had had a rough start: abandoned, wormy, malnourished, found wandering on the side of a busy highway, narrowly avoiding traffic. Someone had rescued her and brought her to safety and nurture. She was 10-12 weeks old when we met her and she wasn’t wormy, malnourished, neglected, abandoned, unwanted, or unloved any longer. She was playful and thriving as she bounced around the office, back and forth between our excited children.

In the van and into the padded clothes basket she went. We had already named her before we even img_7213saw her in real life. No longer Bonnie…welcome home Molly Ann Foster!

We’ve always been dog-people. Molly joined big brother Zack, also a rescue, and the next several years consisted of dog toys, backyard chases, treats, and snuggles . There was the fishing-lure-up-the-nose-requiring-surgery incident, but mostly fun, furry times. It would take hours to list all the love, laughter, memories, and blessings that Molly brought to us all. Dogs are like that. “Man’s best friend.” Also, kids’ best friend…and mom’s best friend. 🙂


Days turn into weeks and months and years. Even as I write this, I feel the weight of  a hard day, week, and year. Today I  made one of the hardest decision I’ve ever made: to let Molly go. It was a family decision along with discussions with the vet, numerous friends, img_7212and even Facebook advice. But I was the one who took her for that last dreadful drive. Honestly, it felt a little like betrayal. But also mercy, compassion, and love.

Actually, it didn’t really feel like love at the moment. It felt necessary, but it also felt like a hard, heavy, ultimate betrayal. Like I was giving up. I was supposed to protect her and make the best decisions for her.

I am thankful for a friend who called at just the right moment.

A friend who loved Molly as her own, who puppy-sat her on our first trip away, who created so much excitement in Molly that it made Molly pee a little every time she saw her. Maybe that’s a little too much information, but funny every time. A friend who had walked the same road and told me I did the right, loving, merciful thing. A friend who believes our pets are gifts from God and who believes we will see our pets again. Maybe some people don’t believe that; but I do. I believe she is free and whole and pain free, and running with her big brother, Zack.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Proverbs 31:26

What would I say to Molly? That I’m sorry. That I tried everything, every medicine, every prayer that I had. That she was so good, so loved, so wanted. That she was beautiful and smart. She was chosen and she was perfect. That I miss her already. That she had a good life and her life made our lives better. What could be a better tribute for anybody? Your life made someone else’s life better.

I don’t cry often but I’ve found myself weepy all day. At the vet, on the way home, in the middle of Sam’s, with every phone call, with every typed word. And that’s okay. It tells me that it matters, it hurts, it’s loss; but mostly it’s love and privilege. I’ll always be a dog lover. They bring out the best in us and model unconditional love and acceptance. I didn’t write the following passage, but I wish I had.

img_7211And on the 9th day God looked down on his wide eyed children and said, they need a companion.
So God made a Dog
.

…God said I need somebody willing to sit, then stay, then roll over, then with no ego or complaint dress in hats they do not need and costumes they do not understand…  Somebody who no matter what you didn’t do or couldn’t take or didn’t win or couldn’t make, will love you without judgement just the same.
So God made a Dog.

God said I need somebody strong enough to pull sleds and find bombs and yet gentle enough to love babies and lead the blind.  Somebody that will spend all day on a couch with a resting head and supportive eyes for the broken heart.
So God made a Dog. img_7158

It had to be somebody who would remain patient and loyal even through loneliness, somebody to care, cuddle, snuggle, and nuzzle and cheer and charm and snore and slobber and eat the trash and chase the squirrels.  Somebody who would bring the family together with an open heart. Somebody to bark, and then pant and then reply with the rapid wag of a tail, when their best friend says, “let’s go for a ride in the car.”
So God made a Dog.

img_7160God said I need somebody who would stand at your side when the world around you collapses.  Somebody to lie next to you during the long nights of pain and sorrow when it hurts to move, to talk, or think, or be.  Somebody to stand guard, play games, snore for hours and repeat as needed.  Somebody to give you strength when you have none of your own.  Somebody to fight when you have no fight left, to hold onto your soul as if it were their favorite toy, playing tug of war to keep you in this world. Somebody to be your companion and guide in this world and the next. Somebody to wait for you on the other side or stand guard in your absence until they can join you for eternity.
So God made a Dog

(From a popular Facebook video)

For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.     Psalm 50:10-11

 

Have you Hugged Your Health Care Provider Today?

I’ve worked in healthcare for 30 years. Well over half my life…closer to 60% of my entire life.

My love for my work created a tangible picture  that wpstethoscopeinspired my husband to go back to school to get a nursing degree in his early 30’s. He actually told me I was the only person he knew who loved her job; so there must be something rewarding in it. And I do! I love my job. It’s more than a job. It’s my lifework and ministry. A high and holy calling, a privilege.

Then perhaps as a combination of her parents’ example and natural God-given gifting and wiring, my daughter went to nursing school and now works in a busy, high-acuity critical care unit. She eventually hopes to be a Life Flight nurse. #proudmom

My son-in-law…medical. My son…not so much. He said he would consider it…if he didn’t have to touch people.  I guess that’s a 19 year old young man for you.

Have you hugged your health care provider today?

wpwheat2

King Solomon said it well:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…

Some seasons are harder than others. Seasons of struggle, sickness, sadness, lack, and loss. Some seasons are bountiful with God’s greatest blessings and overflow with love and laughter and life to the full. Some seasons are unpredictable but you still can’t help but be thankful for every warm ray of sunshine, hard spatter of rain, and even threatening wind.

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

It has been a great year. I have laughed and danced more than I have deserved. I have felt more alive and have lived life to the full, perhaps more than any season past. But nestled in the shadows of my year-of-plenty, like everyone else I know, have been pockets of grief, struggle, and loss.

I love my job; which means I love the people I see and touch and talk with. I know their stories, their families, their health concerns, and many of their personal struggles. I have followed many through multiple, evolving seasons in their own lives and families. Springs of new life and celebration.  Summers of fun and victory and living life to the full. Autumns of peace and calm, sometimes stagnation. Winters of lack and loss and loneliness. Sometimes in the midst of such intimacy, whether you do it intentionally or not, you become a burden bearer. You sense others’ pain, grief, and heaviness so intuitively and personally that it becomes your own.

Have you hugged your health care provider today?

David was one of my first patients at my current practice.wpwalker A farmer, strong, hardy, rugged…but kind, simple, gentle. Friendly, fatherly, grandfatherly. I first met David after he had fallen off a roof. 70 years old and still climbing and working. His injuries were extensive but he didn’t complain. He just wanted to get better and get back to work! That was ten years ago. This year I watched David’s body slowly ravaged by three different cancers. He left life a fraction of the giant size man I first met.

David is one of hundreds I’ve watched wither away over the past 30 years but for some reason his death hit me a little harder. At one point I told David and his wife that he was like a Timex watch because he “kept on tickin.”  That was in the first few years of his series wphosp2of accidents and bad diagnoses. The last time I saw David I didn’t even recognize him. I walked into his hospital room and had to double check the name on the wall. The sickness had made him a shell of the tough old farmer he had been. I miss David.

It’s not just David. Time and our human mortality have taken so many names and faces and stories. Our bodies are fragile. They age, they break, they die. It’s a hard reality; yet it is both a privilege and sacred responsibility to be an eye witness to the sanctity of life and loss.

A mom who lost her son in a tragic accident. A woman whose young husband died unexpectedly. A child diagnosed with aggressive cancer. A man whose wife abandoned the family. Heroin overdose. Victims of violent crime and every imaginable abuse. Sometimes it weighs very heavy.

Have you hugged your health care provider today?

The next time your doctor is late coming in the room and you’ve been sentenced to play Candy Crush on your phone or scroll Facebook for an hour in a lonely exam room, consider not huffing, rolling your eyes, and complaining when he or she finally makes it in. They know your time is valuable. They don’t enjoy seeing the schedule get farther and farther behind. They probably won’t get lunch and will definitely be late getting home; but after they have just left a room with a terrible diagnosis, signed a death certificate, filed abuse charges, made phone calls, opened up lab results and x-rays with poor prognosis… They will still smile, apologize for being late, and be thankful that you’re safe and have the time that others do not…other chances at life.

Have you hugged your health care provider today?

In an ICU, death and suffering are common realities.wpnurse Sometimes I feel a great  burden for my daughter: 23, full of life, innocent…but now thrown into a world of IVs, ventilators, cancer, addiction, overdose, and split-second life and death decisions. She’s a strong young woman. She sees and she cares. Many people do not. She learns her patients’ names and needs, She feels their pain, their fears, their frustrations.

Jesus told us to bear one another’s burdens. That includes holding a dying man’s hand so he doesn’t die alone. Hugging a family member who is exhausted and at a breaking point from grief. Learning sign language just to be able to comfort that one deaf patient. But does loving and caring and turning the other cheek include being cursed, scratched, manipulated, disrespected, and demeaned? Sadly, it’s a reality.

 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

My husband works in psychiatry and drug rehab. They like him there because he is big and can protect other nurses. People withdrawing from drugs like to throw things at their nurses. They like to curse them, throw urine on them, hit them, scratch them. My husband and daughter have both come home with soiled clothes and scratch marks. I’ve never understood how people lash out at those trying to help or comfort them. Actually, I’ve never understood how people can wound anyone so carelessly.

Jesus had compassion on the crowds “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Mt 9:36) but sometimes it’s hard.

Have you hugged your health care provider today?

Sometimes I think thirty years is too long. People have become too difficult, insurance companies too devious, red tape too thick. I’ve considered the feasibility of retirement…

A time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away;

But every hard day, every painful experience, every grief and loss, is somehow always overshadowed by love and passion and purpose and a glimmer of hope that one life will be touched, helped, changed, or offered hope.

Therefore I will echo King Solomon’s words:

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  (Ecc 3)

For today, I will continue to find satisfaction in my toil because it is indeed a gift from God.

But…Have you hugged your health carewpkoala provider today?