Category Archives: God

When God gave me the moon

“Lord, I just need to connect to your world right now. I know you’re here right now, but I can’t see you or feel you. Refine my spiritual senses so I can connect with You.”

I was sitting in the middle of my living room feeling squirmy in my meditation, wondering if I had prayed enough for other people and if it was okay to pray for myself. Somehow I have this ingrained belief that my prayers need to be for other people–the suffering here and across the world, my friends, my family, my town, and my country. When I want to pray for myself it’s usually prayers of thanks and asking for forgiveness for the sins I know I must have committed and the ones I am not aware of. But the whole “ask and you shall receive” thing I have a hard time with. It’s a problem.

I digress. On this day I just needed something from God. I just needed Him. I cautiously flipped my hands over so they were facing palm up as an act and symbol of wanting to receive. I prayed my prayer and I waited in silence, forcing myself to turn off my thoughts and just be. Seconds later I heard my son’s bedroom door open.

Don’t lose focus. Don’t lose focus. Breathe.

Then the upstairs toilet flushed and the sound of the water rushing through the pipes overtook the precious silence.

Don’t lose focus. Don’t lose focus…

“Hey, Mom? Mama?”

I let out a gentle and disappointed sigh.

“Mama? Are you there?” my son called from the top of the stairs.

“Yes, Buddy. What’s up?”

“You have to come see this. Come here.”

I confess, I didn’t really want to come upstairs. “Alright, I’m coming, Buds.”

As I ascended the stairs, Sean said, “The moon woke me up. You gotta see this.”

We walked into his bedroom and to his window. A crystal clear, bright white full moon was glued to the indigo backdrop of the early morning sky. It was gorgeous. I thought I should grab my camera to capture this moment.

No. You’ll miss it. This moment is just for us, said the sound of my thoughts but in a voice that wasn’t mine.

“You can see the craters, mom.”

“I can. You said it woke you up? What do you mean?”

“I was sleeping and all of a sudden a bright light came to my eyes and I woke up. I didn’t know where the light was coming from. So I turned on my bedroom light, but that wasn’t the right light. So I turned it off and laid on my bed and I saw the moon out my window. It was the moon making the light!”

“I want to see how you saw, Buddy. Show me.”

We climbed onto his bed, and as I lay my head down next to his on the pillow, I saw what he could see. This crisp brilliant moon framed by the tree branches pressed against the sky. For 25 minutes my son and I watched the moon ever so slowly lower itself through the branches while we talked about how the earth moves.

I thought out loud, “This is what the passage of time really looks like, Buddy. Isn’t that weird? Usually time feels faster because we’re so busy filling it up with activities, we forget how slow time actually moves.”

“Cool,” he said.

Then my own light came on. “Hey, did you know that right before you called me up here I was praying to God that he would help me connect to his world? I wanted to see God and the next thing I know you’re calling me up to your room to look at this amazing moon and we’re having this really neat conversation, just you and me. He used you to talk to me. That’s really special. I feel so much better now.”

Sean turned to look at me and gave me his signature smile.

The moon landed behind a cluster of branches where we couldn’t see it from where we were lying. Sean squirmed to adjust his position to get a better view.

I let out a gentle laugh. “It will drop below those branches in a few minutes, Peanut. We’re getting impatient because we can’t see it, but we know it’s still there.”

Ah. Just like God, said my thoughts again, in that familiar voice that wasn’t mine.

We lay there several more minutes, but the moon never reappeared from behind those branches.  But I knew it was there. I could feel it.

 

 

 

 

 

Why, God, why?

I hear your cries of “Why, God, why?”
I feel your laments within the depths of your heart.
You wonder if I’m even listening let alone caring about the wiles of this world.

Please understand, my dear child, this is my world and my country too. It all belongs to Me. All that has happened and all that’s been lost; the injustice and death are my greatest grief. Don’t you trust I feel it too?

You cry out “Why?” and I say to you, Thou shall see what I will do.

Do I only get your hand and heart when life is grand and goes your way? When things are as you expect or understand? Will your faith remain with Me as I lay out my full plan?
Faith only matters when it’s tested and too hard to hold on. Will you? Straining and wiggling with a white knuckle grip or will you let go and let Me set you free? Free from the struggle and what you think you understand. I’m asking you, dear child, to please trust Me.

This season of time about which you lament and cry was harsh and wild and shocking and surreal. I know. “It’s too much to handle, dear God, why?” Sweet child, I don’t ask you to handle or deal. I ask you to listen, to trust what’s Real.

All those times I gave you space to breathe and fresh eyes to see; from the trip across the ocean, warmth in tropical air, to the solitude of your cabin at the grand mountain’s base, to the dawn of that Thursday morning in your bedroom silent and calm. All the family you hugged, the friends of cheer, to the new lives and new love born–I gave you blessings dear one, I promise I did. In the midst of the pain and the plan, I heard you. Don’t you trust Me?

Do you trust when branches are pruned that new and much fruit will grow? Do you trust that crushed grain will make fresh bread? Dear child, there’s pain in each cut and every thrash, it’s true, but the vine does not die, the grain does not become pulverized. Both bring life–one bears fruit and one of grain flour ready for the finest use. Do you trust My plan, My way to prepare you? To prepare this country? To prepare this world?

To know pain and despair is to know humility; with humility comes quiet wisdom to understand. Do you trust Me?

I hear your cries asking “Why, God, why?”
I’m pulling you close and say to you:
“Trust Me, sweet child. I love you, and thou shall see what I will do.”

The day Donald Trump became president

“Mom? What’s an olive branch?”

“It’s a sign of peace and reconciliation. The olive branch as a sign of peace that goes way back into early Bible times.”

“Mommy, do you think what Mr. Trump said in his victory speech is really his heart on the inside? I’m confused.”

“I don’t know, buddy. I’m confused too. I hope the Trump we see in the speech is who we really experience as our president. We have to give him a chance now.”

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Today is where the rubber meets the road for me as an advocate for love and Jesus. Will I choose to love radically, trust radically, and believe there is something bigger going on here than I can see? Or will I remain in a place of fear, cynicism, judgement and distrust, both for God and Trump?

I understand now why Jesus was so unsavory and scandalous to people in his time. It is far easier for me to love the people whom Trump ridiculed, abused, and cast aside as invalid. What’s hard is loving Trump. But that is exactly what Jesus would do. Love in its truest form is hard and humbling. President-elect Trump is a hard an impossible guy to embrace, trust, and radically love as a human being right now let alone as a leader for my country. While Jesus certainly wouldn’t condone (and would likely challenge) Trump’s words and behavior thus far, Jesus would accept him, love him, and hang out with him. At the same time, He’d call out Trump on the hardness in his heart and give Trump the choice of pursuing a new self or remaining in his current self. Any repentance and transformation that would take place would happen between Trump and Jesus only.

That space between Jesus and Trump isn’t my place to be. Jesus calls me to pay attention to my own heart…

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I’m very uncomfortable as I process the history that’s unfolding before me. But it’s when I’m most uncomfortable that I know God is working inside me. Ultimately I find myself squirmy in my own heart as I examine my beliefs juxtaposed with my feelings.

I believe in Love–capital L. I believe divine Love includes ALL people, and that means Trump too. It has to. And while Mr. Trump hasn’t shown a value for all-inclusive love, that does not give me the right to cast him off in return, and to do so would make me hypocritical.

I believe in unity and peace; I believe the more division we have, the more vulnerable we are to Satan’s wiles to perpetuate hate, violence, and fear. To turn my back on our new president makes me part of the problem. True to God’s nature, the only way to unite and experience peace is to do the exact opposite of what we’re doing now in angry recoiling and harsh backlash. We have to draw near to one another and come along side President Trump if we want to experience the unity that defines our nation.

I also believe in innocence until proven guilty. I confess the media has done an excellent job in convincing me that Donald Trump is a criminal on multiple levels; if I am going to remain true to my beliefs and values, then until he is proven as such I have to radically trust his innocence. I’d want that for anyone else.

Fair is fair regardless of my feelings. It’s okay to feel shocked, uncertain, and disappointed (I refuse to feel fear); however, it’s important to not let my feelings blind my values. Otherwise I am simply a fair-weather Christian, living out my values when it’s easy and feels good.

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Here’s the bottom line for me and what I’ve literally told my children today:

  • “God took one of the most vile, dangerous men in the Bible, Saul, and turned him into Paul. Paul became one of the greatest advocates for God’s love and kingdom; he is one of the most revered people in Biblical history. We have to trust that God can and will do something amazing with Mr. Trump as our president. I believe He will.”
  • “God is far bigger than Trump and Clinton and this election and our country. What we’re experiencing today is evidence that we are not as in control of things in this world as we think we are. That’s humbling and that’s okay. With humility comes wisdom.”
  •  “Our job in our own lives is to continue loving people the best we can, being kind more than ever, and living a life of love, no matter what. So we are going to pray for President Trump; we are going to pray for our country; we’re going to stand up for what’s right when called to do so.”

If someone didn’t trust me, I’d want the chance to prove my trustworthiness.  I’m willing to give President-elect Trump my open heart, my open mind, and a chance to make American great again.

Welcome to the presidency Mr. Trump. May you experience support, growth, and a successful career as the United States President.

 

 

 

The Best Messiest Decade

I am 36 today and it feels huge. True to my nature, my “milestone” year doesn’t fit with tradition of the “big ones” like 21 or 40 or 50. As I go through the highlight reel of  just my 30’s, I realize I’ve made questionable/hard decisions that have yielded extraordinary new chances to live better for a lifetime. I give 100% credit to God who keeps redeeming and rebuilding me. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers, I never have my shit together, but somehow it doesn’t matter because it’s in the messes I make for myself that God does his best work.

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20160812_200526Straight out of the gate at 30 years old, I had cosmetic surgery. I don’t regret the surgery, but I do question if I’d make the same decision today. I never saw my decision as a symptom of a deeper mental health issue until I found myself in anorexia recovery four years later. Now, I am in a season of learning to love my body as is. I am connected with my physical self, and I finally understand and appreciate all the work my body does to take care of me even when I mistreat it. Optional surgery was a life-altering decision; I live with the result every day, remembering how far I have come from the inner-unrest of my past and appreciating the different perspective I have today.

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At 31 I had an affair and subsequently experienced a marital rough patch. I don’t want to relive 20160825_183327those years, and I pray my marriage doesn’t experience anything of the like again; however, if it weren’t for the two years that threatened to destroy my marriage, my husband and I wouldn’t be what we are today–grateful, humble, and in love. It was a lot of work to fix what was wrong; it’s still work to keep it strong. Nearly 15 years together, 12 of those married, my husband and I are are more in love today than ever, yet experience has taught me I cannot take love for granted. Love doesn’t just happen. We make the choice every single day, in the bustling mix of kids, work, commitments, projects, and appointments, to look each other in the eye; to wrap our arms around each other; to say I love you; to say us first, then the rest; to acknowledge I see you and hear you and you matter; to say I’m sorry; to say thank you.

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The timing of my newly strengthened marriage couldn’t have been better because the two years following that season were tumultuous for my health. At 33 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which exacerbated the full blown eating disorder I was living with but wouldn’t be treated until I was 34. Physically and mentally, I was very ill and in danger of dying.

Even so, I ignored my body and became a Taekwondo student that season. My intention behind the menevergiveupdecision was to do something fun and bonding with my children, especially my daughter. (Shortly after I joined, I had to take a three-month medical leave to enter anorexia rehabilitation.) Little did I know the Taekwondo studio would become my training ground for perfectionism recovery and a supplemental space where God continues to show me what my body and mind can do as is. Technique-wise, you won’t find me winning competitions and awing crowds in demonstrations. I am clunky and slow and often mis-torqued in movement; however, I am the strongest and most mentally resilient than I ever have been.

My daughter and I are T-minus six months away from our earning black belts together.  Mission almost accomplished!

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portland-and-meAt 34 I entered anorexia recovery, which continues today. This has been my biggest challenge (after motherhood, of course) I’ve ever faced. I depended on anorexia for over 13 years to help me maintain the illusion that I had my life all together, but it nearly killed me. You won’t hear me use the words “I’ve overcome my eating disorder” because while I am better and don’t need the disease, the eating disorder voice is always quietly hanging out in my head. Complacency is dangerous.

With my recovery came a passion for mental health and suicide prevention advocacy. True to God’s nature he’s taken my fears and experience and rebuilt them as a platform to lift up others who find themselves struggling in mental illness.

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My dad and my daughter.

Shortly after my 35th birthday I asked my dad to go to counseling with me, which we did earlier this year. You cannot heal in the present without visiting your past. Part of anorexia recovery meant taking my dad’s hand and walking together through some painful memories from my childhood.  It was eight intense weeks of raw honesty and emotion that yielded understanding, forgiveness, and fresh space for us to grow in relationship going forward.  I know my dad loves me and he’s got my back even if we don’t agree on things. I feel confident and valued knowing my dad has my back, which is imperative as I continue to learn and express who I am without the crutch of perfection. A girl always needs her dad. <3

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My 30’s so far have been my best messiest decade. It’s the decade where God is carving away my self-made facade to reveal who I really am as He crafted me. With both discomfort and gratitude I appreciate the process, yet I am still learning how to rejoice in the results. So, happy birthday to me! And happy birthday to you if we share this day or even this season. May your fresh new year be blessed with something beautifully unexpected.

<3 Peace and love.

What if I don’t believe in Jesus?

I was 12 years old when I accepted Jesus into my heart. Choosing Jesus as my Lord had nothing to do with my salvation. At the time I wasn’t thinking about how sinful I was or staying out of eternal Hell. I was thinking about how lonely and awkward I felt in the midst of the peers and adults around me. It had finally come to my attention that who I was didn’t fit with the crowds in which I found myself at school or church or my neighborhood. The youth pastor at our family church retreat told a group of us kids that Jesus wanted to be our friend. That He loved us. If I wanted to know that love, that acceptance, that friendship, all I had to do was accept Jesus into my heart and follow Him. I chose Jesus because I wanted to be loved, not because I wanted to be saved.

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My relationship with Christ the last 24 years has never been about my salvation from Hell. I also have never worried about anyone else’s future in Heaven or Hell either. As I have grown in knowledge and experience with Jesus, there’s been confusion in my heart as to why so many Christians worry and argue and dictate over other people’s repentance and afterlife in Heaven or Hell.

A couple years ago when a dear loved one in our family passed away, a friend asked me if this loved one was a Believer (one who’s accepted Jesus as his Lord). No, he wasn’t a Believer. My friend, with a wince in her face and tension in her body, asked, “How do you feel about that? The Bible is clear about what happens to those who aren’t saved.” I bristled inside. I told my friend I had to believe my dear, sweet loved one was dancing in Heaven with his beloved wife who had passed before him.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized the general belief in current Christian culture about salvation and eternal Hell is completely and shockingly different than what I believe… what I have always considered to be true since I was 12 but never explored until now. Generally speaking, Christianity says if you don’t believe in God, then you’re going to Hell. If you want a place in Heaven, then you must be made right with God by repenting and choosing Jesus. If this is true then that means over half the world is going to burn in Hell for eternity and only a select few will enter the gates of Heaven.

Geez. God’s house must be pretty small.

It would also mean we have a cruel and exclusive God. I don’t believe this at all. This general theology doesn’t match the character of the God I have come to know and love.

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The moment Jesus died on that precious and wretched cross, everyone became saved. Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus died for you and you are welcome as a citizen in God’s kingdom. The death and Resurrection of Jesus is so significant that it was for every single person on this planet, regardless of religion, sin, sexual orientation, race, crimes, belief and unbelief. “For God so loved this world, He sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” I don’t see that second half–“that whoever believes in Him”–as a condition for the entry of Heaven. It’s an invitation to believe in a love so big and existential that our life becomes transformed and alive in a way that is supernatural here on Earth yet completely natural in the spiritual realm. If we don’t accept the invitation, we risk perishing in the consequences of our human nature, choices we make driven by natural human desire and selfishness.

The love of Jesus and the result of his sacrifice on the cross is 100% inclusive, all-encompassing and scandalous. His love and gift of salvation for all God’s children includes those whom I personally cannot even fathom loving–such as murderers, terrorists, sex traffickers, child abusers, animal abusers, (Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! 😛 )–and people who have hurt me so badly they aren’t even safe to be in my life anymore.  But every single person in this world is painstakingly and purposefully knitted into existence by the hand of God, making each one of us His child–loved and welcomed to the gift of life He has for us through Jesus.

I believe there is Heaven and Hell, and I believe there is justice and consequences for those who choose to live a life hurting others. I also believe in the power of repentance. However, my point here today is to say God does not toss into eternal Hell those who don’t believe in Jesus. I have heard it asked that if everyone is welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, if there is no eternal Hell, then what’s the point?  I say, take away both Heaven and Hell and God still matters. If all we’re left with is God, isn’t He enough? 

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If you’re feeling alone, cast aside, and awkward in a world where you don’t fit, please know that Jesus loves you and wants you. You’re already saved. He’s just waiting for you to take his hand and accept Him. Choose Jesus for love and watch how your life changes. A simple prayer grasps His hand, “Dear Jesus, I choose you to lead my life. Show me the way and I will follow You.” And if you’re an unBeliever in Christ–atheist or agnostic or a parishioner of another religion–that’s okay. I still believe Jesus loves you and welcomes you if you ever want to meet Him.

For my friends and family who are reading this, worried about my theology and/or think my belief is wildly misled and filled with lies of the enemy: If believing God’s love is so big that it allows for Jesus’ death to mean life for all His people, not just Believers, makes me ludicrous, then so be it. You can pray that God changes my mind, but what would it mean for your theology if He doesn’t?