What Are You Afraid To Lose?

The woman dreams to become pregnant, a prayer that God gave the childWhat are you afraid of losing?

Everyone is afraid of losing something–a loved one, a job, their reputation, sanity, safety, peace, hope … Or perhaps we’re afraid of something being taken from us; the anxiety is the same regardless of how this one (or more) precious thing is wrenched from our grasp.

Almost a year ago, my husband and I lost a baby. We had never expected to be parents, and after 13 years of marriage, not only resigned ourselves to this fact, but completely accepted it with peace. Until I got pregnant. Suddenly, God opened wide the doors of longing, excitement and anticipation. A whole new world brightened on our horizon. We wanted that baby more than anything. However, I miscarried at 11 weeks. The doctors assume the baby died a few weeks earlier and my body took a little time to realize the loss. My heart took much, much longer.

FINISH READING THIS POST HERE …

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Love–A Vain Pursuit?

“Write out 1 Corinthians 13 and insert your own name every time it says ‘love’.”

The instructions are scrawled across the top of a sheet of notebook paper in my journal. I don’t remember who gave them to me, but the point was obviously to impress upon me (and those in the Bible study or sermon with me) the stringent requirements of Christ-like love.

It’s disheartening isn’t it? Do you wonder what is the point of even trying?

For starters, I know that I haven’t always been patient or kind; I’ve certainly been selfish, and will be again. I’ve been rude before and looked out for my own interest. I’ve given up, refused to shoulder someone’s burden and I’ve felt hopeless. My guilt over failures to be perfectly loving is assuaged somewhat when I realize that every single human being out there is routinely unloving. We’ve all been on the receiving end, too, which then starts the vicious cycle of being easily angered or recording wrongs.

Face it, love is simply, humanly, impossible.

Now, before you assume that I’ve lowered the bar and I’m willing to walk away sighing, “Nobody’s perfect,” recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

We also know, from Philippians 4:13, that we can do all things through Christ. So, somehow, someway, this loving thing—in all of its nuances is possible.

I am sure that whoever gave me those instructions to replace the word, “love” with my own name, had the best of intentions. However, I think they were categorically wrong. My name, your name, doesn’t belong there. God’s does.

1 John 4:8 says, “ … God is love.”

Try rewriting the Love Chapter now:

“God is patient and kind. God is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Your Father does not demand His own way. He is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged. God does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Now, not only do we have a more accurate rendering of this chapter, but we also have a clear view of how God’s grace really works, how on earth He could sacrifice His Son, why in the world He cared about humanity instead of just wiping out the whole, wretched lot of us. Now we know why He can say that all of our sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west. We see how Jesus stayed on the cross. We understand how Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, won every verbal spar with the religious rulers of His day.

It is His nature.

Love is not your nature. It is not my nature. That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is not a to do list for us. It is a list of God’s characteristics and His behavior toward us. Here is what we are supposed to do with love:

“Pursue love … “ 1 Corinthians 14:1

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:14

God does not command, nor expect us to conjure up loving behavior and attitudes. Rather, we are to pursue love—in other words, replacing the word love with God—pursue God. We are to clothe ourselves with Christ and with love. As we close in on love; when we are clothed in it and experience the warm, gentleness of God’s love soothing our own souls, we become miraculously able to display love as well.

We are indeed called to be perfect and to love, but not as our human selves—as our Heavenly Father. The closer we are to Him, like a natural child spending time with his parents, we assume His character.

How are you doing in your own efforts to love others? What might happen if you refocus your energy on pursuing God (love) rather than good behavior?

Faster in the Wrong Direction

Did you ever read the story of Winnie the Pooh and the sand pit? I’ll sum it up for you:

Pooh Bear and his timid sidekick Piglet got lost in the woods. They didn’t even know they were lost until Piglet pointed out that they kept passing a very familiar sand pit. Could it that they were just going in circles? No, Pooh asserted, the sand pit was following them.

What do you do when you’re lost? I’ve got some great stories about being lost.

There was the day after my wedding, when I traveled with my dad to pick up my car, that for reasons I won’t go into, was in a small town about an hour away from my new home. Once, I was settled behind the wheel of my own car, Dad waved goodbye and drove off toward his own house. I promptly took the ramp to the interstate—cluelessly, in the wrong direction. I didn’t realize I was lost until an hour had passed and I wasn’t home yet. And then I did the worst thing I could possibly do. As anxiety mounted, my foot got heavier. I could find no where to turn around! I sped faster and faster. In my mind, the faster I went the sooner I would find a solution and fix my error. As you can imagine, going faster only sent me farther in the wrong direction—faster. As well, I missed the first opportunity to correct the situation. 

That wasn’t the first, nor the only time I’ve done something like that. I’ve gotten lost when out for a simple run, on roller-skates, in my grandparents neighborhood, in many an airport and more. Suddenly, nothing looks familiar; instead of slowing my pace and thinking clearly, I push faster and faster praying that home is around the next corner. However, it wasn’t until recently that I noticed my tendency to accelerate when I’m lost.

Speaking of praying…

What do you do when you feel spiritually lost? I don’t mean lost as in unsaved, or doubting your salvation. I mean lost like, “God, what am I supposed to do with my life? What am I supposed to do in this situation? What am I supposed to do about this relationship?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Since I’m baring my soul, being honest about my disabilities (directionally challenged) I’ll admit that I do the same thing when I feel spiritually lost—I go faster.

Many times, after a move with my husband’s career, I’ve felt detached, floating, essentially lost. I don’t have a job. I don’t have a church. I don’t have kids. Who am I? What do I do God? What did you make me to do?

And usually, I start running. I make lists of all the volunteer opportunities I can find, call them all and offer to be there tomorrow. I sign up for every club. I give my number to every smiling face at the dog park and suggest, “Let’s meet for coffee sometime! I’m sure we have a lot in common.” I visit 15 churches in 15 Sundays.

Suddenly, I’m swamped, overwhelmed and more lost than ever. None of my new activities seem to be “homey”. I’m overcommitted and under-fulfilled, over-used and under-serving. You see, I can’t really serve the way I want to, the way God calls me to, if I’m trying to do everything and really only doing it for my own self-fulfillment.

This year, 2014, God gave me on word to wrap my life around: Walk. I asked Him for one word to guide my pursuits this year, to focus my Bible study; one word to plow the Scriptures with and put on like shoe leather. He simply said, “Walk”.

I have to think this means a couple things. 1) My most delicious prayer time is spent on long walks with my dog. I know there I’ll find Him, when I’m undistracted by the to-do list and to-see people. 2) I need to walk with the Spirit. The Word says when we do this, we won’t fulfill the desires of the flesh. He doesn’t say to run with the Spirit. There’s intention in the slow, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other; the rhythm of walking. 3) No matter how useless I feel, or briefly how disconnected, I need to walk slowly through change. Whether it be into my new life when my husband and I move next time, or any other upset of routine. I must set aside the choking panic of impending solitude and take steady, meditated steps, placing each foot in the footprint of my Father.

I don’t know that these lessons will be well applied to my propensity to be physically lost. I’ve got enough to think about merely applying them to my obedience to Christ. But, perhaps they might. And if not, I always have my iPhone 🙂

The One In Whom

At 18-years-old, I stepped onto the sandy, Arizona soil in the driveway of an inpatient treatment center for the second time. Even after numerous counselors and previous inpatient treatment for anorexia, I still struggled with an addiction to exercise and food restriction. “Shipped off” to get well, I felt completely alone, unloved and abandoned by God and my family. My life didn’t appear to be “working out for good”. Circumstances seemed to belie the promises of a good God.

Many years later, my husband walked the sandy soil of Afghanistan, leading a company of infantry soldiers. Back home, I received one of the calls that every family member of a solider dreads. “We lost some.”

Patrick was the commander of Bravo Company 4/23. They had only been in theater a little over two months, when one of their strykers hit an IED (improvised explosive device) killing three men and maiming another. Hell broke loose on earth.

I watched my husband grapple with the agony and guilt of knowing he had been responsible for the men’s lives as their leader in combat. I felt like a mindless mist, moving through the motions of coordinating phone calls to the families, assisting to arrange the memorials and comforting the widows. Nothing looked like what I would expect from a good God. A few people voiced this.

“How can a good God let this happen? If God is in charge and powerful and loves us, why would He let these children lose their fathers?”

I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. I don’t know how all this “works together for good”. I don’t know how this matches up with God’s Word, “I am the God who heals you.” I don’t know how lingering illness and addiction connects with, “It is for freedom that Christ set you free,” and “I have given you the power to tread upon snakes and scorpions and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

God, how does this work?

If anyone ever had a right to pray that prayer, it was the apostle Paul. He spent almost six years of his ministry in a jail cell, he was whipped, shamed, ship wrecked and abandoned
(2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Finally, near the end of his life, he sat again on the cold damp concrete of a cell and wrote to the man dearest to his heart—Timothy. How desperately he wanted Timothy to be able to hang on to what Paul had taught him. He agonized over how to impress upon this young pastor:

Do not give up! Do not be dismayed by what appears to be. It may look like God has lost control, that perhaps He isn’t all that good—but Timothy—don’t give up. I haven’t. (paraphrase)

This kind of tenacious faith is exemplified in an Old Testament story:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stared into the fire as flames leaped higher and higher.

“You have one more chance,” the Babylonian King told them. “You must bow down and worship my statue, or I will have you thrown into the fire.”

I wonder what raced through their minds. They had been faithful to God; they had not worshipped the idol. Surely God would rescue them! Surely, God wouldn’t allow them to be killed!

Their words in Daniel 3:16-18, teach us something amazing about faith, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.’”

The three men believed that God could save them! But even if He didn’t…

How do we have faith when the things we believe for aren’t happening? How do we have faith that God is good when bad things happen?

Hebrews 11 is often called the Faith Chapter. It lists many heroes of the faith, men and women who believed God against all odds, who had faith in God even when it looked like God wasn’t faithful.

Verse 39 says this, “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.”

Have you ever felt like that—like God hasn’t fulfilled His promises?
Have you had faith that God would do something, and then He didn’t?
Maybe you prayed that a loved one would survive cancer, but they didn’t.
Maybe you were sure it was God’s will that you find a job, or keep your job—but you didn’t.
Maybe you don’t understand what’s going on, or why God allows some things to happen.

When I feel this way, I am comforted by 2 Timothy 1:12, “That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (emphasis added)

One weekend, my husband and I were driving through downtown Washington D.C. We were supposed to meet some friends for a baseball game, but as we wound through construction and down one-way streets, we got hopelessly lost—at least I did. I had no idea where we were going and I could see the lights of the stadium behind us. But I know my husband. He’s an incredible navigator. I knew he would get us there safely even if it looked for all the world like he was going the wrong direction. And sure enough, he got us to the baseball game on time!

You see, the secret is not what we believe. The power of our faith is not that we simply have faith, or even that we have hope. There will always be things we don’t understand and things that don’t seem to match up with what we believe about God. We may not understand what God is doing, but we have faith in who God is. We, like Paul, know who we believe, and that He is faithful.

Most world religions require faith. Most world religions have morality as their hallmark and eternal life as their goal. But, as Christians we do not merely have faith—faith in a reward for good behavior or faith in life after death. It is not mere faith that gets us through our troubles, sustains us in prison, or allows us to stand in the flames. The good news is not that you and I have faith, but that the One in whom we believe is faithful.

A Reason for Lost

This morning, I sat wordless before the Father. Don’t you hate it sunset-harbour-2-1016736-mwhen that happens? You’re supposed to be praying and all of sudden (or maybe not so suddenly, maybe it feels chronic) there’s just nothing to say? That was today.

But recently, I read @BlumLee on her fabulous site http://www.leewolfeblum.com and one little phrase lodged in my memory. She said something about writing from her subconscious. So, even though I was praying, I tried to let my mind go to what I was not thinking. I mean, after all, God knows all that anyway…right?

###

There’s a weakening in me.

Like a rope washed and weathered by sun and salt.

Its life work about to pitch mercilessly on high seas, the familiar dock and droppings, fragrant with fish and stagnant air–

All safety far behind.

I wonder, how long it will hold together at all?

I wonder at those boats I’ve seen loose from tether in the distance.
What do they do–Wild and loose?
Is it frightening everyday?
What currents and rough winds await?
Will I ever return?

I feel about and nearly.
I float on almost and possibly.

There can be no assurance, wild upon those waves!

What of all I’ve so long feared?
Lost, a drifter, no purpose or destination,
No identifying flag.
Or pirates and mercenaries to scavenge me for waste?

Primitive, small, sunk low.
But here I find at once I’m loose, and at loss, and quite lost.
But I’ve been drifting slowly now,
‘Neath rise and sunset for a time.
A bit more weathered, not worse for wear.

But maybe stronger.
Certainly braver.
No storm has torn assunder.
I’ve no sail to rip.

And out here, the droppings miss me, a scent of salt and singular freedom.
The air awash with wind and wild blue.
I’ve even begun to see the others,
I’m not alone out here.

So many must have lost their lines.
Wayward a few, crosswise against the tide.
Fighting for float.

I would have kept away,
Far safe from their troubled wakes,
Dodging waves in a cove.
But the cries became so loud!

Fear a wretched sound,
A boat near sinking, a life near death,
Facing the one thing that would make it all it’s not–
Not a boat, not afloat, not alive.

I found a coil.
Neglected since I left the dock.
Warily, I wafted toward the distressed, and threw the line.

Not much, this little rope.
And I feared it would break.

Who am I? And what are my good intentions?
Lost, fueled by an invisible tide.

When my line reached her,
The wind began to blow.
And ushered with solemnity and solidarity
Our two hearts toward harbor.

When I read this poem later, I saw my purpose in those lines, my passion. God is using my once-lostness, my once-fearful, my once-dying to rescue others.

I pray especially, that anyone who reads my book finds hope and  healing. #ThePredatoryLiesofAnorexia

Buy the book here…

Irrelevant

If I fit nowhere
If I have no home or beloved
If I have no posterity
If I have no purpose or calling

If I fit nowhere
If like a missing puzzle piece
I lie lost and trampled on the floor
If I’m shuffled under shadow
forgotten and discarded
If I am wedged into painful places
or tossed useless in the box

If all my life seems forfeit
If I am irrelevant to a box-lid world
That sees beauty only by definition
This one thing will I recall
This one truth hold dear
Then this will secure the joy of all my life

That HE has claimed me.
That HE has done it.
And it is marvelous in my eyes.
Ps. 118:23

 

Fragile Behind The Able

I wield this life of bone and marrow

Fending off foe and sorrow.

I plunge the sword of tongue and fist

Into threats and fears.

I galvanize my feet to tread on staunchly.

Painless – I insist.

I’m cloaked in mail, firm, steadfast

I ride the wind and waves of fate

With resolute bearing.

But one brutal clash and this life breaks,

Shatters in my hands.

Pierces soft palms with shards of hope, handle, poise.

Gory this, this mess of me.

Till stumbling blind and wounded

You pluck me up.

You hang the fragments of armor aside.

And gaze at my broken spirit.

There palms matched flat, your breath to mine

Pressed too close, I can’t escape.

Though weakness binds me, too.

Beneath the weight of all your love

I suck in life-breath once again.

You offer no recovered mail, or weapons made of earth.

But humble now, so vulnerable

I rise to stand in shadow

Fragile behind The Able.

wondering if i wander

is this living by the Spirit

unsure where i am and

untethered against next wind’s gust?

or

is this?

to live by increments

a divided clock and protracted heart

degrees of devotion to each good deed?

or

somewhere in the middle –

is there quiet and peace?

I know there is!

for

I have a shepherd who

promises quiet water trickles near

but though i trod, i fear.

how?

to walk with him without wondering

to walk with him without wandering

his Spirit in me?

Mosaic

Pink is loud.

She sits by Green, a soft-pillow-plump sort.

Black is at the table’s end.

Has that look of everyone’s friend.

Pick-a-little-talk-a-little.

Mosaic of moms on a lunch date.

 

Not too far away,

Huddle White and Stripes.

Next to them

Cuddle Blue and Gray.

Kaleidoscope of couples’ dining.

 

Alone is Pin-Stripe.

Brief business break.

Pressed up against his seat,

Leopard print lady

Carries conversation.

 

Bird’s eye view,

A shifting mosaic,

Of people barely see each other.

Bumping and mumbling

Bodies and voices.

A disjointed puzzle of stories on faces,

in tones, from lips, in postures.

 

Nothing matches, nor need it.

So much the same, so different.

Kaleidoscope, Puzzle, Mosaic of people.

Flitting in a world not their own.

 

Deluded as masters of destiny,

Shifted by time and unseen hand.

One twist of dial, spin of the shaft,

Jilted, jostled, new view.

God laughs.