Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Resolve-olution

The benefits of inspection are never disputed when it comes to buildings, bridges, automobiles, media claims, baked goods or facebook posts. Why then, do we hesitate when it comes to inspecting things in our pasts that need attention?  Do we see no value in our lives going forward?  Is there nothing amiss in our thinking process?  Or maybe we believe nothing can be done to resolve those things that haunt our past, hinder our present and threaten to hi-jack our future. 
With my energy reserves dwindling by the decade I feel the need to prove is lessened as well. Some might call it lowering the standard. I call it picking battles wisely.  This has led me to take a page from Hebrew tradition, ‘one goes forward by looking back’.  Think rowing a boat.  A person faces where they’ve been while making every effort to get to where they want to go. 

Everyone carries from their pasts things they don’t know what to do with and the older they get, the more rancid those things become.  It’s time to put those things wherever they belong.  Like a song that gets stuck in your head, never finding the note that resolves the melody, there are thoughts, regrets, ideas, disappointments, failures, expectations, injustices, lies and hurts that need to find the note that will silence them in our minds as well.  It’s time for a resolve-olution.
Albert Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."  How do we expand our thinking?  It requires help from someone else; someone with whom you feel safe. This someone doesn’t need to control you or your process. They need to be a friend who believes the best in you while walking with you through times when you were/are at your worst.  That person is able to offer truth packaged in love.  It’s a tall order.   Jesus is that friend.  

The next time one of those things - that you’ve never known how to resolve - finds its way into your consciousness ask yourself if you want to continue letting it poison your present and spoil your future. If the answer is ‘no’, then ask The Lord to help expand your thinking so you can know how to best resolve your past.  Then do what He impresses you to do!  Your resolved past insures a brighter future.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Emmanuel ~ God is with us!

   Ancient Hebrew names were given to designate the true essence of the person.
  Adam means from the ground.  Isaac means he laughs, Abram means exalted father, and Sarai means princess. This is why - when people entered into relationship with God -   new names were often part of the deal.  

   When God stepped in the very essence of their lives changed.  ‘Exalted Father’ (Abram) becomes ‘Father of Multitudes’ (Abraham).  ‘Princess’ (Sarai) becomes ‘Noblewoman’ (Sarah). ‘Heel Holder’ (Jacob) becomes ‘God Prevails’ (Israel).  ‘Heard’ (Simon) becomes ‘Rock’ (Peter). Names, in ancient Hebrew culture, mean a lot. Which begs the question, what does Jesus’ name mean?

  ‘Jesus’ is the Greek translation of His Hebrew name, ‘Yeshua’ meaning ‘Salvation’.  That baby, who arrived on the scene in a barn in Bethlehem is, at His very essence, Salvation.  Salvation, however, is not His full, God-given name. We find that in Isaiah 9:6  where His complete essence is expressed: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

  Let’s break it down in an effort to get a clear picture of the essence of the Lord Who Is Salvation.

            Wonderful: a miracle, a marvel, extraordinary, astonishing and tremendously significant.

            Counselor: counsel, advise, plan, and execute.  

 This Wonderful Counselor is the astonishing miraculous adviser Who will marvelously execute His plans, combining God’s purposes with miraculous counsel.  He will know God’s perfect will and perfectly bring it to pass. This is the first part of His magnificent essence. 

           Mighty God:  Champion of the universe, Supreme warrior of all creation, very mighty, very powerful, a hero. 

This promised Child will be born to power.  He will strike terror in, and conquer His enemy.  This is a reason to celebrate!

  Everlasting:  perpetual, continuing, eternal. 

            Father:   source

This Child will be the namesake and carry the identity of the Father forever.  He comes with the mantle of the Father forever, making His promises irrevocable!   

           Prince: official with the legal authority.  

 (of) Peace: well-being in all aspects of life; physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

  His authority extends to all creation.  Everything came into being through Him.  This is no subordinate ruler, no lesser prince.  This is the King of Glory! 

And in Matthew 1:22-23 upon his arrival in the earth, we’re his essence expanded to include:

Emmanuel: The God Who dwells with us!

His indwelling presence is come to change the essence of our being.  What a magnificent Savior! What a magnificent reason to celebrate! 

Thursday, December 22, 2016


It’s not something I am proud of. 

Admitting it - even to myself - is difficult. But, after decades employing all the usual suspects: busy-ness, berating, and denying, this year I’m trying a different approach.  Acknowledging.

The motivation for this public confession is not an attempt at personal victory or freedom from the emotional pall that I wear like some garish Christmas sweater.  I don’t make this confession to garner pity, rebuke, correction, or ridicule.  I make it so that anyone out there, who might find December a bit daunting, might know that they are not alone.  And maybe benefit from my public self-analysis. In spite of the backlash and reprimands I fear – here goes.

I have a very difficult time with the “most wonderful time of the year”.  There, I said it.  This is no surprise to those who know me.  In fact - were it not for them - I’d still be stuck in my powerfully ineffective strategy of choice. Denial.

I can’t know what might flavor another person’s gloom, but unfulfill-able expectations fuels mine.  It’s at Christmastime, more than any other, that I feel a magnifying spotlight is focused on all my inadequacies.  Every. Single. One.

Christmas is supposed to be about love.  I get it.   Love is others minded.  I get it.  Love speaks different languages.  I get it.  But Thanksgiving’s pumpkin pie isn’t digested before the internal accusations begin screaming,  “there’s not enough”.   Not enough to give those whose love language is quality time.  Not enough energy to do more than stocking-stuffer caliber acts of service.  Not enough resources to satisfy my desire to speak the language of love to the gift-givers in my life. For the speakers of physical touch, too many miles separate us.  And for those whose native love language are words of kindness I suspect my annual mass mailed greeting feels egregious.

And every ‘not enough’ takes energy to resist. Some days I’m more successful than others.  Some years I’m more successful than others.

My struggle is the inability to communicate - in all its dialects – the love, gratitude and appreciation I feel in my heart that I want others to know.  The pit I fall in every year is the feeling that every person I love is going to be disappointed in me.

Wow, there it is, the insidious belief that has robbed my joy every year at this most wonderful time. What can I do with that belief Lord?

“What did Peter say to the lame man’s expectations in Acts 3?”

 "I don't have any silver or gold for you. But I'll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!"

The truth is I only have one thing of value to give.  It springs from the gift made available at the cross.  Sometimes things happen that stop us dead in our tracks.  And we might find ourselves, like the man in Acts, having to be carried, forced to spend our days stuck watching others move easily through a gate called Beautiful. 

All the time, gifts, words, hugs, or help I can give will never bring life into those broken, hurting areas that need to be made well. My efforts are just fluff and sprinkles.  Jesus, the One Who is more than enough, brought substance and truth in abundance and offers liberally.  So, to those who -  like I often do - find themselves unable, lacking, and paralyzed by uncertainty, His empowering gift is offered. 

"Take my hand. Get up. Together we will walk."


Monday, December 19, 2016

Relationship Killers

Are you experiencing feelings of disappointment, discouragement, anger, jealousy, despondency or hopelessness?  If so, you might be suffering from the effects of broken expectations.  If left unchecked, this condition is lethal.  It will destroy relationships and leave all parties involved shaking their heads in shock and disbelief. 

How does this silent killer operate?  It finds a foothold in human needs and desires.  Needs are legitimate, and necessary for survival.  Desires are legitimate, and necessary for fulfillment.  Like the need to eat and breathe, every human has them.  Having need is not the problem.  Let me say that again.  Having need is not the problem!  The problem comes when we choose unhealthy and illegitimate ways to try to get those needs met.  If I’m hungry and in need of food I have several options available to legitimately meet that need.  Walking through a restaurant and grabbing food from other diner’s plates is not one of them.   

 Expectations are the unspoken demands put upon others in an effort to get my needs met.  Let’s say I have a need for love.  That’s legitimate.  Now let’s say my definition of love is that another human being is responsible to see to it that I am happy at all times, fulfilled, pampered  and have no desires left unnoticed or unmet.  In walks some poor, unsuspecting soul who says, “I love you”.  I hear those words and translate them through my definition of love.  This activates the unspoken expectations attached to that definition and they are unleashed into the relationship.

When those expectations are unmet, blame is laid on the one who failed to meet them.  “You didn’t”, “You never”, “You always”… and the poison begins to erode the fragile ties that hold people together. 

The treatment for this debilitating condition: an honest assessment that leads to releasing others from the unspoken expectations I have placed on them and on myself.  How does one go about this tricky task?  One way is to allow the Spirit of God to reveal  unhealthy tendencies and the tangible steps  to take that will help you find victory over the need to demand others bring fulfillment to your life.  It is called forgiveness, and it releases others from the demands you have made on who you have expected them to be in your life.  Forgiveness isn’t reserved only for sins.  It is the miracle pill for non-sin issues as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Blazing A Trail

I grew up on a dairy farm right here in Meade County; surrounded by 650 acres of solid prairie.  The only trees on our place were intentional - the windbreak, a couple for shade around the house and a dozen running parallel with the road out front.  And as beautiful as the Black Hills are, our forest does not fall into the ‘dense’ category. So, when I read the adventures of exploring frontiersmen like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, the images my ten-year-old mind could conjure didn’t do justice to their reality.  Explorers? Big deal.  Bears, mountain lions? So what?  I’m listening to the top 40 country count-down, hoping Charlie Pride’s Kiss and Angel is going to be number one.

Fast forward a decade or so and I’m a young mother driving through Kentucky and Tennessee. *Insert perspective change here*

Those trail-blazers hadn’t simply hiked through a forest! Their insistence to live on the cutting-edge (literally) carved a path through a jungle.  Paths that have since led millions to the Grand Ol’ Opry and Churchill Downs.    
The Kingdom of God requires trail-blazers as well.  Jesus led the way, slicing through the tangled mess that had overtaken the hearts and lives of humanity.  He was followed by fearless frontiersmen like John, Peter, Lydia, Paul and Pricilla.  Others have built settlements in the wake of the trails these brave forerunners made: Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller, C. S. Lewis and Mother Theresa.  The inroads made by these courageous Kingdom explorers has paved the way for millions to follow. 

I wonder if these Kingdom trail-blazers were aware of the impact their explorations have made on the world?  

I believe all children are hardwired with a desire to accomplish amazing things, making inroads into areas not yet explored. Sadly, not everyone realizes those dreams because the first step in the adventure begins by blazing a trail in our own hearts.  Cutting through overgrown lies, hurts, fears, idealism, and other unspeakable underbrush is a daunting task.  But hey, the payoff so exceeds the effort. And because of Christ’s success at the Cross, we never have to face that task alone.  Go for it!  Your world will be changed for the better because you bravely go where no other can… the realm of God’s Kingdom that waits to be discovered in your heart.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Reflections of NY (Installment #1)

I grew up on a farm that is roughly one square mile. There were five people living on that patch of ground. New York City's last census claims 27,532 persons per square mile, for 305 square miles. In those conditions it's easy to think yourself invisible. I imagine feeling unseen is the norm and it is awkward, terrifying even, to be seen.

I’m on a plane flying home. Home, after having spent a whirlwind week in New York City with 3 other gals. We walked iconic streets, toured iconic buildings, cried at iconic sights. And for that I am grateful. Hundreds of pictures were taken whose captured milliseconds will be jogging this fantastic memory-made trip for decades to come. But sitting here, next to the sleeping fashion photographer from Tokyo, replaying the week’s highlight reel in my head I am genuinely shocked at what it contains. Glimpses of sparkling brilliance that rival the windows that wowed us in the diamond district.

Of course Greg and Anne, our gracious hosts, whose willingness to give of their time is a kindness that cannot be overstated. Coupled with Greg’s infectious love of the city and unique ability to show us how to love and appreciate it has tainted my ability to ever think less of his city.

There was the beautiful Canadian girl I was privileged to share a 24 square inch of floor space on the express subway (with no air conditioning), to Battery Park. Her skin was flawless, as was her smile. Her kindness prompted her to point out the sign keeping passengers informed and offered direction on our trip to visit Lady Liberty.

There was, on that same train. A young, 'fashion forward’ man, whose wide smile was a mix of pity and amusement. I can easily imagine him, were we in a different setting, saying something like, ”Oh, girl! You need to punch up that color! Let’s weave some warm chocolate with, oh I don’t know, maybe some honey tones…” But what his kindness actually prompted him to say, through that beautiful wide smile was, “Happy Holidays!”

Another beautiful, un-digitized memory, also on that subterranean ride to the tip of Manhattan, was another pair of brown eyes. He spoke very quietly making him difficult to hear, but he surrendered his hand-hold on the pole so I could have a more secure stand. He was young, with eyes that were a mix of kindness and sadness. He overheard our remarking on the irony of the folks at home facing sub-zero temperatures while we were melting into puddles.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“South Dakota.”

“And how cold is it?”

“This morning it's minus 3 degrees.”

To which he responded with, “God bless you.”

I don't know how often people get to hear a kind voice say, “God bless you”, on overheated, over crowded subways.  But his kind blessing calmed my anxious heart.

And then there was Chuck, the usher at the Saint James Theater. After striking up a conversation I was pretty sure he hailed from New Jersey. Sure enough, he did. And when I asked him where specifically in New Jersey was he from his initial response was mixture of surprise, disbelief, and delight.

“From Jersey? You want to know where I am from Jersey?”


“Nobody ever asks where at in Jersey people are from! No body cares.”

“I do.”

His reaction to my question made me sad, like he had become too familiar with being overlooked and under appreciated. Invisible. I was so glad I had asked.

His kindness was shown by way of gifts. Beautiful, tangible reminders to thumb through and listen to, anytime the memory of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure threatens to fade we will have his gifts.

Kindness never goes out of style even in fashion conscious Manhattan, and it comes in the most wonderful flavors.   

Monday, December 12, 2016

What's The Difference?

“Aren’t all religions basically the same?” When I hear that question, my mind goes back to that summer 1986 when I learned that shopping from the misguided assumption that all insurance is basically the same is foolhardy.

 30 years ago, Mike & I learned a valuable lesson.  Like many valuable lessons, it cost way more than we were comfortable or capable of paying.  This one involved a wicked hail storm, an insurance policy and our infamous trailer.

 Jagged, softball sized hail pummeled the north, and west sides of our little house on the prairie as well as its entire roof.  Every window on those 2 sides of the house was shattered.  Shards of glass were everywhere - embedded in the furniture,  green shag carpet and even the kitchen appliances.  There wasn’t a single section of siding or roof that wasn’t damaged, most of them had holes punctured through.

 But it was going to be okay.  We were insured.

 However, after the insurance company plugged the value of our 15 year old mobile home into their magic adjustments & payout calculator, it was determined the depreciated value of our worldly treasures to be just a smidge over worthless; we were schooled on the difference between ‘replacement’ and ACV (actual cash value) insurance. Our policy was not the replacement variety.  So, instead of getting anything replaced we got a 5 gallon bucket of waterproofing black goop to fill the 109 punctures on the roof, 6 sheets of siding (unpainted), some money to buy window pane glass, a roll of screen and $25.00 per room for flooring and we had a couple months to patch things up before winter set in.
 When questioned - post settlement check - the agent’s cavalier explanation boiled down to our naïveté and ignorance was not his concern, and that we were responsible to know what our monthly premiums were insuring.

 We had assumed all insurance was basically the same.
 Ignorant assumptions are expensive.

 Aren’t all religions basically the same?  Ravi Zacharias answers that question this way. “Religions are not the same.  People say they are fundamentally the same and superficially different. Actually they are fundamentally different and superficially – at best – similar.”
 Investigate!  Do you know what is yours because of the Cross of Christ?  When tragedy hits and you are surrounded by devastation is not the time to figure out what’s what in your belief system.

 What Christ Jesus has made available to humanity is unlike any other plan the world offers.  He answers the big questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? How shall we live? And where are we going?  The Cross of Christ has made it possible for all to be reconciled to God, to walk in peace, grace, and love by the power of God’s Spirit that now resides in the hearts of men.  We are agents of truth, compassion and reconciliation.  We are not trying to attain perfection.  Perfection has come to us.  We are not trying to become like god.  Our God took on flesh and became like us.  We do not serve a god of hate, force, death and coercion.  We serve a God who, by loving kindness draws people to Himself.  We do not wonder if we lived our lives well enough to be granted access into the presence of God or be recycled, reincarnated and have to try again.  Jesus Christ lived his life well and has given us the honor of walking in His righteousness.  We do not get instructions for life from dead, disembodied spirits.  We get our counsel from the Spirit of the Living God.

 This life in Christ isn’t your ordinary, bargain-priced, make-it-happen-with-my-own-efforts kind of religion.  It is unlike anything the world could conceive or maintain.  And it’s yours.  And there are 5 billion people on the planet today who do not know what Christ has done.  That’s a daunting task but it is our mission.   It is what our good, good Father has asked us to do.  Tell everyone that the way has been made for them, that He has a place for them and they are valued and loved.  Those are the questions people are asking and that we have the answers to.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

If I Was God

How many times have we heard someone say that?  How many times have I been the one saying it?  It's one of those ludicrous statements we think makes us sound clever; when in reality it magnifies our human failure. It sheds light on the very thing the enemy used to destroy humanity.  Remember the lie recorded in Genesis chapter 3 that we swallowed hook, line and sinker?  "If you devote yourself to knowing good and evil, you will be like god."  Liar!   

That twisted thinking remains our great challenge today.  We don't see things the way God sees them...but we think we do.  Why?  Because we think knowing good and evil makes us like God.  It doesn't.

Romans 9:14-15  deals with this issue.  What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."  (NKJV)

And because we labor under the delusion that knowing good and evil is what it means to be god, God's compassionate promise morphs into something other than He intended. How? By our insistence that His love is reserved only for the deserving.  Our god complex causes us to think He agrees with us.  He doesn't.

We say, "If I was god I'd be merciless to those evil, ungrateful so and so's." 
God says, "I Am God and I have mercy on whomever I want. Your opinion on who is deserving and who is not carries no weight in my decision. My love, mercy, and compassion is extended to all.  I Am God, you are not."

Like Adam and Eve, we are faced with a choice: pursue the things that lead to Life by knowing Him, or continue on the path we were born into. That second option causes us to think being god-like means tipping the scales in the direction of good. 'Good' being based on my definition.  Jesus said it this way, "Why do you call me good?  There is only One Who is good, and that is God."

I've wasted too many years stomping my feet, scratching my head and wondering how God could be merciful and compassionate to a goof-up like me.  May I spend the remaining years celebrating the fact that He simply does.