A Psalm of Perspective

An Open Letter to
the Posers, the Pretenders, and the Petulant Prodigals
(Or, a note to self)

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Even before the sun stretches over the horizon

the lies pace like a pack of hungry jackals, preying

to devour your joy,  your hope, your peace. Your prayer

their prey. They attack from every angle. There

is no escape; their ranks closing, closing, until

light and air fade. Every effort, every movement

exhausting as every lie becomes truth, every

good thing, dust. Like ash, faith flakes, erodes,

dissolves through fingers clenched, hands balled

into fists, ready to fight the poser you see staring

at you from the bathroom mirror. But still,

you pray. Be still. Be still, you pray, wanting God

to still and stave off the jackals. Be still

and pray.

Selah.

“You’re not good enough,” a familiar voice whispers

within. “You can’t do this. You can’t do

anything.” You glance around, surreptitiously, hoping

nobody sees or hears these words that seep like truth

into your heart, your thoughts, your being. You doubt

your worth as much as your gifts. Who else knows,

you wonder. Who else knows you wonder what to do

or whether what you do matters. Do they,

like you, see you as a phony, pretending to be, pretending

what you do matters even a little to anyone. Even so, you know

one thing; you can do one thing without posturing, without

posing, without wondering. Because you know;

even now you know. Even stuttering, even stammering,

even incoherent words, raised up, whispered, wanting,

desperate, you know He hears you still. Be still

and pray.

Selah

Even before the sun stretches over the horizon

you itch, you need to run, to outrun the lies

as much as the truth of your lies, what you’ve done.

You left, you ran, you threw all caution, threw

brooding tantrums and demands, seeking what

you did not earn or deserve; you reaped it all

and now, with weeping, you know you have lost

your way as much as your worth. Everything

gone except one; except One, One who stands,

who waits, who seeks you with everything He

has starting with His love. You are lost

not to Him or His truth of You. But to find

what was lost, you must no longer hide, but seek

stillness and pray.

Selah

You, O Lord, provide the One

true reflection of me by Your truth;

yet in my being, I am loathe to succumb

to Your Word; even so

I long for Your provision, Your power,

and Your portion. When You my priority I make,

even halting words raise up my eyes

to You. I see clearly what darkness

seeks to hide. I see You

in me because I bear Your image

and I am no longer me alone. Not mine

alone. My words do not reveal

anything You did not whisper first

to me: masterpiece, delight, created

to know You when I come and sit

in stillness, pouring out the pain

and pretense in words or tears or groans;

You pouring out my next breath, and

one breath more, to fullness, abundance

simply by Your presence.

Let Your Power Come Through Prayer

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There is a richness to much of the text in Chapter 5 of the book of James, and it brings to mind the reason Jesus gave up His place with the Father and chose to step into the mess and chaos of this world. He is the living and breathing testimony to the compassion and mercy we so desperately need.

It intrigues me to view Jesus through words in books like James; ones that refer to Him, but may not necessarily seem at first glance to reflect Him as directly as the Gospels.

For example, the passage admonishing followers not to grumble against each other, lest we be judged. “The Judge is standing at the door!” verse nine declares. During His time in this world, Jesus was that Judge standing at the door, and in the synagogues, and on the dusty streets of Galilee and Nazareth and throughout Judea, and in the homes of sinners.

Even so, Jesus, as the One who should judge and can judge and will judge, He did not judge against His brothers. Nor did He grumble against them. Indeed, He did not refrain from letting His words convict the hearts of men, or challenging their motives, but His motivation was to redeem and not to condemn. He pursued relationships and hearts and He loved unconditionally.

I don’t believe I can say the same of me.

Yet Jesus beckons to me. He calls me over the chaos of life to come ever closer to Him. He invites me to follow Him and to learn from Him. And my heart cries, “Yes!” I look to Him to make me whole and to forgive me. Every time I falter and every time I grumble. Because that is why He came.

I am why He came.

My prayer on this first day of Lent is to unleash the power of my prayers and watch the wonderful results those earnest and heartfelt prayers produce as I seek Him first each day. Not just by my words, but through my actions and with my heart.

What is your prayer for today? For these next 40 days?

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A Writing Journey

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Sometimes, I have to go back to the basics. Today, I’m putting Rewriting Destiny’s major chapters and their plot points onto index cards so I can see the whole picture of the story my characters are living.

As with many of my works in progress (and their are several and all remain half-finished), this one began with a writing prompt and I fell in love with the characters, Willow and Poppy. For me, their journey is a female version similar to the one that Sam and Frodo take in Lord of the Rings.

Each young woman has set off to rewrite her destiny as told her by the Ceremony of the Fates. Each believes the Ceremony has provided them a wrong path, one not aligned with their true gifts. Embarking on this journey and leaving their Village expels them forever from returning.

The journey is decided no matter the Fate they discover. As the writer of this story, their epic journey is mine as well as I travel alongside Willow and Poppy to the story’s end.

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Breathing Life into My Story

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This is the year I finish at least one fiction manuscript, and thereby live out the fraction of those thousands of lives. Some of the lives available to me include Henry, a faerie who became human to protect the woman he loves; Willow Suantraí, a young girl who embarks on an epic journey to change her destiny and defeat the angels of darkness that threaten the fates of many; Daniel, a photographer whose dreams reveal seven people he needs to find and save from a shapeshifting evil doer; Amber Stone, a mother who doubles as a superhero in an alternate reality and works to defeat evil; and a monster who revisits Lucy, the girl whose bed he lived under during her childhood, to deliver an important message.

There are others. But this is about finishing only one.

For me, this is about breathing life into one story’s characters that have not been given the opportunity to fulfill their full potential to live out their story. And, yes, this applies as much to me, their writer, as it does to them. Because by starting and stopping their stories, by abandoning my gift for lengths of time, I miss the opportunity to fulfill my full potential and live out my story.

By writing their story, I continue to live out my own, as a writer and as the person I was created to be.

What story will you pursue this year?

 

Finding the Miracle in the Mess

img_0916It’s Christmas week and we have two little girls. Needless to say the anticipation and chaos are both at full throttle.

There are also life circumstances that threaten to choke off our joy, our delight, our hope in the God who wrapped himself in flesh, in our humanity, and came down into our brokenness to abide in our flawed messiness.

Life circumstances too often swell like storming seas whose waves crash and jeopardize our attempts to remain afloat.

Even so, these words from Psalm 91 are my lifeline: “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust Him.”

Because God came down.

Because God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Because God cares for us.

Because God is with us.

So, we trust in Him.

We hold fast to His grace as much as His promises.

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We turn toward Bethlehem and remember the miracle of a God who was laid in a manger.

We quiet our hearts and still our thoughts and listen.

We listen to the whisper of that first Christmas that draws us in. Invites us near.

We listen to the cry of a baby who was God and who was welcomed by lowly shepherds.

We listen to the angels who spoke of good news and great joy.

We listen to the heart of God.

And we embrace this place where we are with its mess and its chaos and its clutter and its unknowns.

Because no matter our circumstances, even so, God is with us.

Oh come, oh come Emmanuel, my refuge, my strength, my joy.

Prayer’s Unexpected Answers

I don’t know about you, but as a Christian, I’ve heard that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we expect. Maybe that feels ambiguous at best to you. If so, I’d like to share a concrete glimpse of what that can look like from a moment in my life just last week.

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As many of you know, we have an eight year old who is on the spectrum. For those of you not sure what that means, it means that she was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Asperger’s; and that translates into a level of anxiety and rigidity that most of us are unfamiliar with in our day-to-day lives.

For my daughter, right now, it translates into compulsive behaviors and meltdowns resulting from an elusive search for perfect that does not exist on this side of heaven: lining her chair up just so at the dinner table, wearing only one pair of shorts because none of the others feel right to her, wiping her face and hands repeatedly to avoid being dirty.

She knows perfect is not possible, even so, she seeks it with a fierceness that is too often heartbreaking. Like last Wednesday.

Because a trip to the indoor play space on Monday had not gone as planned or hoped, we left shortly after we arrived. This also led to my sweet girl wanting to go back and try again, and, because that in itself was an incredible victory (because she didn’t write off the play place due to one bad experience), we decided to return on Wednesday.

As I got ready Wednesday morning, I prayed; I poured my heart out to God, as I’ve done so often, lifting my daughter up and asking God to go before us and make a way for us, especially for my daughter. I prayed for peace, I prayed for His presence, I prayed for calm and for a lessening of the anxious compulsive need for perfect.

DSC04430Even so, she sat on the floor amidst seven or eight inside out socks cast aside because they didn’t feel right and her eyes welled with tears, her face betraying her anxious doubts as guttural sobs filled the space between us, piercing my heart.

Really? I thought. This is how God is choosing to answer my prayers. Really?

Anger that bordered on rage coursed through me, in an effort to beat back my tears, and the pain of my mama heart. Just one day, I begged Him. Just one day without all of this.

But in spite of my best efforts to remain calm and to guide her and to coax her and to sort through socks with her, the perfect her brain demanded eluded us both.

And so, my youngest daughter and I set forth for the indoor play space, leaving my oldest at home with her father and her favorite video. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we’d been pretty certain that the most people would be traveling or otherwise preparing for the Thursday holiday.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

There were more people – kids and parents and grandparents and babies (a real challenge for my eight year old because of their unpredictability and crying) – than I’d ever seen before in that small space. Standing there, just inside the doors, Truth rushed over me and through me along with the deafening crush of noise: God had answered my prayers.

God had answered my prayers. But not in the way I was planning, expecting or hoping.

He’d made a way for us. He’d made a way for my daughter to avoid the very things that would have caused increased anxiety and deep disappointment. Instead, she was at home, enjoying a favorite video, loved on by her daddy and her sister got some much-needed time away from her sister and some one-on-one time with me.

It can be tempting to want to step into the place that God has and to answer our prayers our way. I was working diligently to manipulate the circumstances, and God, to get my eight year old out the door for a fun day at the play place. But God knew better.

And this time, He showed me with amazing clarity exactly what that looked like.

Just one day, I’d begged Him. Just one day without all of this.

That is exactly what He gave us. That, and the reminder that my life is always better when it’s in His hands.

Stormy Faith

Here’s what I know:

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this move that is right now set to happen between Tuesday and Wednesday.

I don’t know where we are going to live because we haven’t found anyone who will rent to us due to our current circumstances.

I don’t know how there can be so many people praying for us and yet I know nothing about what happens next.

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Here’s what else I know:

I know God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts.

I know nothing is impossible for God.

I know God created the heavens and the earth and the oceans and he placed the stars in the sky.

I know God cares deeply for me and will never abandon or forsake me.

I know my faith does not depend on my feelings or my circumstances.

Even so.

Fear battles faith with every flaming arrow the enemy has in his quiver and doubt swirls like a storm only Jesus can quell as He did for His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

The storm is fierce and my faith is not only little, like the disciples, it is shaky at best.

Even so.

God is faithful even when He seems silent; and I will trust Him and I will wait on Him. I will say yes, even when He says wait a little longer. I will say yes, even if He says no.

Though every ounce of my limited, broken, bone-weary, and fear-filled humanity cries out, “No!” and, “I can’t!” and, “I won’t!” and, “Where are you?” and, “Why, God, why?!” I will trust Him. I will look back at the places from which I have come and recall the ways He has provided and that He has always met me where I am. I will remember His faithfulness.

I will say, “Yes.”

I will.

No matter what, I will say, “Yes.”