Saturday, October 17, 2015

Who Are You?

Who are you?  We answer this question is many different ways.  We explain where we come from, who are our people.  What we do is somewhere in there, along with hobbies, friends, and what makes us happy.  All of these things contribute, of course.  They are all a part of our stories.  But are they who we are?  Do we argue genetics versus environment?  Are we our family tree?  How much choice do we actually have about who we are?  Do road trips actually help us in finding out who we are?  I can tell you all about my story, who I’ve been, what I’ve done, where I’ve been.  But maybe, I’ve been looking at all this from the wrong perspective.
When we see art, most of us admire the art itself.  But when an expert looks, they see much more than the art, construction or design.  They study the artist, architect, and designer.  They discuss who the artist is or was, what their goals were, what they were thinking and feeling.  What is the purpose of the creation?  What was the creation intended to do?  So, maybe instead of searching for ourselves in an answer of ‘who am I’, we should look and study our Creator.  To start, check out Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you.  Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…”  Not bad for a start, huh?  Then, there’s Ephesians 2:10 “God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”  How about 1 Peter 2: 9-10 “But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.”?
Folks, the things written about us in Scriptures are almost unending.  Check them out for yourselves!  What was our Artist, our Architect, our Designer thinking?  What is His goal, the purpose of it all?  My take is simple, foundational, and infinitely complicated…  Love.  We argue over everything.  Politics.  Sports.  Everything from how to worship to how to cook an egg.  And what does He want us to do?  Love.  Love the people who are different from me.  Love the people who are persecuted.  Love the people who need what I have.  What did Christ do, nailed by His hands and feet to wood and hoisted in shame?  He looked at His killers and He loved.  What are we to do when faced with disagreeing thoughts, when ridiculed and persecuted?  Love.  Listen to this video of Chris Tomlin singing Good, Good Father.  Read and print out the lyrics.  Study.  Learn.  Love. 
So, who am I?  Who are you?  You are loved by your Creator.  It’s who you are.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How Do We Get Out of the Mess We've Made?

Image result for mess

All these years later, I still remember the confusion, the fear.  I had no idea what to do or where to start.  It was too much!  I was overwhelmed and it was all my fault.  What happened, you ask?  When was this, you ask?  Well, let me tell you, I was five years old and had been told to clean my room…  You’re laughing, aren’t you?  It does seem funny, even to me.  Until I remember how it felt.  How was I supposed to clean up the mess I had made?  Have you ever been there?  Has the mess ever been so overwhelming that you were defeated before you even started?  How could you ask for help, when it was so private, so shameful that you couldn’t even admit you had made it?  How many of us are thinking of that secret, so embarrassing that no one knows of or suspects?  What do you do when your world up ends and you are left surrounded by that secret, and all its exposure has destroyed?

Your mess might actually be an easy fix.  All you may need is the skills to organize or the cleaning supplies.  It might be as devastating as the earthquake and following tidal wave that hit Japan in 2014.  And the organization and clean up takes years, even decades.  The size really doesn’t matter.  It’s what we do with this mess.  You could be the person everyone else takes their messes to.  You could even be the ‘mess whisperer’.  But all of your skills, your comping mechanisms, and giftings could be useless when facing your own mess.  Seems hopeless, doesn’t it?  And it is.  When we only look at it with human eyes.  Human eyes, you ask?  What other eyes should we use?  What other eyes do we have?  Hindsight?  Foresight?  Intuition?  Experience?  All are possible and all can be great tools, even when cleaning up messes.  But the eyes that I am writing of are not our own eyes.  They are the Eyes of the Holy Spirit.  The Eyes of God.  The Eyes that saw our mess from the beginning.  They Eyes that see the middle, end, and eventual results of our mess.  The Eyes that see our intentions, our hopes, our secret sins, our addictions, along with everything else that went into making our mess.  He is the only One who can make beauty out of it.  He is the only One who can restore the loss and makes what seems impossible happen anyway. 

So where do we go from here?  You’re sitting, surrounded by all the destruction around you.  Helpless.  Hopeless.  Terrified.  Your secret is minutes from being exposed and there is nothing you can do.  Don’t shove everything into the closet or corner.  Trust me the mess only gets bigger.  If you don’t believe me, just watch one of those horders shows.  It gets bigger, messier, and more destructive. Thanks, Lara, you’re thinking.  Describe my life, down to the second, and leave me hanging.  That’s human thinking.  You may feel or have felt deserted by God.  That’s human feeling.  He has never and will never desert you.  What do you do?  What did I do when overwhelmed by the contents of my toy box all over my bedroom floor?  I cried out.  I asked for help.  Cry out.  Ask for help.  Look up.  He’s just waiting for you to ask for help.  Ask forgiveness, He never says no to that.  Read the manual, the Bible.  Go to your spiritual leaders.  If they are true followers of Christ, they will work and walk through this with you.  Come clean with those you love.  If they love you and are true followers of Christ, they too, will work and walk through this with you.  Get counsel.  Get counsel.  Get counsel.  Do whatever it takes to stop the cycle.  Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.  Repent.  And when the enemy of our souls tries to remind you of the mess and your part in it, when he blames you for the fall out.  Stand strong.  Because he will.  Cry out.   Look up.  Reach out.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day

The beaches, lakes and parks of the States are filled with people escaping for their three day weekend.  This weekend starts my own vacation, so I am right there with the masses.  Stores have marked down prices to attract buyers.  Churches today have low attendance.  Grocery stores have stocked up on hamburger meat, hot dogs and the buns that attend them.  In Vestavia Hills and Homewood, Alabama, American flags fly all along Highway 31.  Twenty years ago, on Memorial Day, I flew for the first time.  I flew from Atlanta to Portland then to Nagoya, Japan.  It was the perfect day to fly, you see, as my family were all off work that day so they could wave me off.  A little more than a year later, and I was back on American soil and have called Alabama home ever since.  As I sit writing, the beach out the window is filled with tents, umbrellas, coolers and radios.  I’ve seen kites, floaties and swimsuits today along with sunburns a plenty. 

But if you watch on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media, you will find the ones who remember what this weekend is all about.  One of my friends changes her profile picture to one of her dad as a (very) young man in his new Navy Blue’s, ears sticking out.  Another friend’s father was on the Beach at Normandy.  He was little more than a kid who lost many of his own friends that day.  Decoration Day is what it used to be called. Just after the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression as some Southerners call it) it was dedicated to the lives lost from both the Confederacy and the Union.  In a country ripped apart by war, slavery and hatred, it recognized all lives lost.  By the twentieth century, it was extended to remember and recognize all American lives lost in service of this amazing land. 
A few months ago, I was in San Antonio, Texas and my friends drove me through Fort Sam Houston.  She showed me her former home, her route to school, the PX, and the youth center.  On the way out, we drove past the cemetery.  I felt the weight of the cost of freedom.  But it didn’t end.  The more we drove the heavier it felt.  You see, there seemed to be no end to the gravestones.  The fields like the one you see, kept going.  Stone after stone, field after field.  It was overwhelming.  This friend’s father and husband are still alive.  They served without losing their lives.  Tina’s father and Marlene’s father both died old men.  But in this one cemetery, there are many who did not survive the wars and skirmishes that bought freedom for me.  As of 2008, there were over 120,000 graves. 
So, maybe instead of whispering our thanks as we bite into a hamburger or jump another wave, we should go a little farther.  Perhaps we should remind each other and teach the young that what we have comes at a great price.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

He's Got This

The grief is a mist that permeates the very walls of their home.  Every breath, every heartbeat is saturated with it.  There are so many ways that she and her sister differ, but the grief overwhelms them equally.  They handle it differently, though.  The tears, the gasping for breath are the same, but the places are different.  She wants to pummel something, preferably dough for bread.  But the ‘helpers’ had overtaken her kitchen.  They said that they are helping, but she wants them out of her space.  They won’t leave, though.  They cook for her.  They clean for her.  They eat her food and sleep in her beds.  They are there to help, but there is no help to be had.  Why won’t they just leave?!
Then she sees Him coming.  The One who was supposed to be here over a week ago.  Where has He been?  What was more important than being there for a friend?  How could anything be more important than a promise?  She runs out to meet Him. 
“Where have You been?  Why weren’t You here?  We sent for You?” she cries.  But her heart begs for answers to a much more painful questions.  Where were You when I needed You?  Do I matter so little to You?  Is this how You treat a friend?  I thought I was Your friend!
He answers that this is not the end…  Great.  Yeah, we will have an eternity together.  Thanks…  That really helps now.  That answer might have worked a week ago.  Now?  It’s just letters strung together to make words, then words strung together to make a sentence. 

If my friend, Duane, had been there in that moment, he might have said something to Martha that he texted me the other night. 
“He’s got this.”
You see, those aren’t just letters, words or a sentence.  It’s a promise.  He knows.  He cares.  And He’s going to do something about it.  That was the bleakest moment of Martha’s life.  She thought the days before had been hard, but watching the only One who could have changed the circumstances walk in late?  No, that made it even darker.  Because those doubts that had been hidden or explained away almost destroyed her when He walked toward the house.  It was too late and He hadn’t cared enough to get there any earlier.  That’s as dark as it gets. 
And yet, by nightfall, everything had changed.  The sun had risen, her brother was somehow with her again and those painful questions had disappeared.  Because it hadn’t been too late.  He was right on time.  He had it handled. 
So when it’s darker than ever and those doubts, those questions are getting harder and more painful?
He’s got this.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What is Beauty?


I must admit that I, like many others, have become addicted to Pintrest.  I can spend hours on that site, just looking and pinning to my boards.  I remember my reaction when I first heard about Pintrest, I could not understand why people would do this.  What good is a virtual bulletin board?  It didn’t take me long to start pinning.  I still can’t tell you what good a virtual bulletin board is, I just know I have wasted many hours building a board, organizing and pinning.  My latest board is one I call ‘What is Beauty?’ 

This is what I feel that the Lord is teaching me right now.  Beauty has nothing to do with size, race, age, religion or creed.  Beauty is a concept that people of today truly do not understand.  Today, every commercial, advertisement, indeed every facet of entertainment screams to teach us what beauty should be.  And they couldn’t get it any more wrong. 

So here’s my definition of beauty.  The creation of God.  Nature.  Men, women and children showing true and deep emotion.  Beauty is a woman holding her daughter’s hand, whether she is your neighbor or the first lady.  Children laughing, whether they are share your color skin or not.  Heroes who gave their lives to save others.  People, looking into the eyes of the ones they love.  This is beauty.  And it can’t be bought from a store.  A hairdresser or a makeup artist can’t give it to you.  Jewelry, clothes and as much as I hate this, a pair of shoes does not bring beauty. 

Where do we go to find it?  First check your mirror.  You are His workmanship.  I know, I know.  We are His workmanship.  It’s easier to see in the faces around you, in the ones you love.  But it’s there even in the ones we don’t love.  He loves us.  He made us.  He considers us beautiful.  Because we are His.  He is beauty.  And because He is, so are we.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


What secrets do you hide?  When you are alone, or when no one is paying attention, what do you think, do, want?  Are these secrets silly, immature or dangerous?  Are they shortcomings?  Are they sinful?  Do you fight against them?  And are you successful?  How often do you fail?  Does that failure not add to your secrets?

Is your secret your love for God?  Do the unsaved in your life know your beliefs?  Would they be shocked to hear you praise God on Sunday morning?  How would your church family respond to hear the language you use outside the church?

Is your secret rooted in fantasy?  If your pastor looked at the history of your Internet browser, would you be ashamed?  Do you use the previous channel button on your TV remote to hide so no one can see?

Is your secret dissatisfaction?  Life isn’t or hasn’t turned out the way you want, and all you can do is complain?  You don’t have the right job, the right house or the right car?  And you worry that you will never have the right anything?

Are you afraid, terrified even?  Does every sound in your home cause your imagination to run away with you?  Do you worry what will happen to you?  To the ones you love?  Does fear motivate everything you do?

Maybe you struggle with a few of these.  Maybe you struggle with all and more.  Let us face the facts, thought.  Really, only one fact.  Not a one of these can stand up to the Cross.  In part or in whole, the Cross of Christ cancels out all.  Jesus came to bring light to the world.  Light is the enemy of secrets.  Light exposes all.  Dust, spills and stains.  Secrets tie us up.  They keep us from worshipping.  Secrets don’t want to be anywhere near the Cross.  They keep us from reading the Word.  They keep us from prayer and communion with God.  And anything that stops us from those things must be brought to light.  They must be taken to the Cross.  There, the Blood of Christ completely cleanses us from secrets.  See you there.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Remoteless Life

Have you ever counted the number of remotes you have?  There are ten in my home, not counting the remote for the alarm system or the ones for the garage door.  Remotes have become staples in the lives of Americans today.  An attempt to describe life without remotes to today’s children brings the same responses that we gave to our elders when they described life without television, color or otherwise.  Incredulity.

I remember a spring break of mine years ago.  I had the flu and both of my parents worked.  In an attempt to get out of the prison my bed had become, my mother set me up on the couch in the den.  She set the regulatory water glass, peanut butter crackers and sweet tea, close at hand.  The only time I needed to get up was to walk to the bathroom.  She also turned on the TV to a channel that specialized in old movies.  Because there was no remote, I ended up watching black and white movie after black and white movie.  I felt too badly to get up, walk to the TV and physically turn the knob.  I slept through some of the classics.  And all because I had no remote.  I didn’t even miss it.
Today, when I am sick at home, two or three remotes are at my side. One for the TV, one for the satellite and another for the DVD/Blue Ray.  I can’t imagine a channel that I would want to leave on for hours.  Unless it was Duck Dynasty.  I think I could watch that for hours!  It would certainly make me feel better, but I digress.
This brings me to my point.  With all these remotes around to change the channel to something more comfortable, mute words we don’t want to hear, and pause the action when someone interrupts, what do we do when remotes don’t work?  I don’t mean when they just need batteries.  I mean when there isn’t a remote for the situation or the person.  When life gets hard, there is no pause or fast forward button.  When you don’t like the words or conversations that are surrounding you, there is no mute button.  When you are bored or uncomfortable in a situation, there are no other channels to turn to.  If you miss a moment, life isn’t a DVR and you can’t rewind.
Scripture tells us that God speaks in ‘a still, small Voice’.  As time passes and technology grows, it becomes harder and harder to hear His Voice.  And while we may not have a remote for God, it is VERY easy to ‘mute’ Him.  We change the channel to hear and watch something, anything other than what He wants us to experience.  We know that He is patient and we know that He loves us.  So it can be such a temptation to just pause Him.  He’s not going anywhere.  He promises that He is always with us.  So what’s the big deal?
A few weekends ago, I did this.  I glanced at my YouVersion.  I remember thinking as I saw the scripture of the day and the daily devotional, I don’t have the energy for this today.  Just forget it.  I’ll read it later.  I figuratively pushed pause and mute on God and His Word.  I knew what I was doing, I just didn’t care. 
Now I didn’t stop loving God.  I know who He is and what He has done for me.  I just didn’t have the energy or will to acknowledge them.  Then on Sunday morning, in the middle of praise, I remembered that choice.  That foolish, temper tantrum choice.  Yes, He still loved me.  Yes, He was still there, waiting for me.  But I had lost time.  Time to hear His beautiful Voice.  Time to feel His love and Spirit wash over and through me. 
This is the crime, folks.  This is what is lost when we try to use a remote on a big God.  Moments.  Moments that change lives.  Our lives.  The lives of others.  Yes, He loves us.  Yes, He is always there, just waiting for us.  And those things will never change.  But what are we missing when we take these truths for granted?  Put down the remote.  Leave the volume and channel where they are.  Bask in His Presence.  Watch and listen.  Rest and heal.  He is there.  He is speaking.