Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's all in the story...

“So I extended my arms out REALLY wide and fixed them like a floating airplane because I was jumping off a twenty foot ledge into only three feet of water!  My stretched limbs helped break my fall and that's how I did it!"

      We had heard that story a thousand times about his cliff diving antics. Over the years the higher he seemed to jump and the water became nothing more than a mere puddle he was diving into.  One retelling afternoon I remember so vividly because I looked around the corner (out of eye shot from my infamous storytelling father) and my college son was standing on a chair in kitchen. He was doing an air re-enactment of the famous dive as the story once again unfolded. This was only one of my father’s many sagas.
       Here’s a few other delightful ones: like when he snuck onto the field and played with the Red Sox's as a young boy and filled in for second base, how he played hockey without shin guards, battled cancer, broke so many bones that had to learn to walk again,
almost started a Cuban incident while rescuing an
intoxicated naval officer from a brawl of ten men. Dad had his fingerprint on many of the missile projects for our military. Let us not forget his nature stories and how like in the Avatar movie, he “knew” when something was going on in the forest. He was connected because he spent so much time in the woods of Washington playing  by himself. He was the first to hike up several mountain peaks with his entire family (I always liked that story since I was the youngest and set the record.) built a dam so big as a kid that lumberjacks had to bring in machinery to dislodge it.
Ever watched Second Hand Lions? Well, that was my father.  The older he got, the better he was. However like the story of Second Hand Lions, there was lot of truth in his stories.  He left us a legacy of faith, the importance of family ties, strength, and courage to try things far beyond what we thought possible all through his silly stories. He’s not the only one in the family to share adventures.
 There are also stories from my mother-in-law “Grandma JJ” who has preached in many different parts of the world. She recently got back from Israel and prayed on the volatile Gaza strip for peace. 
A few years ago she went to Columbia at age seventy-five preaching and serving  a very poor and dangerous community. She even had a body guard because it was highly sketchy. Payment for her service of love was a new pair of leather shoes that the community all pitched in to buy.  With tears in her seventy-seven year old eyes, she’ll tell you the value of those shoes.  Stories like my Dad’s and Grandma JJ’s have etched their way into the hearts of our family and have taught us to all be risk takers and to experience all that God has for us.
Not only do stories give those of us listening-worth, but they also provide something to the orator.  For as much as the story teller is dispensing into another generation, the story teller is receiving affirmation of a life well lived. They begin to see themselves as a resource rather than a discarded piece of history.  It underscores the meaning of a full circle. I find it interesting that the stories that have been told seem to be lived out in the new generation of listeners. All my children pursue adventure, harness bold faith and are risk takers. There is not a one of us who looks at the word impossible and sees it as an impasse; the word impossible is really only an obstacle to overcome.  Where do we get that positive mindset? I believe it is from listening to unbelievable and unstoppable stories from those who beleived the impossible.
With our heads tilted to the colored pages of a family story teller in full throttle, we get to salsa dance in their legacy and character for a bit.  It reminds me of a new game for kids called “Skylanders-Swamp Force.”  The action figure is placed on a disc – called “The Portal of Power.”  The action figure comes alive in the video screen once it’s placed in position.  We position ourselves the same way  when we pull the memory of a great story out  and put it on the portal of power in our minds and Voila! We come alive and take on the spirit of the triumphant soul.  We march on knowing we have the same power as those who've gone before us.
 Whether we are on the side of still listening to lengthy sagas or are the one telling the tale, we are all part of a story.  Sometimes the smallest adventure can be the greatest gift if shared to the right  person at the right time. The bible is filled with stories that generation have followed, debated and embraced. The New Testament revists the Old in many parts. Stories make me search even deeper.      
As years go by, I find a novel awaiting with every scan across a room from the smallest dry cat food morsel left by my felines bowl (We claim we're hungry, but are we really?)  to the three brass hindges on the door (Ever wondered why?-two to position and one for strength. Don't we need stabilizers like that in life?) 
 Embracing the notion of storytelling is like the squirrel gathering his nuts for the winter season. My hole in the tree is jam packed with nuggets, to munch on when needed. Whether I like it or not, I'm becoming the new story teller that makes the younger generation’s eyes roll and I couldn't be happier!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Being "That Girl"

 For me, cancer was light years ago. It's great to just enjoy life with all the wonder and magic it brings. My brain swirls with creative ideas, sometimes even keeping me up at night. Talent limitations, don’t concern me anymore, because I realize its fun to step out of my comfort zone. Why not? I faced Goliath so what am I afraid of? I have been surprising myself.  At times, society has not kept pace with me. Little comments like, “How are you doing, Lynn?” “I mean, how are you REALLY doing?” While these comments are coming from the best of intentions, my warrior spirit becomes agitated- Because REALLY, I’m doing FINE! Cancer was four years ago and that train has left depot I took its benefits and left it’s horror at the station a long time ago. My identity is not in cancer. 

    Maybe the reason it bothers me so much is no matter how much I distance myself from “the event,” (if I'm honest), I sometimes internally question my aches and wonder, “is it back?” When I am questioned, I mean, “REALLY” questioned, I smart just a little because maybe they see something in me that is a little off. It triggers an minute identity crisis. There are so many little facets to this recovery thing, even for those who appear to have it together. 

         It’s made me think a little different about my friends and how I, myself  communicate.  How many times do I look at people with drama seeking glasses even if for the best of reasons?  Pretty sure you know what I mean, but let me say it how it usually goes, “Oh there’s that girl- you know the one with the drug addicted son, and that girl who’s marriage has fallen apart, and that girl who cheated on her boyfriend, and that girl who pretended to be a Christian but ended up in jail for stealing, and that girl who lost her kid in the accident.” It's not to judge them, it's just how we've identified them in our minds.What if we just put all that aside and saw the person?  How does God look at us? 

     We humans seem to have long coat of memories of the past hanging in the closets of our mind.  Remember the story of Peter and his name change from Simon?  Jesus tells Simon, that he is now Peter- Peter the Rock. The name change indicated a new identity for Simon but frankly, Simon struggled numerous times with it.  Jesus pointed it out when his actions did not match his new name change. The way Jesus did it made me chuckle just a little.

     Instead of saying, “Come on, Peter step up to your calling.” Jesus strategically just reverts back to calling him Simon in the sentence to drive home the message.  Remember this incident? “And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?"  Matt.14:37.  The conversation happens in the garden when Jesus needs him most, yet “Simon” falls asleep instead of praying with him. He wasn't living up to the “Peter” who had walked on the water. I so enjoy Jesus' candor. 

        Haven’t you done that with your kids to send them a message? When our kids took their time to get ready, it would not be unusual for Doug or I to say to them, “Come on Forest!–Let’s get going!” Why would we do this? Because they were driving us crazy being slower than their normal selves!  They always got the message loud and clear.  Jesus was doing the same with Peter. It was a motivational sting perhaps that said “Remember Peter, you are now the Rock!”  Don’t just be someone that hears (this is what Simon’s name meant), but be someone I can build my church on.

   Here’s the great news for me and others.  Peter did leave us an example of a life that finally embraced his destiny and calling. In his letter to the churches later in the bible, he introduces himself as Peter, the apostle of Christ. He got it and we can too. When looking at our scars, we must remember we are no longer cancer patients, thief’s, broken or hypocrites. We are now healthy, giving, whole and true. I think when I'm questioned in the future about how I REALLY am, I will simply just reply, "They are making a female version of the Brave Heart movie and I'm the star." It will do two things: get their eyes focused on my victory and send a message to my own brain.  It's time to walk in our destiny and see that destiny in others, because we are not That girl, we are His girl whose name has been changed.  

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Driving down the Oregon coast is a breath taking feat. It’s where the tall pines trees meander through twisting and turning bends in the road. Sometimes the forest is so thick and tall you feel boxed in and overwhelmed in the deep green maze of mystery. Many spots on the side of the thoroughfare host water dripping ferns and moss that oozes out rain water. Gravity joins in the splendor and sends the seeping liquid across the two lane 101 highway making it wet in patches.  Every so often the lighting changes and a curve in the road will provide you a glimpse of the powerful rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean.
    Doug and I drank in the majesty of God’s handiwork as we made our journey to the south. I found myself taking particular interest to where the rivers spilled out of the triangle mountains and finally reached the ocean shores. There must be billions of water droplet’s that make up that river, I thought to myself. I couldn’t help but be impressed at how a single snow flake that fell out of the sky and landed on top of the mountain could be reformed into a single water droplet. Later, it joined others to create a stampede of crystal clear H20 that traveled across waterfalls, rocks, trees, and other debris all the way to it's destination.  In some places, the rivers seemed to just melt into the ocean as if it was exhausted, in other places there was a dramatic show of power as walls of water crashed into each other.
The river’s mouth is what really intrigued me. During the eight hour drive through wind and rain, I kept looking out the window following the watercourse with my eyes hoping to catch at glimpse of where its ending point was. It was a closure thing for me and sort of exciting to see where each of the rivers finished their journeys.

At one of the more striking spots, I rolled down the window and screamed, “Ta-da!” As much as I loved it, the artist who created it was smiling too. I felt a chuckle in his whisper about celebrations and his nod of approval for me to get a little crazy with excitement.
      Even nature joined in the chorus as waves beat against old lava flows that left strange giant rocks protruding out of the shoreline welcoming the new unsalted water.

       Like a meandering river, I was that snowflake almost four years ago that was transformed and made into liquid energy and carried down a rugged path.  The month before our trip to the Oregon coast, I completed my last reconstructive surgery. I have reached the shore as far as operations go and I am filled with gratitude and creativity.  One of the more important things I have learned during my long adventure is to take time to celebrate little victories and say, “Ta-Da!”  Many times during my course of treatment, I found myself incorporating an inner cheering leader section in my brain and heart to get me through rough spots. There was always a big voice in the background with a megaphone that accompanied my own cheering squad, telling me I could make it. It was God himself. He would help me to squeeze past blocked passages and send me down tumbling back into the river’s flow to complete my journey.  Now, that I’ve finished this particular race in my life, I feel so treasured. I am honored to stand on the sidelines of my fellow snowflakes and yell out the window – You can do it!   

     There are powerful things about celebrations that we should never forget.
  • They encourage and empower us to press on.
  • They prepare us for the next battle in life
  • They position our spiritual eyes on our heavenly Sustainer
  • They rally community and build teamwork especially with those who have traveled down the same path.
  • They create laughter which is medicine to the soul.


Here’s some advice from someone who’s been there- Don’t wait until the end of your battle to start your celebrations. Divide your big battle into daily battles or even moments.   Celebrate at the end of each day your strengths. I’m not talking about climbing a mountain so you can plant your flag and tell the world you are wonderful, I’m saying climb the mountain and breathe it in and enjoy the view!  Before long you will find yourself at the end of your long journey with your head out the window screaming,


But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”    2 Cor. 2:14






Monday, February 3, 2014

Time Out

   My three year old granddaughter sat in time out, sobbing, “But I want to be good, I want to be good.” I had to turn my head to keep from smiling at her emphatic pleas of self control. We've all been there. Paul says it like this: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”  If we check closely to what Paul is saying, we see he is talking about “doing” or “do” meaning our actions.  He does not say, “I am not good” The whole subject of this reminds me of a comment my pastor Rex said, a couple of Sunday’s ago about the difference between shame and guilt. Shame attacks our character, it is destructive and can be lasting, it says, “We” are wrong; it is not positive and causes pain. Guilt, however can come and go as we face our failures, help motivate us to make changes, it says what I “Did” is wrong, it can actually be quite healthy as we understand boundaries.

     The whole reason I’m blogging about this issue is what happened to me about a month or two ago.  I was out making my marketing rounds and I had to pull out of a paralleled parking spot. It was a tight fit so back and forth I tried to crawl out.  I momentarily looked down to see if I had written my mileage down and very lightly kissed the car behind me. I pulled forward and looked in my rearview mirror. I didn’t see that I had done any damage, so I moved out the spot and went on my way. 

     As I got about two miles away and I starting thinking, I really should have got out of the car and given the car a better visual check to see if there was damage. I don’t know why I didn't except for the fact that it was barely touched. I was also in a hurry and it would have been hard to get myself back into the crammed area. What happened later in the day would underscore the difference between shame and guilt.

    It started with a conversation later in the evening, I was having with my hubbie, Doug.  I said, “You know, I tapped a person’s car today, but I don’t think I did any damage at all, but I think I should have left a note.” He is a joker, so he gave me a horrified look and said, “You did a hit and run?” “No, no,” I cried, “it was a just a slight bump and I couldn't even see a mark on the other guy’s car!”  Doug continued, “My wife is a criminal.”  “You should have left a note.”  Since I’m usually a goody two shoes, he was really enjoying himself and added, “I don’t know how you’re gonna live with yourself.” He couldn't have been more right. 

    Later that night when he went to bed, my vivid imagination ran away with me. Now I knew he was joking, but shame started creeping in.  I got on the internet to look up hit and runs. Clearly, I had committed a felony and was going to jail.
The area where the incident occurred would have hidden cameras on their building and like CSI they would zoom in on the video files and find my license plate.  My reputation as a Christian was shot, but at least maybe I could start a prison ministry while serving my sentence. Probably because I wouldn’t be allowed to wear my wig in prison, maybe my fuzzy hair would look butch and that might be a beneficial in a rough scene.  My example for my children was permanently marred and our contact would be limited to supervised visits.  Not only had I done a bad thing, but I was now a bad person – see how I embraced shame? My sleep during the night was haunted with whispers of my failure.  When I woke in the morning, there was only one thing left to do – Turn myself in.

     I left for work in the morning and headed back to Ventura for more marketing rounds and to gather the courage to turn myself in.  I hadn't shared a word with Doug about my plans because somewhere deep inside I knew what I was about to do was crazy and didn't want to hear  his input. After a few doctor offices rounds, I headed to the police station.The instructions on the wall at the station told me to pick up the phone to speak to the officer of the day. (Nobody gets in without being buzzed in.)  I’m sure he had a camera to view me in my pink floral blouse and skirt ready to confess my misdoings. I probably was a little different visitor than some of the variety of humans I encountered in the parking lot, in fact, I had rushed past a scruffy guy finishing up his cigarette to get my ordeal over. The horrible person I had become deserved to be in jail.  
Thoughts rushed through my head as to what my husband would think as he posted my bail.  I lifted the grime-filled phone cradle and said, ‘hello officer, I’d like to let you know that I tapped into a car on Loma Vista, but I’m very sure I didn’t make a mark, but I didn’t leave a note” I could tell, he was clearing his throat and he garbled, “well Ma’am – the law states that if you have left a mark or damaged another’s vehicle then you need to leave a note if no owner is present.”  “Did you leave a mark on their car?” I said, “No, I don’t believe so, but I should have left a note.” He said, “Well then, you don’t have to leave a note.” “I can look and see if any vehicle damage has been reported at that address.” I patiently waited and said, “You’re being very nice officer to help me.” (I was kind of surprised since I was expecting the jingle of handcuffs)  After what seemed like an eternity, he returned to tell me that no one has complained about their car at that address. He said, “Ma’am, why don’t you just go about the rest of your day and enjoy it.”  I’m pretty sure I heard a chuckle in his voice.
     Well, can I just tell you I felt like a million bucks returning to my car?  Clarity of my ridiculous self began to reveal reality. I wasn’t horrible after all. Thinking about my journey from the night before, I realized I had really left God out of all of my decisions to rectify my saga; I was the self appointed judge and jury. Shame does this and it had broken my relationship with God instead of bringing me closer to the point of being silly.
    Later in the evening I told Doug what I had done, and he laughed his head off. “You have got to be kidding me?” “I would have found you in handcuffs at the police station?”  "You are nuts!" I told him, “Well, you told me I was a criminal and I just had to make things right, no matter the consequences.” We have come from very different childhoods – me raised by “Ossie and Harriet- “the do good" family and Doug “if you see a cop- run” family. Shame had taken me down an overblown path, calling me evil, tormenting me until I couldn't stand it. 
     Simple spiritual conviction or guilt would have been so much better. I wouldn't have exaggerated my plight and most of all would not have thought of God’s beloved–"me"-as a dumb nut for life.  Looking back I completely laugh at how extreme I went, but I think God was trying to teach me something about the people that I pray for during the day. The message of grace and forgiveness is a powerful tool to the broken that don’t know the difference between shame and guilt.  We want to be good. We really do. The fact is we will blow it from time to time, and we may even find ourselves in time out with God. 
If we listen carefully, we will hear Him say- “yep, you missed that opportunity to shine for me, but it doesn't effect how much I love you. Lift your heads and let’s try it again together- I believe in you!”  See how guilt brings relationship to the front in a constructive way?

    There was more to my granddaughter's story in time out.  While she sobbed, I heard her mother answer her back, “Karis, I love you, You are not bad, you just need to start using your listening ears.”  Maybe we all need to put our listening ears on a little better and like Karis, know that we are loved regardless of our misguided adventures.

Friday, December 20, 2013

You are Fabulous!

   You know how a car zooming down the road can drift a little to the left or the right if the driver is not paying attention?  Funny how just a little thought in your mind can pull you near the edge of falsehood.  Imagination can cross the line especially if you are not anchored somewhere deep in belief. I try not to dabble in low self-esteem too much, but it knocked on my door a few times this week so I thought I’d blog about it. I even laughed at my own conclusions when I look at how far-fetched my thinking was.  Here are just three of the scenarios that maybe you can identify with:
     Last Sunday, a wonderful friend came up to me and said; “Wow, Lynn you look great!”and two   others chimed in and agreed. My “confident”self looked them in the eyes and said, “Oh gosh, thank you!” However, here’s what was filtering through my mind – “wow, I must have looked really bad last week.” 
    I remembered someone days earlier telling me they liked the color I picked for a sewing project. Guess where I went with it. Stating the color was great was easy way to say something nice, since they probably didn't like my creation.
    Sat down at a network meeting and the person next to me decided to move to another spot. I had an internal chuckle for a minute and then I wondered if my morning shower wasn't working. I actually said, “Did I scare you away?” and they smiled and said, “No, my friend that I was supposed to meet, just came in.”
  Why in the world do these thoughts drift through our brain taking us off course-especially if the incident involves a compliment? I have always been sort of proud of the fact that my earthly father gave me an important gift - personal confidence.  He believed in me and was always more concerned about my thoughts and spiritual things than outward appearance.  He taught me it is not a sin to feel beautiful, in fact, it is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and for others around you. I really think it is deal breaker when raising kids. So what makes me waft toward negative thoughts and whispers of doubt?  Plain and simple – here it is:

                                                                I forget who I am. 
    When I remember the truth of how precious I am, everything changes. The hopeless tragic mess I portray is traded for the One who sees me completely different – as a rare, exquisite pearl of great price.Jesus never lost sight of that here on earth.True, he was God, but also he had all the emotions and circumstances of common man. Let’s look at how he handled a compliment and perhaps receive another great message from this passage in Matt 3:16-17.
    “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'”
At this moment there was a manifestation of perfect unity–The Father’s voice confirming his approval of all the Son will do, the Dove–Holy Spirit resting upon the actions of Jesus and Jesus about to embark about His work on earth. Looks like the first thing we need to do is come into unity with our Maker. The chapter ends here, but something in the next chapter is so telling!

Right after God’s approval and compliment something happened,the real work began–as it does with us. Let’s peek at verse 1, chapter 4 of Matthew.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Almost immediately this is when Mr. Not-SO-Nice comes to knock on his door with all kinds of questions about Jesus’ identity. (We’re going to have those thoughts come in, but we must put them in the right place)
“If you are the Son of God, then make these stones bread, or throw yourself down or change who you worship” (greatly paraphrased but you get the idea)

Jesus never wavers. He is so connected with who he is that his purpose and love for the Father remains unshaken. As we finish through the gospels we find that he lived the rest of his earthly life in the full knowledge of who he was! Beloved!

I've decided I need to return to my own baptism of sorts and hear what the Father has to say about me and believe it when silly thoughts want to attack my identity. “This is my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased” Check out how the Message version reads: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” Wow!    Who wouldn't think I’m beautiful, or enjoy things that I create marked with his love or want to sit by God’s delight? Spurgeon expounds on why Matt 3:17 is so important to us as believers. 
  “The Father is not only pleased with Christ so much as to love Christ and to dwell in Christ, Himself, but He takes us up and He delights in us when we are in Christ because He has more delight in Christ the even Christ, Himself, can hold-and He wants more empty vessels into which to pour the rich wine of His soul’s delight. He loves Jesus so much that He can afford to love poor wretched sinner such as we for Christ’s sake! He does, as it were, say to Himself, “I have filled the ocean bed of my dear Son’s Nature with my Divine Love. Now bring here all the dried-up torrent-beds that you can find and I will fill them, also. Yes, bring here the dry Sahara’s, the wild deserts where never a drop of dew has fallen, and I will make them all to rejoice and blossom as the rose with this superfluity of love which I have to My dear Son ! There is enough to make Me love, even the world, for His dear sake. “Our Lord Jesus has so won the Infinite heart of the Most High that the Divine Love overflows to us! Beloved, let us come and get under the dripping of this love! Here is Christ’s cup running over-let us draw near and drink form the overflow of the love of God to Jesus Christ. “   
   As we enter the season of Christmas cheer and remembering those we love, you'll be sure to hear a compliment or two. When we receive them, let’s remember that we are chosen, marked by his love and the delight of his life. Revel in it and don't shrink back. It underscores your identity as a believer! God wants more and more and more of us to fill us up with his love. We are stretching the love of Christ by believing we are cherished with a compliment. Not by our own doings, but we really are all that and a bag of chips in Him.

Monday, November 25, 2013

So you wanna be great?

   What if you could preach to a stadium and watch thousands come forward with a decision for Christ?  How about if you had a voice that could sing the tenderness of God so clearly that others are moved to tears. What if you designed an entire water system for remote areas in the world so no one would ever go thirsty again or discovered the cure for cancer once and for all? Aren’t these the people we aspire to be? They are noble people worthy of honor.

    I think all these deeds are more then commendable, but I don’t think God is as impressed as we are as humans. Maybe it’s because these amazing feats were God inspired anyway. I’m not discounting the effort or perseverance some have laid forth, just underscoring the origin of brilliance.
Pretty sure our best ideas and creativity do make Him smile on some level because it means we've dialed into an area of our life where God is speaking to us and we are listening. However, I think the big Daddy “that’s my kid” smile is generated by something far more simple– by loving and caring for others with the love of God. 

  The message of how we are to love reminds me of an intimate campfire found in John 21, but here’s a little background before the campfire story: Jesus had been crucified weeks earlier and the disciples were anxious for Jesus return. Peter decides to get up and at least do what he knows best- fishing. It sounds like a good idea, so they all decide to go. It was what they were skilled at so perhaps they would feel better about their loss of their dear friend Jesus, however even the fishing trip on the Sea of Galilee was unfruitful. They had not caught a single thing all night. Nothing was going right. They were leaderless for the sake of the gospel and now even failures at their trade. Frustrated from the long night, they approached the coastline heading back. A voice from the shore calls out as the morning light began to surface on the dawn of a new day–
     “Hey, let down you nets on the other side”

 Hum… where had they heard that before?
John who also in the boat, snaps his memory and heart together and declares, “It’s the Master!”

The mesh is let down and fish begin to launch themselves into their net. Peter could care a less about the fish. He can’t stand it. In stead of waiting, he jumps overboard and swims ashore when he spots Jesus.  
The whole idea of Peter rushing to meet Jesus tickles me and makes me think how well he knew Jesus’ character trait of love. This encounter was the first he had since flat out lying publicly about even knowing who Jesus was. He failed his dearest friend during one his most difficult times, yet he is running to reconciliation! (Don’t we try to avoid people like this at the grocery store? - Hiding in the fruits and vegetables when we have offended someone because of shame.) The only explanation of his "run to see Jesus" is Peter had a repentive heart and he KNEW what Jesus’ response would be -to receive him back as a friend and a brother. (It kind of underscores the verse – “it’s your kindness that leads us to repentance.”)  Gotta love this!
    Later at the campfire, I can picture Peter sopping wet, warming himself up.  I believe the campfire setting was an intentional underscoring of how far love, forgiveness and acceptance can go.  Campfires have a way of warming one’s heart not only cold hands.
   The smell of warm bread and fish is filling the air while this motley crew gathers round for breakfast and fellowship with their beloved resurrected leader. I can’t help but think Peter is rewinding his failures with the sights and sounds of a previous campfire -the campfire where the denial happened. Can you imagine the conversation? “Lord, I’m sorry. I was terrified and afraid. I thought I’d die too and who would take care of my family?”  Here's how Jesus handled it:

   After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

   “Yes, Master, you know I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

 The “these” could mean disciples, or fishing nets and trade. Jesus is basically asking him about his about his life. “Do you love me more than all of this?”
I find myself being asked that question frequently in my mind. My “this” (my projects, my desires, my work, or my goals…my, my, my, etc) wants to wave a tiara to focus on what I can accomplish for Jesus. However, I think Jesus is most impressed when I spend a little extra time with a lonely senior, encourage a troubled friend, walk in repentance and offer grace to those as much as I have been given.  Mother Teresa says it so perfectly, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  

It’s not really about the “great” thing we are doing as much as the uncomplicated measure of love with which it is dispensed at any given moment.  

   In chapter 21, Jesus continues to ask Peter two more times if he loved him. I love that Jesus who can peer right into the conflicted and exuberant heart of Peter and ask him the same question two more times. Jesus knew the answer, but here’s a thought- maybe Jesus wanted Peter to hear the answer for himself. Peter’s previous actions had not showcased what love looked like but more like self preservation and fear.    

   We blow it just like Peter swayed by our “things.” He had made the worst mistake of his life in the weeks prior, and is now sitting face to face with his savior whom he betrayed and rejected. Peter’s changed heart sings out, “Lord, you know I love you” several times. The last time he was emphatic and even frustrated that he keeps being asked the same question. Each time Jesus tells him to tend to his sheep and Peter is tucking the message deeper and deeper. I see this scripture as a healing balm stroking over a humbled man.  Broken and helpless transformed from unstable sand into Peter the Rock on which the church would be built.  

    God wants to build his church with you and I in much the same way.  If we’re gonna walk in simple love and do it well, maybe we, like Peter need to hear ourselves say it several times- “Lord, I love you…. Lord you know I love you… Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know I love you!”

 Jesus will reply – “then feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, and feed my sheep.”

 So you wanna be great? Just do what you normally do but dive in like Peter and love.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

When We Get Dirty

  I drove through a lush valley the other day. Farmlands were ripe with artichokes, corn and a bounty of assorted vegetables laid ready for harvest. Laborers in the growing land became human conveyor belts as the boxed produce traveled from field to truck. The more south we drove the landscape began

 to take the appearance of a giant zebra. The striped markings rolled over farmed mounds were perfectly spaced to accommodate the rows and rows of grapevines. I couldn’t get over the bounty of the land mile after mile. 
        My eyes gazed to homes situated on hilltops on each side. I thought to myself – Man, that must be some view each morning! What a great place to live!  But the longer I dwelled on the glory of living on a hill, the more I realized that most of my enjoyment would just be for taking in the beauty of the harvest rather than experiencing the wonder of touching the fruit of labor. Certainly hilltop living has its place, besides just scenery. There is wisdom in seeing the whole operation of growing and harvesting from an eagle eye; however something magical happens on the ground floor of hard work. 
      The life picture displayed for me, soon became God’s voice and colors of grace were drawn in. It was a canvas of the ups and downs of walking with the Lord. We’ve all heard friends talk about their mountain experience with gusto, but then we’ve also listened as others sigh when they are in a low place filled with struggle. I saw the low place of toil as the farmers became human ants working together for a common good. It was indeed hard work. My dimly lit window that I peeking out of into spiritual matters swirled before me and the breath of His spirit breathed into my small space so I could chat with my Maker. I rubbed off the moisture of his breath. The great scene of the abundance that lies in the low valleys of our souls became clearer with each wipe of the glass. Could it be so? that in middle of our hardest labor that  some of God’s best work is done?
       We are so accustomed to the struggle in the valley that we don’t look for much else like the laborers whose body aches from muscle spasms and sore joints from years of abuse. He continues to pull weeds, water and maintain the farm because harvest is coming. In the scorching heat his head is covered while his clothing takes on the color of the mud.  The long hours have dug the farmland into his pores.

But then…a green shoot bursts through the soil
 before long..
a flower bud appears.
Soon the flower falls to the ground and dies,
now a budding fruit starts to take shape.
 Weeks later,
harvest has come.

     The perfect environment for growth has been formed in the middle of back breaking work. The harvest will bring a revival of bounty that is distributed to all who will receive. .

                          The bounty doesn’t just happen.
                                      It happens in the valley of struggle.
                                                 It happens through persistence and pain.
                         It happens when old things die so new life can be brought forth.

    Maybe we should keep our eyes open a little better to see what kind of environment God is working on.
       Could it be that when someone loses their job they are forced to understand dependence? 
       Could it be when someone is looking for a spouse they know better than anyone the     
       importance of love?

Get where I’m going here?  Let’s not be so quick to rush out of the pit of struggle without gleaning all that the Lord has for us.
                        We grow in the valley;
                                        We harvest in the valley, and get dirty,
but most of all we shine with riches that give the hilltop homes something to really look at.