Archive for 2017

15
Jul

Making His Appeal Through Us…

Last Sunday I preached at my church. I, with much trepidation, told about my experiences with God over the past 4 years. Some of my faithful readers are probably saying, “But you blog openly about it!” 

True. But I don’t have to look many of you in the face as you read it! So, if you hate what I’m writing, I don’t have to know about it. I can live in a delusional world where everyone loves me! 

So, to get up in front of people I adore and love and ask them to believe all of this stuff is really tough territory for me. Thankfully, some were quite kind and said it helped them. Others simply politely kept their mouths closed! (This would be why I love my church!) Others, who were unable to hear it for one reason or another, asked that I let them read it. So, for those folks and for my faithful readers:

For those of you who don’t already know me, I am a mother of three grown children, the mother-in-law of two great people and the new grandmother of one fantastically awesome grandson. I’ve been in the mother role for over 30 years now. And some maternal habits don’t die easily, even after your children are all grown and you have no need of maternal habits anymore.

So, when our pastor asked me to preach today, I almost instinctively reached up to put my hand on his forehead and check his temperature. Here’s why:

I’m a preacher’s kid.

Wikipedia says that the stereotypes of a preacher’s kid are twofold: “in one, they are perfectly angelic role models, in the other they are rebels at the opposite extreme.” I tended toward the latter so here’s what I learned about church being Dad’s daughter:

  1. If the service begins at 9:30 am, you will have to be at church by 7:30 am, properly dressed and CLEAN. And there are few excuses tolerated for not doing so. “Not being a morning person” is NOT on the list of acceptable excuses.
  2. You can fit exactly 12 tic-tac-toe games on the back of an offering envelope. You can fit 16 on there if you write really small. Theoretically, you can fit 20 if the pew pencils are really sharp. However, since the preacher’s kid is usually responsible for sharpening the pew pencils, this will probably never be proven.
  3. Never sit on the right side of your mother’s elbow if you are snickering at Mrs. Zwiefelhofer’s oddly flowered hat during worship.

 

I will attempt to do something a bit more productive than what I just mentioned. But, if this goes seriously awry, I’m blaming our pastor, since he’s a preacher’s kid, too.

Unlike my dad, unlike our pastor, I am not a theologian. I’m something far worse.

I’m a blogger.

I comment on what I see around me and tell stories. So, today, I’m going to tell you some of my story.

Here’s the first thing you need to know about me:

My body hates me.

It rebels at the most inopportune times. I have had horribly debilitating migraines since I was 6 years old. I have had 4 heart attacks without any pre-existing risk factors for heart disease and I will probably have more. My rare condition is not remedied by medication, diet, exercise or being in a Zenlike position for the rest of my life. I developed anaphylactic shock reactions to most antibiotics and some painkillers after the first heart attacks at age 39. I never know what the next moment will bring. While I feel fine right now, I may be in the hospital ER when I leave here. But yet, I consider all of that good stuff.

Yes, good stuff. I don’t think I would have gotten to the relationship I have with God now if it weren’t for all of my medical adventures. But, I’m hoping what I learned about God in the process is now of some benefit to you.

Heart attack # 4 occurred on June 17, 2013. It was a doozy. I thought it was my ticket to Heaven, quite frankly. What was even more unsettling is that I couldn’t sense God’s presence at the time in my life when I most needed Him. I tried to pray, but it’s a little difficult to pray when your entire body is in severe pain. The one person who could relate to my situation, our minister, was moving to Ennis. Our new minister was moving to our town.

I recovered from “4”, I came home, and began to weep uncontrollably for several weeks. Nothing consoled me that used to console me. And I didn’t understand what God wanted me to do.

I became convinced that writing a blog had something to do with what I was on Earth to do for God. I had this sense of peace about it that only comes when you know something is of the Lord. There was only one problem. No one and I mean no one, was reading this blog.

As part of the anguish of a life that I thought had not produced much for the kingdom of God, I asked, “Why do you want me to keep writing this blog? No one is reading it.” I just hung the question out there for once in my life. My normally busy brain and interior voice, for once, was silent. In that silence, a quiet voice said, “Because I want to be with you.”

What?! I knew that voice was not mine. My voice would have said, “No one wants to be with you.” I had never heard that voice and I sensed an instant peace I cannot even describe. The only conclusions I could reach? Either that was God or it’s time for a psych eval at the local hospital.

Whatever it was…all I knew is that I wanted more of it. But I had absolutely no idea how to hear from that voice ever again. And was I even supposed to hear from it again? If it was indeed God’s voice, who am I to want God to speak to me more than once in my earthly life? I should be thankful for such an awesome gift and let it be.

I don’t do “Let it Be” very well. It’s my least favorite Beatles song.

Thankfully, God led me to a program in the metroplex that teaches exactly that. I am now surrounded by people who not only hear from God often, but also have visions and experience God in a myriad of ways that I never knew were possible. It has been a huge paradigm shift for me…everything inside of me is changing.

How do these people know how to do this on a regular basis? Because our beloved Christian saints of the past left us a road map. That road map comes in the forms of prayer practices that unfortunately, are not often shared in our churches today. Kory said it was not presented in his studies at his seminary. A lot of the books written about them are no longer in print.

Do I think this gift of God’s real presence in our lives is just for some of us and not for all of us? No.

Let me say that again: No.

Acts 2:38 says, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It’s quite clear that Peter does not think that this inward manifestation of God at work in us is just something reserved for the Apostles or only really, really devout Christians. If I can have this type of relationship with God, so can you.

Will God speak to you? I don’t know. Why? Because I’m not you and I’m not Him. He may choose to reveal Himself to you in a completely different way because you’re very different from me. What is meaningful for me may have no meaning to you. But trust me on this—God is at work in your life.

Why don’t we hear more about this kind of encounter with God if it’s possible for all of us to have it? I have a few theories about that.

First, it sounds crazy. Obviously, I’m not the first person to recognize that. Today’s Scripture reading says:  “If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake.” (2 Cor. 5:13-21) Even our movies consider it fun to mock a person’s experience of hearing from God. As a result, those of us who have had this experience often fear how we will be viewed by others.

Second, we think we want to hear from God, but also fear it. What if God says something that we don’t like? What if He asks me to make a huge change or sacrifice to my present life? Mary Ann Scofield says, “It is natural to resist anything that threatens the status quo: Since God is always leading us toward becoming more loving, we will often resist God’s approach.”

Third, this sort of experience requires silence and stillness. It takes focus. Does that sound like 21st century America to you? Scofield further states: “Our culture does not value stopping, waiting, noticing, or pondering, though all of these are required for prayer. Our culture…rewards good deeds and punishes evildoing; God persists in being extravagantly generous and forgiving, upending all of our ideas about what is fair. Our culture lauds talent and success; yet God chooses to identify with the least among us.”

Everything screams for our attention and if our attention is not solely focused on God, God is polite and waits until we get quiet. It was just pointed out to me yesterday that the word silent has the exact same letters as listen. We have to stop and listen to God.

Was I anxious to lose the respect of the people I love and admire? No. Was I fearful about what I might hear from God? Yes. Was I good at being silent and still? Um. No. I was lousy at silence and stillness. But that scripture that says, “Be Still and Know that I am God” is oh, so true. If we want to know God, we have to get still, inside and out.

I’m entering my last year of training. As a way of documenting our journey with God, we are encouraged to keep a journal. I have never kept up with a journal or diary all the way to the last page. (I held up my four, sizable journals.) These first 4 journals are full—completely full of God moving in my life. God talking. God giving me visions. God teaching me, sweetly, gently and lovingly.

Do I write every day? No. Because I, like everyone else resist this new thing in my life that is upending my status quo.

So, how do I know that this is God’s voice and not something else? As my training group leader has said, “Does it produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit when you hear it? If not, it’s probably not God.” These conversations are supposed to produce something good, something kind, something loving, within me…within my family…within my neighborhood…within my community and perhaps, just perhaps, some day, within my world.

I’m the first to say I still don’t see outward signs of transformation. Most of the changes are only ones God and I notice. That’s why the journals are so important. When I’m feeling depressed about my walk with the Lord, I reread my first journal and realize I have, indeed, come a long way.

Here’s just a few things I’ve noticed about my life before and after these conversations with God:

  1. I used to love the latest and greatest Bible study on the shelves at Lifeway. Beth Moore was my girl! Now I’m looking for texts written by 11th century monks.
  2. I never understood the Scripture, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Now I do.
  3. I used to think there were only 4 kinds of prayer at most. Now, I know there at least 50 ways to pray to God and a pile of variations for each of them.
  4. I used to have an opinion about everything and was very judgmental. Now, I prefer to wait and hear the other side of the story and suspend judgment. I try to simply accept people as they are now.
  5. I used to think I was not a great Christian if I wasn’t constantly doing something for His kingdom. Now, I prefer to just imagine myself sitting with the Lord.
  6. I used to play the loudest music on the planet and like contemporary music in worship. The louder the better. Now I prefer silence.
  7. I used to prefer praying “off the cuff.” I still do this a lot, but I now understand all too well the value of the prayers of others, written down and published.
  8. I no longer worry who will read my blog and often don’t write a thing there.
  9. 20 minutes of silent prayer once a week seemed like an eternity two years ago. Now, I may spend 5 times that amount in one day and it flies by.

 

It has been an adventure. God surprises me often with what He wants me to know. Here are a few snippets of what He has taught me:

  1. He has a sense of humor. One sleepy morning I was definitely having trouble focusing on Him. I asked, “Jesus? Did you ever wrestle with distractions? The reply? “Are you kidding? I had 12 and I handpicked each one.”
  2. I don’t fully trust Him. I don’t fully trust Him because I don’t fully trust people. People have hurt me. People have rejected me. They are human, after all, and make mistakes, like I do. I’m trying to overcome such fear, but it’s not easy.
  3. God accepts me as I am. In the words of William Paul Young, “He’s rather fond of me”.
  4. He tells us things in bite-sized pieces as we’re ready to hear the things He wants to tell us. He does this to prevent us from being overly frightened by the future. I could never have shared this story with you 2 short years ago. But, I’m here now!
  5. Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God. It may look senseless, foolish and wasted to us, but God is still using it to bring light and love into us and into the world.
  6. God’s love and even correction is gentle, calm, peaceful, the joy of all joys, kind, and well-timed.
  7. When he speaks, I often cry. And I consider myself a rather stoic person. I’ve learned to keep a box of Kleenex and a large wastebasket nearby when praying.
  8. God speaks simply. He is often brief.
  9. What he repeats is what is important.

 

Perhaps you are wondering what God might say to us, as a church? So, I asked Him. And this is what I wrote in my journal as His response:

“I have much to tell them. Tell them I love them. Tell them I miss them. I am waiting for them. I will answer, if they pray. I am more than a church service on Sunday morning. I am more than a sermon and a prayer. I am a way of life. I am the way of life. I want to be an intimate part of everything they do. That is why they are created in my image, so we can be together for all eternity. I am waiting for them. I have much to tell them.”

So, how to hear what He has to tell you if you have never done this before? There are many ways, but let me suggest that you consider the following:

Give God 20 minutes of today.

Away from all of the noise.

Away from other people.

Set a timer for 20 minutes and open your Bible.

Find a scripture. Read it slowly. Let it wash over you.

Then, ask yourself: What word or phrase is jumping out at me? Ask yourself: What does God want me to know about this Scripture?

Then, be silent. Be still.

If it’s helpful, write this question in a journal and then write the first thing that comes to mind.

Trust that what you write is God speaking. Even if it isn’t, God still knows that your intention is to find Him. And He will, one day, somehow, honor that intention.

Keep writing, even if you don’t know what to write. Draw a picture if that makes more sense to you. Doodle, if like me, you’re not a great artist.

Silence the critic within you and wait for God. He is waiting for you.

23
Jun

Slow Reader Friday: Mastery

Stack of books

Click here to see the July 2017 MIP Book Club Selection!

What? You don’t remember me announcing that my MIP Book Club choice was Mastery by George Leonard? Good. It means you have a life.

I chose it last summer…July to be precise. And then life happened to me and I had to let go of the blog this past year. So, better late than never, right? (Just nod your head and agree.)

Once again, Mastery is a book that I studied the first year I was in the HeartPaths Spiritual Direction training program. When I began reading it, I was little astonished that it was on the reading list. It’s not an overtly Christian book. 

21
Jun

Log Rhythms: Semi-Camping…

Howdy, Log Rhythms and log cabin fans! It’s time to update you on all that has happened since last August regarding the Solitude cabin!

I would like to say our family is finished with the cabin, but we are not. This is largely due to one busy family and yet again, weather delays.

Even so, we are nearly done. But, I’m going to go back to the 2016 Labor Day weekend. That’s when our entire family took over the interior “finish-out” of the cabin. Our building crew had packed up their RVs and tents and taken off for Montana.

We were all traveling in various vehicles to get to the Reserve from our main homes as dusk hit on the Friday before Labor Day and then, we were at a dead-stop because of one bad crash on a narrow bridge on the U.S. highway closest to Solitude. You know it’s a bad sign when the CareFlite helicopter nearly lands on top of you!

14
May

Lessons Learned from Another Family Wedding…

wedding cakeThe eldest son married the love of his life last weekend. And of course, I can’t go without at least commenting on the lessons learned from this rustic West Texas affair…

  1. Supposedly, the “groom’s side” is easier to plan and execute. However, that is probably based on the premise that you don’t house the wedding guests in the same town as Texas Tech in May. How do you feel about red and black wedding colors, really?
  2. Apparently, the cost of renting a rehearsal luncheon space for about 3 hours requires a student loan from the government. I am in the wrong business.
  3. It only takes a weekend at the Reserve, a chainsaw, grubby clothing, an Amish Hardware Store in Ohio, Oriental Trading, and 7 more mason jars to create rehearsal luncheon centerpieces. Oh, and 2 willing-to-be-slaves sister-in-laws and an equally willing niece.
  4. They don’t sell Mason jars in packs of 7 or singly…only in dozens. Grr…
  5. Bring insect repellent, ear protection, work gloves and safety glasses to get the wedding guest book. Let’s just say the hubby and I used muscles we’ve never used before.
  6. Even though the attire is casual for the rehearsal and ensuing luncheon, please advise the groom that gym shorts are not part of “casual” even in Texas.
  7. Be on the lookout for wild prairie dogs and pesky tumbleweeds on your way to the venue.
  8. A smart mother of the groom would confirm the time of delivery for the rehearsal luncheon.
  9. I never said I was smart. Okay…so I haven’t said it in the last 5 minutes.
  10. Your decorating “slaves” are far more creative than your “vision.” Pay them extra next time.
  11. Catering dollars in the country go farther than in the big city.  Closer to the food source?
  12. The “slaves” will gladly pack up your decor leftovers for a slightly higher fee. They take hugs as a form of payment. There is a God in Heaven.
  13. Only trust your fancy wedding purse with your brother. It matches his belt buckle.
  14. The brother, because he knows you, will inquire if he should bring a dolly for your purse.
  15. Allow extra room in the wedding budget for physical therapy for your brother post-wedding.
  16. The youngest son will actually shave and get a haircut if it’s for a wedding.
  17. I plan to have family weddings every six months from now until he’s 30. I have plenty of adopteds “in the pipeline.” See # 16.
  18. Even if you have 3 hours to get dressed for the wedding, you won’t get time for a nap.
  19. They need to make SUVs in wedding dress size.
  20. Your best opportunity to get to know the mother of the bride will be in the car on the way to the wedding, provided you don’t hit any prairie dogs on the way.
  21. Just because the bride’s dressing room says that it has air conditioning does not mean it will work while housing 7 bridesmaids, 2 flower girls, 2 mothers, 2 photographers, 1 videographer, 1 bride and a partridge in a pear tree.
  22. You REALLY get to know each other when it’s 81 degrees in the bride’s dressing room.
  23. Renting a new car doesn’t mean it’s reliable wedding transportation. Ask the groom.
  24. Even if the rental car comes with a jack, that doesn’t mean the jack works.
  25. Superman status goes to the father of the groom for getting the car back on the jack, changing the tire, getting tire replaced, and doing a wardrobe change in the tire store restroom and still managing to look dashing.
  26. Relatives from far-off Midwestern states who went to great lengths to not miss another family wedding will miss it because THEIR rental car tire is being replaced.
  27. We need better roads in West Texas. Or maybe better rental cars. Or tires.
  28. Just because there is a PA system at the venue, does not mean it works well with West Texas wind. Even the Chicago wedding guests were impressed with the “windage.”
  29. Even if the venue is in the middle of nowhere, two duallys will go right by the “altar” while the vows are being said. I’m pretty sure their mufflers need replacing.
  30. It’s easier to say your wedding vows if your veil is not being blown into your mouth.
  31. Beware of the flower girls. They may look harmless, but they can pelt you with rose petals.
  32. Bring sunglasses to all outdoor sunset weddings in West Texas.
  33. Leave your wedding gift in the back of the red pickup. No. Not kidding.
  34. Sign the guest log. Seriously. It’s a log….slice. See # 5: 
  35. Enjoy the reception in the barn. Yes, the barn.
  36. Barns can be really pretty in Texas.
  37. The best dancer at the wedding will be your two-year-old great nephew. He’s my favorite dance partner. Shhh. Don’t tell the hubby.
  38. The next best dancer at the wedding will be your twenty-two year old son. Unfortunately, without the facial hair and longer hairstyle, everyone will mistake him for the groom.
  39. The groom hates dancing in front of people, but he tells great jokes while doing so.
  40. The mother of the bride will tear up when she hears she is doing her mother-daughter dance to the tune, “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings.” Okay…so everyone teared up.
  41. Your family pics will be taken in front of a train freight car. Yes, a train freight car.
  42. You will be forever proud with your eldest son who breaks from his normal, practical tradition and sends two beautiful cards to the bride and her mother before the ceremony.
  43. You will be even more impressed that you didn’t have to tell him to do that.
  44. You will marvel at your daughter and son-in-law for balancing bridesmaid and groomsman duties with nursing a baby, changing diapers, soothing said baby and helping the mother and father of the groom. Do they take hugs as a form of payment???
  45. You will be astounded by the maturity of your youngest who graciously and quietly did all that was asked of him and more!
  46. You will be even more impressed that you didn’t have to tell him to do that.
  47. This wedding must have been a big deal, because the week after Blue Bell did this: 
  48. The sober end of the crowd will dance more than the drinking end. Surreal, but true.
  49. Praise God for choosing to let you be a mom when you didn’t think that was possible.
  50. Forget May 14th…this was MY Mother’s Day this year.

31
Mar

The New Adventure…

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaackkk! My sincerest apologies for not posting for many months. My spiritual direction program asks us to do a “retreat year” as part of their 3-year program. During that time we are to say no to any new commitments and to reduce, as much as possible, our existing commitments.

This was the worst (and best) year for me to extract myself from such commitments. Why?

# 1: My eldest son is marrying his sweetheart several hours away from us.

# 2: He is renovating a 58 year old home with his fiancee…himself.

# 3: Our daughter and the DSL announced in July that they were expecting their first child and our first grandchild.

# 4: The hubby had some significant health issues. But he seems to be doing well now.

# 5: We are still slowly working on that cabin in the woods. And we are doing the inside ourselves.

If that were not enough, I could not forsake my beloved church and chose to facilitate a prayer technique course based on the book 50 Ways to PrayI did pray first about it and told God that if certain individuals came forward and volunteered for the course, I would facilitate. They all came forward. God can be soooo inconvenient sometimes! I think that was his warped sense of humor just making sure I got the message.

And I can’t turn my back on my beloved Compassion Counseling Center, even though I only now serve on its board. I chose, at the end of 2016, to work on a fundraising effort because we were in rather dire straits for funding at that time. Honestly, I’m still not sure that was the wisest idea for me, but it did seem to bless a few people who could use some blessing.

Something in the current schedule had to go. While writing is my therapy, it is one thing I can, without disrupting other peoples’ lives, say no to when necessary. I had hoped to warn all of you about my sabbatical, but it just didn’t happen. What can I say? God isn’t finished with me yet.

I am not going to fully resume my writing schedule just yet. You will only see an occasional post from me here and there until at least May, if not June. My Log Rhythms fans want to know about the cabin progress and Maizie is shedding and drooling all over my keyboard waiting to discuss the important things in her life. But there is one subject I do want to discuss right now:

My practicum year and an opportunity (for you or someone you know) to ponder!

I will begin, in July, my spiritual direction practicum year. I have to work with at least 4 people who are willing to meet with me once a month for an hour at a time. I will be happy to work with more if God thinks that’s a smart idea for both of us. It costs these folks nothing. Yes, it’s free!

During our meetings I will be listening for where God is at work in your life and assisting in helping you to deepen your relationship with God. I don’t really like the term spiritual director because it makes it sound like I’m in charge of your spiritual life and of course, only God is in charge of that. Plus, how God directs my life may be totally different from how He directs yours. So, my training has been to just notice (preferably internally) when I think God is trying to communicate with you in the way that works for both of you (or could work for you) and let you know about that, so that you can pursue that possibility with God when we’re apart.

I cannot meet with family members and best friends. Why? Because there may be times when what God has to say about your relationship with Him will have to come out of my mouth and if He’s asking you to change something, you may not like that! And, of course, that could destroy our friendship or family relationship and I don’t want that to happen to either of us.

If you like this idea, but you are uncertain about whether or not we could meet based on the above, then I encourage you to ask God about that and wait for some indication from Him about whether that is wise for you and me. I will do the same, if you ask me to do that.

If I consider you my best friend, you already know that and of course, my family members know they’re related to me. However, you may consider me your best friend and I just haven’t figured that out yet! I leave it to you and God to decide if you want to risk our relationship. I trust Him about that. I have lost more friends than I care to mention for some really awful reasons, and God has guided me through that and given me grace. Yes, for a while, I did have a rather large pity party for myself about it, but this is just a part of life and I think God allowed it to happen so that I could now do spiritual direction and know how to seek out my true best Friend if it ouches to lose a friendship.

If we barely know each other or are strangers, you’re probably a great candidate. I do believe in safety first, so for the guys, we will meet somewhere where people can see us meeting, such as a room with a glass door, etc. Also, if I suspect that your intention is less than honorable and honest, I may suggest you seek someone else for spiritual direction. If you intend to maliciously, dishonestly take advantage of me, I will be calling the authorities.

Yes, it is preferable for us to meet in person. If you strongly think that you’re still supposed to meet with me, I will be the first to say I’m not a video chat kind of girl. But, I will consider it if you tell me why you believe it’s important. I will pray that God guides us both in such situations.

I have already been blessed by several saying they are willing to meet with me. So, if you want to be a “directee,” then you probably need to speak up soon by emailing me via MIP’s Contact Me page.

Blessings on you all and may God direct your steps in a grace-filled way until I post again.