Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Christmas Story

It's the middle of January. A little late for a Christmas story, I know. But, this one has been percolating in my head for several weeks; a nagging detail to a well-known Christmas story that just wouldn't leave me alone. And, suddenly, today, it all made sense. And, I had to share. Today. It can't wait another twelve months to be posted at the "appropriate" time of the year. Today. It can't wait. Good news rarely can.

"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7

I cringe at the idea that our sweet Jesus was born in a stable. A stable. Where big, smelly animals are kept for the night. Mary wrapped him in cloths. I shudder to think about where she got the cloths for which to wrap baby Jesus. Something tells me she didn't reach into her donkey saddle bag and tear open the three-pack of blue and green striped receiving blankets someone had given her off her registry at Babies R Us. She placed him in a manger. A feed trough. The word manger begins with 'mange,' and I fear our precious Savior was subject to it and any number of other hygiene-related issues as He began His glorious earthly existence. Glorious, indeed. Perhaps the true miracle of the birth of Jesus has to do more with what He overcame being born in a stable out back of a perfectly good, warm inn and placed in a feeding trough under the stouts and mouths of livestock animals.

It seems to me that what we, as Christians, can take from the story in Luke is that Christ overcame the stable. Hallelujah!

For three weeks I have been contemplating this; unable to shake the idea that I was missing something. Something big. Something greater.

If the inn keeper had ushered Joseph and Mary into the inn, perhaps giving up his own sleeping quarters for them; if Joseph had been able to ask the maid to bring extra towels and blankets to warm the newborn baby; if a doctor that were staying in the inn for the night had been called to assist, would the story of Christ's birth be any less than what it is as we know it? Would it change anything?

Jesus, being the Son of God, deserved the inn. It was the best there was, and Jesus deserved the best. But, God, in His infinite wisdom knew that there would be people like me who would have trouble getting over the fact that her best would never be as good as Jesus deserves. So, God prepared a stable and willed His Son to be born there so that thousands of years later, I could understand that a stable doesn't make Jesus any less wonderful, any less capable, any less God.

I confess that my life - my physical, emotional, and spiritual dwelling - is a stable. My life is full of stinky animals, and nasty germs, and rarely has the supplies needed to accomplish anything. But, Jesus was reborn in me, this stable, and He is no less wonderful, no less capable, and no less God.

What we, as Christians, can take from the story in Luke is not that Jesus overcame the stable, but that He came in spite of the stable. He came to bring life, and life more abundant, and He started in a stable.

There was no room in the inn because it was the stable that was ordained. A stable could not keep Him from being and doing what God ordained, nor does my broken and ill-fitted life keep Him from being and doing what God ordained in me.

A stable. This I can understand. A stable, I relate to.

Thank God there was no room in the inn.

Thank God.

Monday, October 24, 2011


They were on sale, so I didn't feel too bad about buying several pieces of the line. Bright yellows, reds, and aqua blues created artwork on fabric with black accents that drew my eye, immediately. I knew I wouldn't look like one of those athletes with toned arms and a flat stomach, but, for whatever reason, I felt compelled to buy running tank tops and running shorts from the store the other day. I'm not in the kind of shape those racer-back, running tank tops call for, but it fit around my body well enough. I like to have my arms and shoulders free of fabric when I run - it eliminates chaffing in weird places like the crook of your elbow which only those of us with extra padding would be privy to. I also liked the idea that I would be wearing what real runners often wear. Like God calling Gideon a warrior long before he was one, I like the idea of looking the part of the toned, seasoned runner that I pray to be some day.

I got my chance to shine this afternoon. Determined to give this thing an honest effort, I drove straight to the walking track right after work, having changed in the back office at work, not giving myself the chance to go home and there make some whiny excuse about being too tired to start today. I arrived with my training schedule, my music, my sunglasses, and an ounce (and not much more) of willpower to give this program a go.

I was a bit nervous, to be truthful. I like to workout. I even like to jog. I just hadn't in a while and knew that whatever shape I had gotten myself into some months ago had quickly taken on a whole new out-of-shape in a very short time frame.

I prayed in the car. That should give indication of just how nervous I was; asking the Lord to allow my body to work in the manner it had been created to. And, to please not let me vomit, pass out, or die on the concrete of the walking track. Not so much dignity in any of those things... as if squeezing myself into running clothes and pretending to be Olympic running material exuded even an iota of dignity.

I like to blare worship music while I run - partly to drown out my own labored breathing (like at the dentist - if you can hear the drill, the pain is so much worse) and partly to keep my mind focused on something other than what I was out to accomplish - just one little, 'ole thirty minute running workout.

The pigmentation of my skin allows for a pink, rosy complexion when I exert energy of any kind. My entire body was flaming red - the color of a fire engine - within three minutes of beginning my workout.

So, picture this: an obese woman, a bright yellow running tank top, skimpier-than-normal black running shorts, glowing neon skin, sucking air, sweat pouring, music cranked, sunglasses perched, thundering footsteps around and around on the walking trail. I can only imagine the sight that was me. Olympic-bound, indeed.

About twenty minutes into my thirty minute workout, side stitch killing me, barely able to catch a breath, tugging at my running tank top, desperately trying to wipe the sweat away before it ran into my eyes, counting down the minutes until I could call the workout finished, I feel the Spirit describing the situation as worship.


The Bible is full of records of people worshiping the Lord. There are accounts of blessings and faithfulness that led His people to sing His praises; that led them to worship God. A simple definition of worship is to honor; therefore, the people of God, as shown throughout the Bible, honored the Lord for His being who He was; for bestowing blessings and favor that were not deserved; for doing things that they, as mere humans, could never have done on their own.

Exercising hasn't very often been my top priority. I can think of a thousand excuses and plan for a million other things to do instead of exercise. And, this late in the game, my body isn't in the physical shape it needs to be in to be able to do what it is that I've been called to do by God.

So, for me to be out on a walking track, making my body do what it was intended to do: muscles firing, bones structuring, lungs rhythmic, blood pumping, sweat cooling, ears hearing, eyes seeing; in this thirty minutes of agony, God is being honored. Worship.

Doesn't that just beat all?

My program calls for a day of rest tomorrow. But, Wednesday, I'll get back out there. I imagine it won't be any prettier than it was today, although I have a red and black patterned running tank top that might match my skin better than the yellow one of today.

But, I'll be worshiping God. Huffing and puffing and sweating and worshiping Him with all that I have for those thirty minutes. Not enough air capacity to sing actual praises to Him. Hands too sweaty to hold any type of instrument to make music to Him. Prayers for only the time to go quicker. But for every lap around the walking track I make, my body is in submission to His Will; honoring Him by doing what He created it to do. Worship. Doesn't that just beat all?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Living in the "No."

Two months.

Sixty days of detox, as if from an addictive substance, but more costly. Through this detox, with sober, bright-eyed clarity, I have come to realize just how addicted I was. 'Was' being a past-tense verb because, by the grace of God, I am no longer addicted but am in a life-long recovery. This is day sixty of that recovery, and I, cautiously but with great anticipation, share that there is, without a doubt, life after God's "No".

A breakup, really. I have endured, yet another, breakup. This one being of the greatest magnitude I have experienced to date. It was big. And ugly. And tearful - buckets of tears that have literally soaked circles on my bedsheets. A pain in my heart that I have felt like no other. An emptiness. A void, complete with a wondering of what to do, now.

And, as many have experienced after a terrible breakup, in those first few days of raw, exposed emotions, I zombied-around, putting one foot in front of the other, willing myself not to cry too much in front of others, hushed requests of prayers from those closest to me, everyone knowing something had happened but not knowing what.

Clarity presented itself in my thought-life. I realized very quickly how consumed I had been; constantly thinking about, envisioning, daydreaming, expecting. Very few thoughts that weren't in relation to this partner; very few moments that weren't given in loyalty to my obsession. Completely consumed.

Consumed by something God forbade me to have. My obsession manifested itself into a moment-by-moment dagger of a reminder that He shook His head in denial of my request, my plea, my demand. And, no matter how swiftly I moved, no matter how creative I was in orchestrating events, no matter how I bargained or ignored, His answer stood and still stands. "No."

Opening my tightly-clutched fist of a life-long dream - not a person or habit - was what brought me to my knees. God said "No" to a defining adjective of my future that had morphed into my reason for living; what I pined after, obsessed over, worshiped. I allowed it to consume my life; I lived for the high it brought.

I stopped living the life I was called to live and started living the life that I thought would bring about this dream. I closed God up into a me-shaped box, demanding my will over His, expecting Him to change His will to look like mine.

And, so in the midst of this anarchy, I did not hear His voice until I was invested, in love, heart-attached, full-blown infatuation.

It's a wonder I heard Him at all that night, but I did. Heard Him loud and clear. "No."

Surrender is not a white flag in the air, as depicted in history books and on movies. Not for me, anyway. Surrender is much bloodier than that; a final realization through exhaustion and loss of will power that I can no longer do it anymore. I fall face-first, prostrate, in the mud, muck, and mire, that I have most certainly caused, and weep. I give up; relinquish control; admit that I am powerless. Humbled.

A quiet strength, most assuredly the Holy Spirit within me, finally accepted His "No" as authority. Through a rainfall of tears, a small, humbled voice within me whispered, "Okay." Surrender. Acceptance. Deliverance.

Two months. Sixty days. One foot in front of the other. Step-by-step. Eyes clear and bright. Sober from the addiction and obsession of a dream not meant for me. Cautious with great anticipation of what is to come. Living in the "No".

Faith in the hope that God is true to His Word; that He has plans for me - plans to prosper me and not to harm me. Faith in the hope that He has begun a good work in me and that He delights to finish that good work. Faith that now that my hands are no longer gripping a self-manifested strategic life plan, that I will be able to take hold of the plans set for me by God.

Faith that living in the "No" has a greater purpose.

Faith that He has something planned that is more beautiful and more fulfilling than any dream I could come up with.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


I have spent the last four days shut inside my house with the heater roaring at full blast, which is uncommon for me; a 20 ounce mug that I found at Starbucks full of hot cocoa at least once a day; the quilt my mother made for me several years ago wrapped around me, and a bag of cheese puffs not far away.

The sleet began to fall late Monday night. The lowest temperatures Texas has seen in twenty years and roads covered in solid sheets of ice made for easy decisions to close schools on Tuesday and Wednesday. Burst water lines and sketchy electrical power added to the mix, leading the powers that be to close school for the remainder of the work week.

I'm not one for being cooped up. Growing up in Kansas was the only experience I needed to convince myself that I could handle a little roadtrip out to the grocery store on Tuesday. I needed some things. I hesitate to put those needed things in print lest someone mock me for the very idea that I "needed" them so as to risk my life to get them in weather as was such. I'll just go with: I needed some things. I am a good driver; a safe driver. And, I believe in the power of prayer.

It took me 35 minutes to get to the store no more than ten miles away. I said I was a good driver - people who drive fast on ice are NOT good drivers. What I hadn't counted on was the parking lot of the grocery store. The drive to the store was quite uneventful. The ice-skating event I participated in to get from my car to the front door would have won me a medal.

There were very few people in the store -imagine that! There were workers, though. A faithful few who went about their jobs as if the weather were no factor at all. Gathering my "needed" things, I made my way up the chip aisle, taking a short-cut to the check out lanes. And, there, shining like a beacon of gold, were the cheese puffs. Eye-level and beckoning, I picked up a bag.

Cheese puffs are not things I pick up on a regular basis. I lean more toward the tortilla chip or popcorn varieties of snacks. I have eaten cheese puffs before, as a child, getting orange-y powder on everything before I had the good-sense to wash my hands to keep my mother from grounding me for life. But, for whatever reason, I don't think to put them in my buggy on my regular grocery runs.

Tuesday was different. They called to me. They seemed, in my mind, to be the perfect compliment to a cold, blustery day. How this is true, I don't know. I can't make heads or tails of it, really. No more than I can explain the second trip I made to the grocery store on Thursday for another bag. Oh, there were other things that cropped up being needed, but I made a direct bee-line for the chip aisle. Another bag. Of cheese puffs.

Using any internet search engine to locate the health benefits of cheese puffs is futile. I know. I tried. There aren't any.

Apparently, even if my daily caloric intake could receive the 160 calories per serving, which is about 13 puffs, my body has no idea what to do with the stuff that cheese puffs are made of. Seriously. The junk that goes into making cheese puffs may taste good, but it is no good for your body. Our bodies weren't created to digest things like Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil or Monosodium Glutamate. All our bodies know to do is to store that stuff as fat, which is something I wish I'd known before the second bag was purchased. Oh well.

So, how come something that tastes so good can be so bad for us. Furthermore, how come things that taste so bad, like spinach and brussel sprouts, can be so good for us. It doesn't make sense to me.

And, if we can completely clear the table: how come stuff that is bad for us, looking further than our refrigerators and at the things we do in life, is so much fun? Like riding a motorcycle without a helmet; the cool breeze blowing through your hair, no clear sounds, just the rush of life standing still while you aren't. But, everyone knows that's not safe. The statistics are staggering of the number of motorcycle deaths each year due to not wearing a helmet. So, as exillerating as riding a motorcycle without a helmet is, it isn't good for us.

The flip-side is also true. Things that are good for us are often times, NOT fun. Like a colonoscopy - the health benefits are documented; the procedure, not so fun.

I just think life would have been a lot easier had God worked it out so that the good things in life were fun and the healthy things to eat were tasty. And, if He'd seen to it that the bad things in life were awful and painful and the nutrition-lacking things to eat tasted bad.

Easier. Life would be easier. That's all I'm saying.

I'd go for easy right about now. I am pretty terrible at doing what I am supposed to do, even if it causes pain or isn't immediately gratifying. I am equally as terrible at abstaining from that which isn't in my best interest but seems fun and exciting at the time.

But, perhaps if it were easy, I'd start thinking that I don't need His help or His Word or His Son. I'd stop relying on Him and start relying on things that won't get me any further than Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil or Monosodium Glutamate. If it were easy, I'd start banking on the easy-ness. And, then I'd be in more trouble than I am now with my cheese-powdered fingers death-gripping a bag of cheese puffs.

"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:30

"Everything is permissible - but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible - but not everything is constructive." I Corinthian 10:23

Friday, December 31, 2010


I do not believe in coincidence. There are too many scriptures that tell me that God has this whole thing completely under control. And, if I am a believer (and I am) and if I claim the Scriptures to be Holy Writ from God (and I do), then I think believing in coincidence would be a big slap in the face to God. And, I don't think slapping God in the face is, ever, a good idea.

I love to hear stories about the awesome things God did in the Bible to show His people that He, indeed, had them in His hands; that He was already where they were afraid to go; that He had everything placed exactly where He deemed best. Women passed the age of child-bearing becoming pregnant, whole nations walking on the dry bottom of a parted sea, wet and dry fleece, a lethal stone and a giant's head, water into wine, torn fishing nets due to the weight of the amount of fish caught on a specific side of a boat, debts paid, illnesses healed, sins forgiven.

And, I love to hear stories from family and friends about times that God reminded them that they, too, are in His hands; that He is already where they are afraid to go; that He has everything placed exactly where He deems best. Drastically premature babies with fully developed lungs, predestined introductions over coffee that led to career changes, more money than should have been in bank accounts, restaurant bills paid, addictions overcome, debts paid, illnesses healed, sins forgiven.

And, I think one of the coolest parts of being a child of God is the in-dwelling of the Spirit that we all receive once we've accepted Christ as our Savior. The Spirit, with Its gentle nudge of conviction and soft whisper of direction is what makes us more than we could ever be without Him. Through the Spirit, we are able to do things we would never be able to do without Him. And, by His Spirit, we are given the strength to do mightier things than our bodies are capable on their own.

As a child of God, with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, two plus two doesn't always equal four.

I finished the biography of a ballplayer last night that has held my attention for some years, now. He is a phenomenal ballplayer. But, his testimony is what has endeared him to me for so long. Drowning in a pool of addiction, this ballplayer was delivered by the Grace of God. And, many times in his biography, he mentions that he doesn't have all the answers and computations of why and how he was able to overcome this devastating addiction. His only consistent response is that it is a God-thing. God at work. Making him into something he could never be on his own. Helping him take steps out of a slimy pit and into the light of what God had called him to be.

And, I think that is right on. No coincidence to claim. Not all the answers. Just that sometimes, God makes things add up that shouldn't add up; He allows devastating actions to eventually equal a righteous outcome; He places tomorrows in lives that should never have seen today.

And, I ask you, how could all that glory be a coincidence?

Tomorrow will usher in a new year. This year will hold new beginnings and more opportunities. This year will bring birth and death. This year will bring victory and defeat. This year will bring joy and sorrow; healing and pain.

And, none of it is coincidence. All of it is divine purpose. I pray that we bask in His reminders that He has us in His hands; that He is already where we are afraid to go; that He has everything placed where He deems best. And, I pray we can see His fingertips when things add up that shouldn't add up; when devastating actions eventually lead to a righteous outcome; when He places tomorrows in lives that should never have seen today.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


The last date of publishing for my blog was in July. My calendar says November. There were a few days in September that I thought about logging on to see what my fingers might type out but knew that it had been months since I had given my blog a single thought and felt bad; like when you haven't called your friend in months and are so thwarted with shame that the thought of calling her to admit your neglect keeps you from calling and so another month passes. And then another.

I am terribly ashamed that something so important to me has become so not.

'Round about August, my life took off like a race horse who was startled into running with the shot of a starting gun. A new job that has stretched me in ways I thought only possible for Gumby; a heartache that wrecked me for a solid two weeks and still steamrolls through my heart sometimes; a sweat-induced beginning to my post-graduate work; new experiences, new faces - all have aided in my life being turned upside down. And, interestingly enough, the normal hum-drum of life begged to be addressed, too: laundry, dry cleaning, grocery shopping, bills, bathing. Until the only time to myself for things like writing was being spent sleeping. Literally. Sleeping.

I am terribly ashamed that something so important to me has become so not.

There were times, though, that I felt the shiver of the Holy Spirit calling me to write. He has called on me many times since July. I tend to have a single idea for a story - usually surrounding something has happened to me. And, if it is from God, the words that surround the single idea begin to come, seamlessly, flowing out of my fingers, cementing thoughts that help me understand what has happened or what I need to learn through the single idea experience. And, usually, I know instantly that I am to post it for others to read; for others to hear what He has called me to write - I assume He wants others to learn from my experience; that He gave me the gift of writing to proclaim His ways through our lives. A gift. A calling. My ministry.

I am terribly ashamed that something so important to me has become so not.

And, even knowing, believing this to be a gift, I essentially shrugged off the shiver from the Holy Spirit; ignored it. Preferring to sleep or complete my next grad school assignment or fill out Book Fair forms for school, I chose to place the Holy Spirit on hold. And, then, I forgot He had called. And now, it has been months since we've talked, and I am so thwarted with shame to admit my neglect that I fear another month will separate me further from His Spirit. And, so, this blog has grown dusty as evidence of my lack of communication with Him.

And, I am terribly ashamed that something so important to me has become so not.

"Create in me a clean heart, Oh Lord. And renew a right spirit within me." Psalms 51:10

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bsaeball Splats

If you look really closely at the bluebonnet painting on my wall in my living room, you'll see a spot where, it looks like, a baseball covered in blue and green paint splatted its way into the landscape picture I was painting. And, I wish I could blame that spot on a baseball, but the real story is that I was angry at my professor and went and nearly ruined an otherwise decent piece of artwork done by a hot-headed, know-it-all novice. The next part of the story involves me huffing and puffing and stomping my way out of the art room in front of several students who were there to spend extra time on their paintings and not to witness a college-aged hissy fit. But, that is what they got. And, it mustn't have been my first one because no one seemed all that surprised that it had happened. The next day, no one even mentioned it happening. But, the rest of the story - the really impressive part of the story - is that after a few days of getting over myself, I tucked tail and apologized to that professor who I was angry at for acting the way I had, and that professor was the one who showed me how to fix the baseball splat so that you would have to look really closely at the painting to even see it.

I have a lot of stories like that woven through the threads of my memories - stories about these really passionate outbursts that hang on some small detail that set me off; always some major injustice in my mind. Like the time in second grade when one little boy liked one of my little friends, and his way of showing her that he liked her was to tag her "it" with such a punch that it made tears well up in her eyes. I don't recall all the details of what happened next, but I will say that if I were a recess monitor and I saw a little girl reading the riot act to a bawling little boy while gripping the collar of his faded blue jean jacket with a white-knuckled grip, I'd make that little girl sit out at recess for a whole week, too. And, like the time, in seventh grade, when I had to picket the school board meeting-and later speak at one-to let them know how I wouldn't stand for the use of the ozone-deflating Styrofoam divided plates in our middle school cafeteria any longer. And, like the time, in college, when I insisted on calling the mother of a friend who was full-fledged, knee-deep in her own battle with bulimia, and I didn't trust her to handle it on her own that summer.

My personality is pretty complex; a jumble of insecurities and confidences; high expectations and heightened emotions for both myself and those in at least a 5 year radius of having known me at all. I wear my heart on my sleeve, identify the futuristic potential in all, work tirelessly to make amends, seek justice for the underdog, laugh loud, cry hard, fall fast - as if I'm the spawn of a drunk Superman and Rosie the Riveter handling a hefty dose of PMS.

And, the kicker - I think God made me exactly this way. It has taken me a long time to understand this concept of God knowing exactly what He was doing in giving me what He gave me. He absolutely knitted me in my mother's womb with these raw emotions and pocket empathy. He had an overall picture and a divine plan when he handed out a double portion of awareness for people in need, love for children, words to express, and passion into my DNA strands. That hand basket was a tough one to carry through out my adolescence. It was cumbersome and hard to get a grip on; it was too heavy and seemed needless for me to be carrying it at all. I dropped it all the time - spilling the contents all over the place, hurting people with my words, damaging my credibility with my professors, but endearing friends who felt protected and loved.

The sixth chapter of Judges finds Gideon hiding out in a winepress, threshing wheat that he intended to keep away from the conquering Midianite army who, for the seven years prior, had found great victory in ravaging everything of the Israelites, including their crops, livestock, and trust in their Deliverer. Gideon is the self-proclaimed least of his family; his family the weakest of the clans (v.15), and still an Angel of the Lord addresses him as, "... mighty warrior." (v.12) And, if you aren't familiar with God and His forte' in taking normal, low-life, nobodies like you and me and using them in mighty, amazing ways, you might think, for a second, that God is being facetious; like calling a small, yappy dog that fits inside the palm of your hand, "Killer." But, that isn't God's style, as far as I can tell. He is more of a tell-it-like-it-is God; and usually, a tell-it-like-it's-GOING-to-be God. And, that is what He does with Gideon. He addresses him according to what he will become. Gideon, blessed by God, goes on to defeat the Midianites for two more chapters, taking down any idols he finds on the way. Gideon's victories are two-fold: militarily, he defeats the Midianites, and sets the Israelites back on solid, safe, secure ground; and religiously, he is essential in bringing the Israelites back into communion with God, their Divine Deliverer for a time, albeit short-lived. No one else would have thought Gideon would be any kind of warrior; much less a mighty one. No one else could see it. But, God did. God knitted Gideon in his mother's womb with exactly the DNA make-up that was needed to accomplish what God had would call him to do. God saw past what Gideon was; straight to what Gideon would be.

And so it goes with this once hot-headed, know-it-all novice whose overgrown hand basket of emotions and responses once dominated her daily life. He has seen past what I was; straight through to what He called me to be.

It shouldn't surprise you that, through my nine years of teaching 4th graders, the number of them with emotional and anger issues that find themselves in my homeroom classroom is staggering. That, too, is God's style, as far as I can tell. They are my favorite type of kids; the ones locked up inside too- big emotions that come spilling out in the form of hissy fits and outbursts. And, by the grace of God and through His Sovereignty, He allows me a glimpse into what these kids will become; what He is planning to do with them and their overgrown hand baskets. And, He gives me the task of teaching them to fix the baseball splats so that you have to look really closely to even see them.

"When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior." Judges 6:12