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Are You Burned Out on Religion?

Since our son Noah died in 2007, I’ve been on a journey reassessing pretty much E V E R Y T H I N G.

People, things, involvement, passions, even thoughts or beliefs at times have met a death grip in my hands. Some days only purging keeps me grounded. Recently I attempted to strip down to few possessions, selling our home, even shaving my head, in search of the essentials. It was my outward reaction to an internal battle. I decided to apply this perspective to my relationship with God.

"Hope is where the door is, when the church is where the war is..." Lyrics by U2 from the song, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, Songs of Innocence album

“Hope is where the door is, when the church is where the war is…” Lyrics by U2 from the song, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, Songs of Innocence album

 

My experience in American Christianity had become a compass for measuring God’s pulse, as well as my morality, and truthfully, the morality of everyone else. I justified, “I’m part of ‘non-denominations,’ so at least I’m not religious, but I’m definitely more dialed into God’s Spirit than so and so.” [Read more…]

Growing Up With Bobby and Bebe: A Series

Agree to Disagree

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When my parents moved to Colorado 6 years ago, they drove in from Phoenix and walked in my front door into the kitchen where I was standing at the sink. I heard in my heart (when God tells me something, it’s something smarter than I could have thought of…), “They are here for the rest of their lives and your job is simply to love them, not try to change them.”

I think I literally glanced up at the ceiling trying to get eye contact with God, as well as position my ear better to hear the response to my rebuttal, “Even my Dad?!”   [Read more…]

I Choose Life

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Me and Bobby circa 1978-ish

Oh my, God! I just did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I took a baton that felt prematurely passed, and I’m going forward with it, because retreating isn’t an option. Stopping and raising my fist to the sky and screaming, “WHY?!” won’t alter time or the impending outcome, it won’t make this pain disappear or life suddenly make sense.

So I’ll embrace the pain, kind of walk through the side ache, so to speak…and I will press on.

This morning I soaked my Dad’s t-shirt for the last time with tears mixed with deep grief and appreciation that he has been my Dad on this earth. [Read more…]

Speak Love: A Series on Semantics

I heard this recently from someone concerned about Target restrooms and transgender persons and homosexuality and how important it was that people know their sins, because, “Life is short and what if they were to die tomorrow and not know they were sinners who needed a Savior?”

They were talking about an opportunity they had to talk to someone they just met about their sexuality. I listened, “Life is short, and if they were to die, what if I hadn’t taken those 5 minutes to share the Truth about their sin?”

The problem is, that isn’t the Gospel. It’s NOT the Good News, nor is it the original message Jesus pointed back to in God’s Garden. Rather, it’s a strategy, approach, and delivery of many Christians skewed by fear, fear which has snowballed into a messy slop of anxious evangelism, the opposite of the way Jesus approached His, “God WITH us,” day to day ministry. To a degree, Christianity and the Church have lapsed back into a state of religion rather than pushed on through to its original design of intimacy and freedom with God. It’s become more “us vs. them…get them into our camp…have everyone believe all the exact same things and act the specific ways we’ve mapped out so people will know us by our behavior…” rather than recognize us by our Love. Sadly, some people don’t want to have anything to do with God, which is the opposite intent of the Christian in the first place. Delivery matters…

I was asked if I even thought homosexuality was a sin, was told what the Bible says, and could open “Bible app” in case I needed to see for myself.

I listened. In my head a scenario played out of the Savior of the world kneeling down, drawing something in the dirt, waiting for sin-free people to cast stones at a woman “caught” in adultery…you know, because she didn’t know what she had done. And I wondered, “What if he was a cheating, lying, tax-evading, gossiping, animal beating, drunken drug dealer, who was also gay? Seriously, which thing should I choose to address in these 5 minutes, if this, in fact, is how we are called to steward 5 minutes with strangers we meet…? And while I’m at it, what sins of mine should I go ahead and confess to him, since I suppose I could die, too…?”

You see, I know life is short. Time is my love language and 5 minutes can mean the world. I know people can die between breaths…between the last time you talked, before you get a chance to wake up another day…but mentally and emotionally functioning through a filter of anxiousness and fear, that the world needs to be made aware of their sinful nature before they meet their Maker because they could die in the next 5 minutes, well, I can’t seem to draw the correlation between that and the commission to declare, “Good News!,” the Good News Jesus came embodying of God’s unconditional love for a hurting world. The Bible isn’t a machine gun to point at sinners. And Jesus didn’t come declaring, “In YO face, suckas!”

Nope. I wasn’t created with a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind. I won’t let fear push me around, no matter how “righteous” it looks.

So then I was asked,

“What would you say if you knew you only had 5 minutes with a person?
What if they were going to die the next day?
What would you say to them?”

What a humbling question! To even ponder the choice and precious words leaves me a bit wrecked and in awe…I will tell you, my experience with Noah radically changed this very “5-minute scenario” for me, as well as my perspective on life, and death, and loving God, myself, and others.

You see, if I knew a person still had 5 minutes to LIVE, I would hopefully savor the opportunity to speak this, if anything at all…:

“For sake of argument, let’s start with a clean slate, forget any preconceived notions, beliefs or disbeliefs.
Let’s pretend there is a God and He is really, really, really, really, so very Good.
Everything He ever did was miraculously Good and born out of love and creativity,
and the day He made YOU, in His image no less,
He said, ‘Oh Goodness, Me! SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOD!

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

That way, if the person died at the end of 5 minutes, they would know Who it was they would be meeting on the other side of life on earth…the Very One who designed them, knows them best, and loves them dearly, and the two of them would have their “none of our business” conversation. There would be no need for fear because the last thing the person this side of death would know their value and worth and it was their loving, heavenly Father greeting them…

…and I just have to trust and believe God’s BIG ENOUGH to handle the details from there…

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?  Every minute of every day is potentially the last 5 minutes for anyone…we all know how much we fail on any given day, which is why, I believe, Jesus said the greatest of all the things, rules, directives for life wasn’t to cast stones, call out sins, or compete and compare on a scale of religious righteousness and law-keeping, but to LOVE.

Love God. Love ourselves. Love others.

“Just keep asking God what you are supposed to do
and then be found doing it.”
Betty Biebel

 

NOT Another Political Rant

(*This post is an unabridged version of a comment I left on someone’s repost of some guy on Facebook, a selfie of a 50-year old male caucasian US citizen of Slovak decent with a nice SUV in the background in front of a Walmart, ranting about what he assumes is an illegal alien or recent Mexican immigrant using an EBT card, driving said SUV, and he’s been working 7-day weeks his whole life and is in debt and why doesn’t he get an EBT card?)

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Imagine the ripple effects of our words, loving or hateful…either one, there are ripple effects. What kind will you set into motion?

 I was just pondering this the other day how we compare what we see on the outside when we don’t have a clue of what’s on the inside, the deeper story of EVERYONE AND ANYONE. I was thinking about how some people say they’re successful financially because they work hard, however, my husband works just as hard at his job in the non-profit world as the immigrant farmer in southern California who is farming the organic veggies for the hipster artists in popular cities who work the same amount of hours but their work looks differently from the person who’s working just as diligently in a high pressure factory job or a white collar profession, the same amount of hours, different amounts of dollars. The truth is if the guy whose 50 year struggle still has him in heap of debt is complaining about immigrants being better off than he is, I wonder if it’s more a question of the way he stewards his money (and maybe his attitude?) and whether he lives within his means (see Dave Ramsey). Because some people around the world live on a fraction of what the average US citizen (or other first world citizen) makes in a year and are not indebted to “the man.” As are some US citizens living on way less than the next door neighbor, working just as many hours, but they live within their means.  [Read more…]

Who is Invited to the Table?

A year ago when we sold our house and stuff and embarked on this journey as The Graveswolds, God put two words on my heart: GATHER and TABLE. I said, “Really, Lord!? You are teaching us about hospitality, but we don’t even have a house OR A TABLE?!”

And He said, “You don’t need those to experience hospitality. Wherever you go, gather around tables with friends and strangers and break bread. Share your hearts and listen to those gathered. Do this often. This is Kingdom Come. This is the work of peacemaking.”

I’m sorry I haven’t spoken up sooner, at least not in my writings or a more formal venue. I honestly thought my voice and heart didn’t matter on a scale other than loving others and practicing peacemaking in the day to day.

I’ve rethought that a bit…and my voice and heart matter big time, just as much as yours!

I’ve grappled with these feelings, and a deep down knowing, for likely my whole life. The last several years they have resurrected, and too many “coincidences” and gut feelings have “fallen into place.” When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, there were reminders everyday, but since life seemed peaceable, I wasn’t sure what to do with how I felt or the things I wondered. It just was what it was and life kept going…my life kept going, at least.

Specifically, these feelings resurfaced when I found myself in Auckland, New Zealand and Australia, last year on holiday, and again, just a few weeks ago. I walked the streets freely, my accent the only thing distinguishing me from the locals at first glance, and that, only if I used my voice. I sat stunned on a park bench one day, overlooking the bustle, watching the swells of people, diverse, colorful and living, thinking of tensions around the world and back home on American soil. And I can’t say it any other way as I thought,

“Holy shit! Some Europeans just went all over the whole freaking world and started ‘discovering’ other places to live, in spite of whoever lived there first…”

Not only that, they swung by Africa and other countries and continents to do a little “shopping” on their way there, for a “workforce” to make their dreams come true. What the what?! #$%^&*?

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A bumper sticker on the back of a car we saw while recently in Australia.

As a kid, celebrating Thanksgiving and learning about the earlier days of the “discovery of the New World” and the founding of the United States, my young heart wrestled with some key, un-ignorable logistics.

Wait…people were already here, so really, did Columbus ‘discover’ a New World?”

I remember a commercial with a Native American chief atop his beautiful horse, overlooking pollution, a tear streaming down his cheek, and my guts hurt. Every single day of high school, and then some, I drove across an Indian “Reservation,” past government-issued housing, to get from my custom home to classes and activities. I pondered, too, the very real possibility that maybe some of my German blood could have been traced to the brutally hateful side of things in the world wars, but hoped they had sheltered or helped, and seen the deception, instead of the devastating alternative. I wondered if any of my earlier Stateside relatives had befriended Natives or rallied for or against slavery in America’s history, or civil rights, which crowd they followed, or if they blazed trails of healing instead. I hoped distant relatives had loved well as much as it depended on them…

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Me, circa 1977, leaning against our house that was an old hunting lodge my parents remodeled, along the banks of the Maumee River in Ohio.

 

I am a vanilla white, mixed breed American girl, born and raised in the United States. From word of mouth, as well as DNA testing, my bloodline includes: German, French, Swiss, English, Irish, Scottish, early Egyptian Jew, and 2.67% caveman… (“23andme” is an interesting way to learn about genetics from a medical standpoint, as well as an historical one). These things don’t define me, but they are part of who I am today, no matter how far removed I am from them.

My family moved to Arizona in 1978 to be closer to relatives. Had my family personally removed the Natives from the Phoenix metro in order to move there? No. We didn’t. We simply moved into the neighborhood, just as we had on the riverbanks of Ohio where we found exquisite Native tools and arrowheads, and, as an adult, I’m aware of this now, mindful of this, conscious of the fragmented reality that my freedom to move about wherever I want, to vacation to the ends of the earth, to drive and fly here and there, have come at a cost.

I’m a peacemaker. Why were there battles in the first place? And if someone “won”, that means others lost, and I don’t really think we have “enemies” since our battle is not with flesh and blood, soooooo, what does that really entail? What happens to the “losers?” Is there a better way to do all this? Is anyone actually speaking to each other or are WE all just pulling weapons on one another, pointing fingers, erecting walls, or corralling people into segregated groups, heaping label after label after stereotypical label on each other?

One thing I know…we have hurt one another. WE. There is no “us” or “them” but WE. And WE belong to each other. WE are a family of humans who cannot choose the members. WE ARE FAMILY. But this God-breathed human family is hurting. We may not have family trees to point a finger at who the bad relatives were versus the good ones, but the human family has a common trunk in the Tree of Life and the breath of God, and somewhere in the Garden WE began distinguishing, deciding, and judging between each other rather than belonging to each other.

I’m from a mixed bag of a lot of history…none of us knows all the specifics on how our blood has been woven into this world’s pain. I know I’m not a racist, nor do I have ill will towards anyone, but the reality is, not knowing what to do about the broken system doesn’t bring healing if I don’t do anything at all. If I’m going to be completely honest with you and myself, I can hope and wish and pray all I want that my ancestors were trailblazers of peace, but here I am today, comfortable in society in 2015 while heartache abounds on every side, so there’s been a breakdown somewhere along the line.

It’s not a matter of pointing fingers…we all have logs in our own eyes. WE have ALL hurt someone at some point, just as WE have all been hurt. Instead, it’s simply saying, “I am sorry. And I forgive you. I’m responsible for my life and actions and how I see and treat others. Help me understand…will you please tell me your story?”

I think TODAY is as good a day as any to start trailblazing peace and love. It starts with US…you and me. WE must stop waiting on systems to clean up the messes of our ancestors, no matter the color of our skin or our dark histories. Our SOULS run deeper than systems. We each must take responsibility for loving others well. Our present state of being is not without context.

The quote at Hemingway's in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

The quote at Hemingway’s in Manly Bay, Australia, the night I met a friend for dinner.

Have you ever heard the statement, “Can’t we all just get along?” Some people don’t believe it’s possible, but WHAT IF we tried? “Getting along” doesn’t mean everyone is best friends or believes the same things or even shares all the same interests, but it does imply seeking the good of all people, as long as it depends on each of us. At a table, we are compelled to sit with others and look into another persons’ eyes, to really SEE them and HEAR them and seek to KNOW them.

In this beautiful, bustling, broken, and hectic world, I believe there’s been a breakdown in making peace over time. We are naive to believe ALL the Native Americans and ALL the Pilgrims sat around that first Thanksgiving table…or that just because the lunch counters didn’t have dividers anymore that all the white guys saddled up next to the black guys for biscuits and gravy…or that within our own families, certain relatives were ever even on the guest list. Perhaps mealtime got interrupted, was hurried, or became all about the food and not about who was gathered there to share stories and break bread?

I’m a simple girl…idealistic, but unabashedly hopeful. As long as it depends on me, God has given me a glimpse of my life’s work and it’s to live and breathe peacemaking, everyday. I don’t know all the details of how it will work or look, but Someone modeled Love for me many years ago and it looked a lot like gathering around tables, breaking bread, and sharing stories.

 

Maybe the basic act of breaking bread together again
is where everyday peacemaking must begin?”

Moses Wasn’t Worried About His Prostate…

…and other life concerns.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about Moses’ prostate, mostly, how it’s never really mentioned or addressed in scripture. And I was thinking about how aspects of media, social media, the internet, news, and television, have created a sense of “awareness” and even “community,” yet, at the same time, it’s so much awareness and connectedness, so much information, about everywhere and everyone, it borders overwhelming and spread too thin, raising the question, “What can I do?”

It’s SO much to take in, vast and expansive…so many exquisite stories, 7 billion approximately, and all hold beauty and tragedy, life and death, every one pertinent, worthy, valuable. Behind every story, way deep down, is a soul, hand-crafted and God-designed, we aren’t just stories on the news. While 7 billion individuals seems like a lot, seen as a whole, it’s just one…all part of one family, made up of many parts. (The part about how we can’t choose our family members is another post…)

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So, then I was thinking about how big a task Moses had in leading the Israelites out of Egypt, so he kind of needed to be focused on the thing at hand. See, at the time Moses was carrying out the task of leading the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, he wasn’t scrolling Twitter or Facebook or World News, seeing all the other incredibly important causes or events around his country or on the other continents, or tweets about non-things like red cup outrage, or checking his calendar to make sure he was making his bi-annual prostate check-ups.

He just did the thing…the thing he was called to do.

Same with Joan of Arc, I mean, she changed the future and course of France from when she was 13 until she died at the stake at the age of 19, so hadn’t even qualified for a mammogram yet and likely hadn’t even had a PAP test…she wasn’t watching World News, distraught by the plights of peoples world wide, or even so crippled by the entirety of the war ravaging her country, but she just did the thing, right there, where she lived, within her community, and this little old 13 year old rocked history, unaware of the totality of it.

Then I was imagining all the amazing women I know and don’t know all over the world and picturing them with huge love in their hearts and God’s assurance of grace and might over their lives, and my heart swelled…

OH, the impact!

OH, the beauty!

OH, the power when women simply say, “Yes” and “Let’s do this…” and the ripple effects…oh, the ripple effects!

OH, the lasting effects of collaboration and focusing on THE THING! A THING! ONE THING!

These could be men, or boys, or girls, no matter the age, background, credentials, or training…but either way, seriously…the impact!

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And then I look at my phone, email, social media or have a doctor’s appointment about a lump, or think about water in other countries or stories of women, or glance at our family calendar, or remember I need to pack for an upcoming trip or send a note to a loved one or pray for 7 friends with cancer or friends fighting for their marriages or for adoptions or try to remember if today is a no-carb day or a free day or if I actually should fast or plan a date night to always stay engaged rather than “just married”…and there are so many real things that matter. So many. And all important.

…then I look in the mirror and see myself, alone with only my head and heart and hands, and get overwhelmed because the worst thing happens…paralysis…loss of feeling, action, direction, purpose. I have no illusions I’m Moses or Jesus or Santa or all the amazing women all over the world, so then I wonder what my point is, how I can make any sort of impact or difference in the world…like, why am I here and what is the point of me and there’s just so much pain to heal…

See, our battle isn’t against flesh and blood. The red cup thing that wasn’t really a thing, was actually, INDEED, a thing, because the truth is, it was a petty opportunity to distract HUMANS from THE THING of loving EACH OTHER, no matter what we believe. It was an attempt to get us pointing fingers instead of turning our palms up and offering a hand, reaching for one another. It was symbolic of all the things that can easily divert us from loving well, in spite of our messes. Until we stop delineating between who is more deserving of our rallying, our generosity, our listening ears, empathetic open arms, but mostly, God’s unconditional love, we are still missing it. Do I really believe every single one of the Israelites that Moses led out of slavery was nice and always behaving or someone I’d agree with on every issue? There’s no way, just like “God so loved the world that He sent His Son…” wasn’t just for the ones on their best behavior.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, the less I claim to know, the more free I feel to be faithful with the small thing right in front of me. However, that only comes when I’m not stuck in a rut of paralysis, looking around, some days wishing my “just do the thing” was an organized, structured, approved-of, sponsored, official “thing.”

I don’t think I’m called to any Moses-scale operations, but I, like you, am called to avoid the distractions and be mindful of the one thing it all boils down to: practicing extravagant, unconditional, day-to-day, for everybody, kind of LOVE.

(images courtesy of pixabay free photos)

“Christians” Need To Stop Talking

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Stop talking.

Stop talking.

Shhhhh.

Stop.

Zip. Shhhh, shhhh, shhhhhhh.

Please. Stop talking…

Stop boycotting stuff because people believe different things than you.
Stop quitting clubs and making your own clubs.
Stop telling others to boycott things you want to boycott so you won’t be alone in your stand against evil.
Stop using the word “Christian” while making blanket statements and actions for the rest of us.

Let’s read the book of Daniel.

Let’s all just stop talking and start implementing and practicing love…practicing empathy…putting into practice the lifestyle Jesus modeled…one that went something like: loving the whole world, no exceptions.

In the world, not of the world, but love the world.

“Love our neighbor…”

Stop talking about quitting Starbucks® because they ditched the dove for the holidays, because it’s not even a thing, and because we all know you aren’t going to, because, well, it’s your cliche schtick, so you can’t, anyway…plus, the lady in accounting at Caribou® corporate likes “Moonlight Path” by Bath and Body®, the guy in shipping at Gloria Jean’s® eats his guacamole with GMO corn chips from Tostitos®, the CEO’s assistant at Peet’s® is a lesbian who wears Avon® and incidentally has breast cancer, the guy in marketing at Lavazza® donates his time to freeing slaves in foreign countries where they worship idols, the social media girl from Dunkin’Donuts® always posts pictures of her cats and we all know real Christians like dogs because G-O-D and D-O-G, the people in the village where your beans were harvested practice voodoo, and then there’s the barista at Tim Hortons!® whose great, great, great, great, granddaddy started Macy’s® so you can’t watch the parade now, either…

Besides…are you kidding? “Red cup?” It’s kind of brilliant. Like, at a party, Red Cup™, get it? But that’s maybe the point? Maybe Solo® really should get some royalties for the inspiration?

“Love our neighbor…”

So, there aren’t any other options…unless, of course, you have one of those thing-a-ma-jiggers, oh…what are they? Let’s see, they are these things that make coffee for us right at home…oh, yeah, coffee makers. And there we can choose our very own mug…it’s crazy stuff. Oh, and, since none of the alternative coffee chains will suffice, all the money saved can be applied to a community service project or family mission trip, instead. But only get the coffee makers and beans and filters and mugs from, well, sources where you know every. single. one. of the beliefs of every employee.

Stop talking and read the book of Daniel and look at the life he lived.

We are all connected, we belong to each other, like 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon, but much more personal…and we need to learn how to get along and love, love, love.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

Listen, boycotting World Vision International and dropping the child sponsorship of 10,000 children in devastating living situations around the world because you differed on views about homosexuality speaks volumes…in fact, it’s so loud, the children and I can’t quite make out the message you were trying to send…except that “Christians” eat their own.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

There are 7 billion people on earth, all created in God’s image, uniquely designed for a display of His creative love and artistic work, some don’t believe this yet, but loving them well as Christ instructed will reveal it. There is no way we will ever all believe the exact same things about every single thing…so, I mean, that’s fine if you want to boycott such and such a company because of certain core values you don’t share and support other organizations with your monetary investment, but then it’s probable you’ll need to boycott every. single. organization and product on the face of the entire earth because if we get really into it, and dig deep enough, we may just discover that someone in accounting at your favorite “Christian” store has a cousin who is your barber’s sister’s husband’s best friend’s daughter and she said, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” to a patron at Starbucks the other day when she handed them their plain old red cuppa joe.

Seriously. Let’s stop talking.

And let’s start doing THE THING.

LOVING. LOVING EACH OTHER IS THE THING.

“By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”

 

LORD JESUS, PLEASE FIND US DOING THE THING…

“For I Know The Plans I Have For You…

…declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” – Jeremiah 29:11

This is a scripture a lot of Christians quote to encourage one another of God’s goodness over them. And it’s good. It’s truth. He does have good in mind for all of His creation.

But it’s important to read some of the sentences that surround this statement…not because God only functions in scriptural context, because He doesn’t…He won’t be confined to a box of our limited comprehension…but because sometimes we need a reminder that His goodness and His ways don’t always look like glitter and fireworks and shiny fancy packages…

Also, I don’t view this story as one solely for people a couple thousand years ago, non-applicable to today, but as especially pertinent for people who claim to be Christians, as a directive that still holds true wherever they may live.

A few years ago, some friends and I did what was supposed to be a 12-week study on the book of Daniel, from the Old Testament of the Bible that we stretched out over the course of 10 months. The content was too rich to cram into 12 weeks, so we unboxed it and soaked in it to really get a taste for it. Well, I haven’t stopped thinking about Daniel’s life and relationship with God, and the Babylonian kings, ever since.

There are SO MANY ANGLES to go with the stories in the book of Daniel, but as far as his character, integrity, and dedication goes, I’m blown away in light of the circumstances of why he is even in Babylon in the first place and how he remained faithful in a godless nation.

Daniel was a promising young man, intelligent, strong and handsome, of noble birth and character. It’s presumed he was a teenager when he was taken into captivity in Babylon, and there he spent the rest of his life, learning from, working for, serving, and ultimately befriending, the foreign rulers. Specifically I think of King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s relationship with him, namely his behavior while living in a culture totally foreign to him.

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It never says Daniel tried to thwart the rulers he served under, never talks about him trying to change their governing systems, disrespect them, or slander the king’s name or laws. We know he didn’t eat the food or drink the wine the king provided for the leaders in training, and we know he prayed to God three times a day, and we also know he would interpret dreams for the king, even pleading with the king to heed the warnings…affording the king time to change.

But, we also know Daniel’s remainder of his life was spent in captivity, an exile from Jerusalem in Babylon, because God allowed for this. And we know he had huge favor and was the king’s right hand man.

The part about Jeremiah 29 and the promise of God’s good over His people is especially beautiful when the other sentences are read along with it, and especially challenging when filtered through a lens of “being in the world, but not of it” and how “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities in the world.”

Here are some of the other sentences, the words and charge from God to Daniel and ALL the leaders and exiles who were carried off to Babylon:

This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:

“Build houses and make yourselves at home.

“Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.

“Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.

“Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.

“Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”

8-9 Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: “Don’t let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don’t pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They’re a bunch of liars preaching lies—and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me.”God’s Decree!

10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

(The Message version)

It seems like Daniel was in tune with these truths, in tune with God, because he sought God, in spite of his surroundings and circumstances. His dedication to serving the king faithfully and with integrity, not trying to butt the system but rather praying for the good of Babylon, was met with great favor. It would seem Daniel’s lifestyle was a glimpse of what living and serving looks like in an upside down kingdom…what God will do when we trust Him despite what we see with our eyes or are experiencing in what feels like the darkest of hours.

I want that kind of intimacy with God and trust from Him. And that kind of favor for my “earth life.” Daniel’s example to me is to pursue God, regardless of surroundings, love my “enemies” extravagantly, and pray for the good of all people…liberal with the love shown me, liberal with the grace shown me, liberal with my trust that God sees a bigger picture…and it’s good.

(photo credit: pixabay user/TanteTati)

 

 

The Stories Behind the Buzz

Today I shaved my head. Let me rephrase that, first I put it into two high pig tails and let Emily and her best friend, Sunny the daughter of one of my dear friends, cut them off to donate. But the reason for the cut wasn’t to donate. Then we had a bit of fun, because when you cut two pig tails off, well, you get a really bad mullet…almost Pat Benatar, but not as rockin’. After the pseudo mullet-mohawk phase, the beautiful Bina, our babysitter and Em’s big sister from another mother, stepped in with the 1″ clip and cleaned it up around the sides so we could see what a sorta-pixie would look like. From there I let all three of the girls have their turn at trimming here and there, just cuz, why not? And finally, I went to town with the 1/8″ clip and loved every minute of it.

I sent this "before" to Jason who is in Taiwan right now for his job with World Vision. He fully supported my choice. Come to find out, he's always had a crush on Sinead O'Connor, so now I know why he was so supportive... ;)

I sent this “before” to Jason who is in Taiwan right now for his job with World Vision. He fully supported my choice. Come to find out, he’s always had a crush on Sinead O’Connor, so now I know why he was so supportive… 😉

IMG_1770

Here are the hair bandits after the first cuts.

Super bad rat tail, mullet type situation...post pig tail chopping.

Super bad rat tail, mullet type situation…post pig tail chopping.

 

Here we cleaned it up so I could be just like the beautiful bella Bina!

Here we cleaned it up so I could be just like the beautiful bella Bina!

T-shirt brought to you by "Chosen and Dearly Loved" a ministry for special needs.

T-shirt brought to you by “Chosen and Dearly Loved” a ministry for special needs.

 

It took me 20 minutes from shower, dry, brush teeth, do make-up, and get dressed this morning. Don't even think about telling my dad how his three daughters should have done this at age 13...it would have saved him hours of waiting and we would have been places on time. All that time I used to spend on my hair I'll now spend in prayer. A visual reminder to pray...

It took me 20 minutes from shower, dry, brush teeth, do make-up, and get dressed this morning. Don’t even think about telling my dad how his three daughters should have done this at age 13…it would have saved him hours of waiting and we would have been places on time. All that time I used to spend on my hair I’ll now spend in prayer. A visual reminder to pray…

For me it was a choice for empathy. For everyone I know who loses their hair because of caustic chemicals coursing through their veins, it’s an inconvenient and scary side effect on top of a disease on top of pain and discomfort and emotion and hope and bravery and courage and wonder if it will work.

Today on Facebook I posted that 4 of my friends are on chemo, but shortly thereafter, realized I was wrong and the number is 6, as I miscalculated. And those are my friends. Then there are my friends whose spouses are sick, whether with cancer or undiagnosed ailments and endless pain, unexplained, yet more real than ever.

And then let’s talk about our sweet friend’s whose daughter has to have her foot amputated or my friend whose daughter just had to be taken to Juvie or the friend whose husband just had his body crushed by a car in a bike accident or my friend whose son’s heart is broken and irreparable and so they wait and my friend whose son has 100’s of seizures each day or my friend whose son’s disability is ramping up because of puberty and he’s getting too strong for her and our dear friends whose son has been sick for over 5 months, in pain, every day, and my sweet new friend whose daughter has a terminal illness.

Then there is my Dad who misses our Mom every. single. day. Her picture is everywhere I look as we stay at what was their house, and my guts hurt for his guts, and for his heart…but that doesn’t even include the pain he has daily because he needs a new knee and his best friend isn’t here to hold his hand through it. And for my beautiful Mother-in-Love who has been brave and strong for 17 years a widow on a journey not meant to tread alone. And my friend who is a young widow as of December.

And I don’t care how “acceptable” a death is at a latter age, the company of orphaned daughters and sons I have met on this journey grows regularly and there isn’t a day that goes by that we wouldn’t each love another hour with our parent…just one more question, please tell me one more story…but they are buried along with a portion of our hearts.

And the news the other night aired the total fire destruction of an apartment of someone my family loves and prays for regularly.

And all the single parents and broken homes and busted up hearts and heart-wrenching addictions. The parents who are waiting and longing to adopt.

But that doesn’t include the bereaved parents who have joined the community of late, a community I’ve been part of for over 8 years now, like my sweet friend who is figuring out life with her family minus their heart-daughter after 6 beautiful years. And the friends who have welcomed a new life into theirs after the loss of their sweet handsome boy.

ALL THIS, and we haven’t even turned on the news to see and be aware of all that transpires worldwide…

On any given day, we all carry things in our hearts, some we share, others we hide and hold closely, all of them chisel at the walls we try to erect around our tender hearts because life is hard and maybe protecting seems like the safe and right thing to do.

But, on any given day, none of these things are meant to be faced alone. No, I am not going to have a port put in my chest and take chemo to show empathy to my friends who have cancer, but maybe we should? Maybe empathy is entering into the stories of others with both feet? Maybe we would be more tender with our enemies if we both were in the same hospital with our ill children, just down the hall, just trying to love well, realizing we have something in common?

I tell you what…Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure written about in a history book that lies dusty on a shelf somewhere. God was in LOVE with ALL of us and came here to show us how to love well, which included loving everyone, even the crustiest among us. He ate dinner with those “society” called down and outers, but the thing is, they looked a lot like me, and you, and that guy, and that lady over there. Each of us has a story and we all have hard things. If we don’t start living empathy, choosing it, getting uncomfortable and walking through hard things with one another, then those of us who call ourselves “Christians” are using His name in vain. Jesus came doing the opposite of the way of the world…He came loving selflessly, He spit in dirt and made mud and smeared it on a guy’s eye to heal him, He told us if we wanted to find our lives, we needed to lose them…He didn’t just ask us to believe, He asked us to follow Him….

John 1:9-14 in the Message says this:

“The Life-Light was the real thing:
    Every person entering Life
    he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.
*But whoever did want him,
    who believed he was who he claimed
    and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
    their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
    not blood-begotten,
    not flesh-begotten,
    not sex-begotten.

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.”

*my emphasis added

I’ve ever only wanted to be who God created me to be. The months of Noah’s life gave me a glimpse. The weeks leading up to my Mom’s death opened the door a lot wider. Shaving my head in solidarity for friends and anyone and everyone going through hard things, well, let’s just say, I’ve never felt more free to be my true self, my child-of-God self, my most imperfect, messed up, forgiven and loved-self. And, I’ve never felt so free or more full of God’s purpose and beauty.

All the time I’ve spent doing my hair as I’ve been growing it out to “feel” pretty and sexy and fancy, well, with 1/8″ hair, I’ll have a bit more time to live intentionally. And that’s what the shave is about for me…a reminder to live a life of empathy, because we are all here, living hard stories.

And if anything, I know I’ll get ready faster than you tomorrow morning 😉

(More on John in another post…)