As long as I can remember, my closet had a boogie man and something lay waiting, with raspy breath, under my bed. mustard seed
Its name is Anxiety. Continue reading Hey You… Mountain….Move! I’m Armed with a Mustard Seed
As long as I can remember, my closet had a boogie man and something lay waiting, with raspy breath, under my bed. mustard seed
Its name is Anxiety. Continue reading Hey You… Mountain….Move! I’m Armed with a Mustard Seed
Everyone knew her. That woman, older than dirt, bent like the crook of a cane to half her height. Back then, in the 60s, an old lady in trousers is today’s equivalent to a tube top and Daisy Dukes. Thus, all elderly women wore floral jersey dresses. But this lady, had it going on, donning the expected uniform dress, and thick, sagging, support stockings with her signature Converse All Stars high top tennis shoes. Praying Hands Legacy
The fashion statement earned the nickname, Granny Tennis Shoes, and a story, told as a warning, locally and beyond. The tale not only explains the physical ailment but also solves the fashion mystery.
It went something like this…Praying Hands Legacy
One day a poor penniless widow found a pair of Converse All Stars in a dumpster. While lacing them up, the plan emerged, catapulting the old woman from rocking chair to entrepreneur, soon branded as Granny Tennis Shoes. During peak traffic times, taking a two-point stance at the street corner, she’d wait for the light to flash green, pouncing onto the crosswalk, (hence the tennis shoes) in front of a car, (hence the crippled body). Afterward, Granny drug her tired, tread riddled bones to court, suing the traumatized driver, for all they had.
And the saddest part of the story?
We all believed it.
It was not until I told the story as an adult that I realized how unlikely it would be that she would survive more than one attempt. Poor old Granny Tennis Shoes, clueless as to why… fingers pointed… cars swerved at the sight of her… wide-eyed children gawked or ran away. Praying Hands Legacy
Have you ever wondered what stories are told about you? I cringe at the thought. Labeled a feisty redhead with a nasty temper, my brother nicknamed me Sword Tongue saying,“Watch out, if you make her mad, she’ll slice you to pieces!” Praying Hands Legacy
That’s not a good legacy. I pray today my words be sweet, that the blade of my tongue is guarded, never wagging amok, or used as a weapon. I confess and repent of times my nearest and dearest have witnessed my tongue unsheathed. It’s true, I ’m not the person I could be, but it’s also true, I’m not the person I once was. The one who took pride in verbal slaughters. Glory to God for the changes and praise for His continued work. Praying Hands Legacy
I remember the first time I knew there’d been a paradigm shift in the way people define me. It was my birthday, the one when my now 18-year-old grandson was just four years old. With no help or suggestions from others, he selected my present. By the look of anticipation on his beaming face, I knew whatever it was, he believed it to be a grand and perfect gift. I expected a mug, or socks, maybe even a “NaNa is the best” placard. I did not, nor could not, have imagined the treasure concealed inside the box, wrapped slipshod in the funny papers. After peeling the last layer of comic, I opened the lid, lifting the mysterious cube from the box. Dazed, I stared at the gift, mirroring what my grandson sees when he looks at me. A battery operated crystal cube that lights up, revealing a silhouette of praying hands. The loveliest gift ever. Praying Hands Legacy
A drop to my knees, state of mind, moment. Hyper aware of the miraculous transformation, present in me, a task only God could pull off. How flattering… what an honor… to know my grandson pictures me as a woman of prayer who loves God. I’ve never felt more gratitude for God pulling me up out of the muck and mire, hosing me off, presenting me as lovely, in my grandson’s eyes. Praying Hands Legacy
Had I kept going the way of my past, my grandchildren might see me as someone chasing the wind, or worse, they might not know me at all. Because of our powerful awesome God, my five grandsons know what’s important to me. God, their Grandpa, and family.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
That birthday was a defining moment for me. A day when I received a priceless jewel. Proof that God is working miracles every day, in every way, even if you are just a “me,” like me. Undeniable evidence that I am not the godless woman I once was. For me, the wondrous change is no less a marvel than if I’d sawn off my leg and God grew it back.
Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!
Thank You God that who I see reflected in the eyes of my loved ones, is good.
Hmm… maybe Granny Tennis Shoes’ grandchildren and those who actually knew her, saw her as a loving grandma, who happened to wear cool high top tennis shoes. I hope so.
See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.
I knew a little girl, with frizzy red hair, knobby knees and a gap between her two front teeth. To the world she appeared gawky, gangly and awkward, but she never questioned her beauty and magnificent design. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration
Eyes wide, she greeted the flowers, the sunshine and colors of each moment, with gratitude. To her, miracles were expected, like turning the crank on the Jack in the Box, certain it’s coming, exhilarated by when. Nothing too small, or taken for granted. All creation grand, worthy of great attention and delight. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration
Hyper-alert, nothing missed, or unseen… the twinkle in another child’s eye, or the void of hope, lurking in a stranger’s soul. She recognized the need for a smile, a kind word, a touch, a simple pat on the hand. And, without question or hesitation, she filled the need. Courageous. Fearless. Forever listening to the still, small voice, speaking through the ears of her heart. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration
I remember her tears. Cries for Marilyn, dragged to the front of the class, spanked and shamed by the teacher, while wide eyed 1st graders, sat writhed in helplessness. Sweet tears, wept over the graves of babies, buried in an overgrown cemetery, near her house. Sobs of empathy, for the poor, ill-treated, and abused… the boy next door with the mean dad, the upside down gold fish, the woman scarred from burns on her face, and Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I remember her well. Those who loved her, cautioned, along with the rest of the world,”You’re too thin skinned, toughen up. Chin up child!”
Defining labels began to stick. Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration
Sensitive… Soft hearted… Emotional
The equation became:
Sensitive + Soft hearted + Emotional = Weak & Stupid.
Soon the clanging noise of the world, muffled the still, small voice amplified from her heart. Cynicism replaced trust. Bitterness squelched goodwill. Hatred and resentment silenced love. The world held up a mirror, ordering,
“Take a good look. You are not beautiful. Just look around you.”
So, she looked, compared, measured and judged.
Through this child, I met a woman; broken, bitter, “so over it.” Weary from turning over stones, finding no satisfaction. No questions asked or answered, soothed her pain. I remember her tears, as well. Tears from the well of brokenness, sorrow, darkness, loss of hope.
One day, in the deepest, darkest pit of dismay, she listened for the familiar still small voice, that even to deaf ears, kept speaking. She heard Him.
He’d never left.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m the child, and the woman. God created me with certain traits, some of which may not suit this world. Sadly, vows were made to fit into this world, like “toughen up,” and stop being a “bleeding heart.” Once as a young woman, an employer asked me to seek a favor from the big boss, saying, “Everyone is nice to dumb animals and Debbies.” Just words… maybe. But the hurt from them fueled a fierce vendetta. No one would ever think of me as dumb again. I would get my “shrewd” on. Trust not, care not, love not. See no good, hear no good, speak no good.
It’s been a long, bumpy journey looking for the woman God created me to be. I have a longing to return to the pure loving heart, I was created with. I wish I could tell you I’m all fixed now.
Every day, I trust, care and love, a little more. I see, hear and speak His good. I call on His name and I fight to hear His voice. I pray He will “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. “ Psalm 51:10
Think on this:
The nagging voice, growling up from the bowels of this world, knows us not. That’s why the lies often don’t even make sense, fired for effect, hoping one might penetrate our hearts, take us down… one more bites the dust.
Contrarily, the truth comes from the One who knows everything about us. The One who designed us after Himself, created us, and loves us beyond our wildest imaginations.
Who should we be listening to? Remember Child God Created Creation faith inspiration
Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:7
I’d love to say I’m like Paul. But I’m not. Or, Peter, or Deborah, or Ruth. Truth said, when asked which Bible character I am most like… I think of that sheep, you know the one that wandered off from the others?
Yep, that’s me, the rogue sheep.
My 99 friends, grabbing cell phones to call and advise me against bad mouthing myself, don’t bother. I’m good with being that sheep.
Think about it. Who did the shepherd go after?
You see, I face that sheep every morning, post prayer, pre-shower. That’s my time to write on our book, working title being, “In Spite of Us… Stalked by a Loving God.” Clicking the keyboard, shaking my head in dismay, I record the rebellious acts, stupid choices and messy consequences of a redheaded vagrant sheep. Said sheep may share my name and DNA, but beyond hair follicles and spit, today, nothing much else matches. Thank God.
Thus my patience wans, writing scenes doomed for sorrow and discontent. Even knowing that the Hero (Jesus) is coming to save the day, it’s tough to keep writing. I want to say “Don’t open that door. Really? Again? Stop! Look!.. Look up dummy!”
I wish I could skip to the stage of our story where a spiritual metamorphosis is apparent. If I did fast forward, leaving out all the muck and mire, the glory deserved by the Hero of the saga would be significantly diluted. It’d be like saying, “well, we were handling things okay on our own, without God, but he deserves credit for improving on our situation.”
What a joke!
The second half of the “we” in the story is my husband, Sandy, another fugitive sheep. In his defense, at least he showed up with a map, but staying on the straight and narrow path? Too much of a challenge. Therefore, the sheep duet, wandered around the jagged cliffs, blind and deaf to the Shepherd’s persistent calls. We were dying, drowning in a pit of self-inflicted, excruciating pain… hopeless, with no sign of relief. Picture two sheep at the bottom of a ravine, on their backs like turtles struggling to get up, bleating, “Baaaaaa!” The Shepherd should have said, “serves you right” or at least jabbed us with an “I told you so.” Instead, He kept at us, gently coaxing for us to stand up, climb back up the cliff, and follow the directions on the map.
You can laugh, I have. Still, I’m honored to be that vagabond sheep. Grateful beyond explanation. I turned my tail to the other 99 sheep, booing their blatherings. Worse, I felt no need of a Shepherd. I had it handled. That is until I was floundering at the bottom of the gorge. At last, willing to call for help.
And the Shepherd answered.
An accurate description of his response is written perfectly in the 23rd Psalm.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’ sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;
Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
Yeah, I’m “THAT” sheep. The one the shepherd pursued, foraged for. That makes me special, of worth, loved. Grace given, undeserved. If you’ve ever been forgiven by someone you’ve turned your back on, you know what I’m saying. It’s humbling.
If you have not experienced this Grace, let’s talk. I know a Good Shepherd, I can introduce you to.
Looking back, I’m dumbfounded. How did I miss the seventy times seven flashing neon “good choice” doors? Choosing instead the door down the long hall with the sign reading: You Know Better. I’m grateful for all the times God waited patiently while I collected consequences from behind the “bad choice” doors. Those lessons, greatly improved my choosing skills.
Contrarily, what about the times when God bolts a door shut? No matter how hard you pull or twist the knob, it won’t open. It’s stuck, bound with spiritual duct tape. We have free will to do what we please, pound our head against the wall as often as we like. I’m talking about the times when HE intervened, protecting me from the scariest monster of all… self. Continue reading When God says “No!” Is It a Gift in Disguise?
Recently, I watched the movie, Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco. Kelly holds a special place in my memory. Although too young in 1956 to see the live footage of the royal marriage to Prince Rainier, I do remember the replays, from our 21 inch, Magnavox black and white television console. For me, mom, and all America, it felt like a member of our family received a crown, giving us a shirt tail foot in the door, if we happen by the palace someday.
The movie didn’t live up to my black and white childhood memories of a handsome, fairy tale prince, driving his Rolls Royce up to St Nicholas Cathedral, to wed his bride. Or the vision of Grace Kelly in her flowing gown, made from 300 yards of lace and 150 yards of silk. Nevertheless, the story, confessing to be fiction based on true events, left me thinking.
Kelly spent years learning to be a princess. She practiced the royal walk, talk and demeanor. Eventually she mastered the expectation to “become” what royalty stands for. To “be” the Princess of Monaco, inside and out. She sacrificed her acting career, studied the French language, mannerisms and history.
She owned the tiara.
Watching her “become” royalty, my emotions stirred with possibility. Pausing the movie, I practiced the princess effortless glide to the kitchen, to make a cup of tea.
“Are you okay? What’s wrong?” my husband asked, walking impatiently behind me.
“I’m practicing walking like a princess… oh, never mind.”
Then, the thought occurred.
I am the daughter of the Most High King. Seriously, I really am the daughter of the King. It’s not a Christian Hallmark card saying we chant behind closed door prayer groups or churchy ice cream socials. I AM the daughter of the Most High King!
Whoa… hang on…
So are you.
We are royal children whose Father is all powerful, almighty, majestic, not just in essence, but in being.
What does that mean?
Shameful first thoughts of royalty reek of privilege and triviality. A palace, or maybe two, a throne, a gaggle of giggling maidens who think I’m cool, and cater to my needs… oh and maybe one of those glittering sticks, you know a wand. Or are those just for fairy godmothers and tooth fairies?
That’s not what it means to be the child of the Most High King. Like Kelly, I must learn. But unlike the princess, I don’t have teachers, trainers and coaches committed to molding me into nobility. She studied. There were instruction books. Oh, wait… there is a book… the book… the Bible. A collection of 66 books, written by 40 authors. The word of God. His mandate of “how to.” Not how to earn the position, Jesus paid for and reserved it for us. I don’t know about you, (actually, I suspect I do), but I do know I do not “own” the daughter of The Most High King title.
What would that look like?
According to our King, royal children dispense love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
And, there’s nothing that would lead us to believe we are better than our brothers and sisters.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NIV).
Or less than…
“ I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
Do I act like the child of a king? I know sometimes I act like a spoiled child of an earthly king… stomping my foot when I don’t get my way. But do I act like the daughter of the Most High King of kings, Lord of lords?
Not so much… sometimes… not enough.
I know I am a muched loved child of God, His daughter, a princess. Yet, to “become” what the crown stands for, I must train and practice. Without much thought, I found three major areas of princesstude I’d like to improve upon. I choose to work on these because I love my Father and my royal siblings.
First – Royal children know who their Father is, resting in His name. It doesn’t get any better than knowing your Dad tops all, and then some. No more lashing out at self with insults disappointment, and unattainable agendas. My Father loves me, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Second – My brothers and sisters are sons and daughters of the Most High King too. Even Sister So and So who looks down her nose and her Brother Knows It All. No more bad mouthing others for not living up to my expectations. Our Father loves them, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Third – Royalty serves outside of the palace. As a royal princess, I am a servant with a cause much bigger than my own yard. My siblings are my family, my heart. Together we can be about our Father’s work. No more going it alone. I need my family.
So Lord, my wondrous Father, whom I love. I pray that without the aid of an earthly crown and scepter, I can be a pleasing daughter, princess, child of The Most High King.
She flaunted perfection, from the house next door to mine, twirling polished pirouettes, a blonde ponytail floating in slow motion behind her. I tried to keep up, spinning and stumbling, bedecked with scabbed knobby knees, red hair doomed to frizz, by a Tony home permanent gone awry. Roberta spoke softly, poise oozing out her pores, a finishing school graduate. I reeked of awkward, spewed hillbilly slang like Warshington, gonna, and I-dunno, and I carried the mantra, “Debbie, settle down.”
Roberta’s father wore a suit and tie, called her princess, bored my family with tales of her delight fulness. My dad yelled, wore Big Mac striped overalls, told me to pipe down.
“No man is gonna marry a girl with big feet,” he’d say, pointing a greasy truck driver finger at my bare feet.
I coveted Roberta’s family, but I loved mine.
The McFarland’s were not without charm. Summers we’d put on neighborhood shows, an amazing feat, performed completely without the benefit of talent. No musicians, singers, dancers or actors, just raw desire to be the center of attention, and the guts to charge for it… a silver quarter per show.
Saturday’s we ’d canvas the block passing out hand written invitations, for Sunday afternoon’s back yard performance. A typical show, featured my lip sync to Ricky Nelson’s Traveling Man, sister Nancy’s loud version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Kumbaya, accompanied by imaginary guitar strumming, and our star, little Danny, singing most all the words of Sukiyaki, a Japanese pop song from the 1960s. We served popcorn and lemonade for a nickel, and gave away taffy, because we didn’t like it very much.
By midsummer our crowds always dwindled, leaving sticky face Johnny and his whining sister, Margaret, alone on the grandstand of grass. Unwillingly to fold up the makeshift floral sheet curtain, we spawned an idea for an act, no child of the 1960s could resist.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the dancing naked lady…”
Our risqué, bare bottomed star, a genuine United States Navy tattoo located on Dad’s forearm… and she could dance. Quarters jingled, filling the jar. We had it made. That is, until a power wielding censorship group of one, cancelled the dance, insisting Dad roll his sleeve back down. Mom never did have a sense for business.
One day, Roberta’s family packed their perfect possessions, and moved to a wonderland of princess worthy neighbors. Around this time, Dad’s toothless gums and the tattoo, turned from an attraction to an embarrassment. I grew to hate his stories, and loathe my one time heroine, the dancing naked lady. To my friends, NOT asking, he’d share the demise of his toothless grin.
“I left my teeth at a café’ on highway 99, stuck in a tuna sandwich.”
Thanks for sharing Dad.
Resentment seeded, bitterness took root. Like many families walking the tightrope between alcoholism and recreational use abuse… stuff happened… words carelessly tossed, lies slung, shame spilled, fists bristled.
When I looked at my dad, I saw nothing… except who he was not. The dad I loved for his loud voice, silly jokes and Popeye grin, disappeared. I forgot the man who provided for his family, fudged paperwork miles, enabling longer shifts. The good forgotten, leaving only the bad to define; a man who hurt the ones he loved with neglect and fists.
Over time, the naked lady tattoo shriveled and sagged. Her one time peppy, flirty dance, was at best, a sluggish, sway. Our relationship deteriorated, along with the tattoo. Bitter years of forgiveness proved too much to carry, spilling over, slopping onto my other relationships; husband, children, friends, co-workers, even strangers.
Alas, God moves ever forward, albeit seemingly behind the scenes, but oh so powerful! In His perfect timing, knowing the moment my heart reached ideal compliance, help came knocking in the form of a class called Surrendered Hearts. There I struggled, alongside three other women, clinging to ancient justifications for stacks of resentments. I listened… they listened… to tales of rage… to pent up screams. We cried.
For me, graduation meant forgiving my dad. I said the words, sincerely wanting to mean them. I forgive you Dad. I forgive what you did and what you did not. I mourned the dad I thought I wanted. I thanked Jesus for forgiving my judgments and bitter vows.
Shortly after the class completion, my mother died. That meant spending time with Dad. I wanted to be a good daughter, a comfort for my dad. My willingness to forgive, bought some patience, but not enough. Daily, I spent hours on the phone, listening to him complain. Nightly, I begged God to help me forgive him. Each day a clean slate, ending, soiled with new found rage for his latest rant attempting to justify wrongs done to my mom and siblings. If he’d just keep his mouth shut, maybe I could actually forgive him.
I don’t know how or when God removed the stain from my heart. I didn’t notice it getting lighter or less. One day, on the phone with him, I realized I cared. I felt love for the man he was, right then and there. The dad, the man with skin. While he talked on about what a good guy he was, God flipped the forgiveness switch in my heart. At least, that’s the best explanation I have.
More years passed, at least once a year he nearly died, springing back each time leaving the doctors shaking their heads in wonder. Driving his scooter, oxygen tank at his side, dad pressed on, losing the family home to gambling, nearly blowing his face off smoking Chesterfield’s while hooked to the oxygen tank, and getting slugged by a miscellaneous woman he somehow offended. Same old dad, but something was different.
That would be me.
Forgiveness benefited me. I was free to love and care for Dad, AS IS. Did I condone his actions? No. Did he sometimes make me crazy? You bet. But I loved… I love… I love my dad.
At some point, he quit justifying wrongs and attempted to right what he could. He died, with the faithful naked lady tattoo, loved. He left this world broken, forgiving and forgiven. He left, a dad, I’m proud to say is mine.
Coming in 2016 – In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God
Meet my friend Billie Jean Newhall. She’s a walking, talking, dancing testimony to God’s amazing love. I double dog dare you to read her story and not fall in love with her.
Born a happy baby, with a perpetual smile, Billie Jean’s testimony begins as a memory given by her mother, Star.
“We lived next to a tiny country church. I was about two or three years old. I’d walk behind the preacher imitating him… back and forth. I loved it there. It was the place I felt love.”
Born in 1957, to her 15 year old mother, the first born of five children. Recently Billie Jean received a surprise phone call from her brother Teddie, (second born) who was adopted out at birth.
“He used the computer… found me and my brother Michael. My other brothers are gone. Johnny died as a baby, probably SIDS, but mom thought she was being punished for adopting out her first son. Kelly, jumped off a bridge in 2001.”
No matter what changes or hard times came her way, one constant remained… Billie Jean never stopped seeking God’s love. As a young girl she hung out in a friend’s book store, reading scripture. During this time, she surprised everyone, revealing one of the many gifts bestowed on her by God.
Still today people, like me, turn to Billie Jean if we’re stumbling to recite a verse correctly. Remembering scripture verbatim is an amazing skill, but when I asked her to name her best trait she said, “I love people.”
She’s right… as usual.
If you’re thinking she’s some “zippity-do-dah” phoney baloney, fake kind of lovey dovey person… you couldn’t be more wrong. She loves deeply, gives it away freely, whether family, friend or stranger.
I asked if she had a favorite scripture to which she belts out…
“ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9… God gave me that scripture when I needed it.”
The time of need she’s referring to was one of sexual assault and abuse. A scared teenager who needed the strength to speak out and stand up to a violent predator. Joshua 1:9 got her through that ordeal and has continued to serve as her personal encouragement from God.
Last August, Billie Jean faced the death of her dearly loved mother. Despite a flat tire in “the middle of nowhere,” her Uncle was able to drive 250 miles and back, uniting mother and daughter for a last visit.
Only God knew how much she needed this moment with her mom. Her last visit still hurt. Under the effects of morphine, Star had lashed out at Billie Jean, angry that she could not stay with her; an irrational, out of character attack leaving her confused and hurt.
“I was there with her when she died… the only one she’d let touch her. I rubbed her, patted her hand and asked. ‘Do you ‘ikes’ me mama?’ That’s what I used to say as a baby. She was thirsty… I’m the only one who could give her a drink.”
Later, feeling helpless, sitting in silence by the door, Billie Jean heard her mother’s voice.
“I know you’re there.”
It was a blip of a moment, but exactly what she needed to hear. As the closest family member, the life support decision fell on Billie Jean. After prayerful thought, she pressed close to her mom, whispering.
“I give you permission to go.”
With those words, came peace and her mother’s parting breaths.
Two months later, grief still raw, Billie Jean finds a lump on her right breast. The diagnosis is cancer, showing in her lymph nodes and bones as well. When asked what she’s learned through this, she assumes a natural pose, arms stretched out, palms up, stating.
“To rely completely on God.”
She admits to times when grief smothers her prayer voice, yet faith never wavering, she adamantly states, “God is with me through the hard times.” In a sweet session of worship, soaking in His presence, Billie Jean received an encouraging word from her Father.
“In the shelter of His wings.”
The exact words needed to carry on as she always has, relying on God. After a mastectomy and radiation therapy, she put her foot down, ordering her friends to…
We were cramping her style. Getting in the way of the job God has called her to do… to be… the job of spreading joy. A job she aces. When we stopped bugging her about cancer, she became herself again. The dynamic woman ever ready with a dose of joy, a huge helping of love, a barrel of fun and more dance moves than Michael Jackson. Dancing to her name sake song, she pauses momentarily to say.
“I don’t’ dance exactly like Jackson…”
Maybe not, but this gals got rhythm. As one of her many friends, I can say to know her is to be blessed. God uses her to touch many lives. The employees at our local North Star Cancer center looked forward to her radiation treatments, and have since told her to come back anytime to visit.
God is with her, always, she knows that. Last week she ended up in the hospital suffering from dehydration, unable to focus.
“I wasn’t myself. I kept crying. I couldn’t pray, but I know God was listening to me anyway.”
Through this experience in the hospital, she received the gift of understanding… for a nagging hurt about her mother’s death. While sick, dehydrated, emotional, and disoriented, Billie Jean understood why her mom had lashed out at her.
“She wasn’t herself… it was the morphine… she was disoriented like me. Now I understand.”
She needed the experience to heal the hurt, lingering behind. No one knows what lies ahead, for Billie Jean, nor any of us. In the meantime, she’ll continue doing her favorite things; worshiping the Lord, dancing, preferably with flags and giving away hugs, smiles and encouragement to friends and strangers alike.
Again, her favorite scripture comes to mind. Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I hope you enjoyed hearing a small piece of Billie Jean’s story. We all have a story of God’s love for us. A story of yesterday, today and tomorrow. A work in progress that needs to be shared.
Who remembers the 1970’s E.F. Hutton commercials? My favorite shows two men on a plane conversing across the aisle while disinterested bystanders sleep, read, gaze out the windows. That is, until the name E.F. Hutton drops, causing a collective hush, among the eager eavesdroppers. The ad ends with the famous, unforgettable tag line: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”
What about when God speaks? Do we lean in, hand cupped over ear, holding our breath in anticipation of His words? Speaking personally, I can say He knows how to get my attention. I’m not talking about an audible voice booming down from heaven saying stuff like “Deb, stop that!… you know better.” No, that’s more likely my own busy-body mind intruding on my peace: named “guilt.” I’m referring to a distinct voice in my head, a message arriving in an envelope of peace, reassurance, and clarity. A voice heard through the ears of my heart… or the lips of a friend… quite possibly a stranger. A voice that’s visible, seen not heard, through the staggering power of the ocean, or the knee buckling tenderness of a child’s love. Scripture, previously known, now alive, renewed. Words on a page, a billboard, a T-shirt… highlighted, back-lit, subliminally underlined.
No matter what the medium, when God speaks, there’s no confusion of authorship. You know, that you know, that you know. You just do. Even so, it’s hard to grasp that God dropped everything to send me a seemingly trivial, but deeply intimate message. However, once we stop denying His signature on the message, the essence of His ever powerful love for us is boldly evident. Yes, our God is mighty, capable of whispering sweet nothings in our ears, all while moving mountains, healing the sick and charging command over legions of heavenly angels. Yes, He is an exquisite multi-tasker.
One clear example, occurred two years ago when my husband, Sandy attended a men’s retreat in Canby, Oregon. He kissed me goodbye, grumbling that he’d rather stay home. He left discouraged, disgruntled, dis-everything (not a word, I know). In his own words, the troublesome “dis” was, “I’m tired of asking God for direction and hearing nothing.”
For months, we, meaning me and our entire church body, had been praying for him to receive words and encouragement. Some of us might admit to growing weary of the redundant prayer. Yet, we all knew Sandy’s deep desire to hear from God, promised an answer.
“I try, but I don’t hear anything. God doesn’t speak to me,” he’d say in response to our “keep seeking nudges.”
Seated among the 300 or so men who’d travelled from Vineyard churches across the northwest, he regretted saying yes to the invitation. If he’d stayed home, he could be working on the never ending projects on his ever growing list of “to-dos.” Staying busy seems to dull the pain.
While tapping his foot, waiting out the remaining 10 minutes before “getting on with it,” two men approached.
“We felt like you might need prayer. What’s going on with you?”
Sandy shared his frustrations, a familiar script, flowing off his tongue like an old song, the melody being “I don’t think God hears me.”
The men listened, praying a facsimile of the prayers sent over the past months of discontent. The prayer ended, just as the worship service started. Through worship, Sandy continued praying, seeking, yet convinced it was a one-way communication.
“Please, Father… I want to know you.”
When the key note speaker began, Sandy chuckled sarcastically at the topic – “Receiving Words from God.” When the audience was asked to participate, he prepared to go through the motions, expecting that others would receive wondrous, life changing, intimate messages from God, as he wallowed, on an island of quiet nothingness.
“There are thousands of words floating around this room right now. Please turn to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Then let’s spend some quiet time asking God for a word for each other.”
“My name’s Sandy… nice to meet you.”
Shaking hands, the stranger stated his name, which Sandy instantly forgot.
During the five minutes of quiet, disguised as three days of noisy head clatter, Sandy tried, in vain, to hear from God. When the time was up, he shared what he calls, generic fortune cookie stuff, derived from his own head.
“Something good is going to happen… there’s going to be a change…”
When it was the other man’s turn, he looked blank, then said.
“Philip. Right? Your name is Philip. He knows your name. That’s what I felt God wanted you to know.”
There it was… in perfect timing. Weak kneed, laughing… crying… laughing… no doubt God speaks… no doubt God hears… no doubt God knows him by name. You see, there was no way the stranger could have known that Sandy’s real name is Philip. A name spared only for legal documents. A name God shared through a stranger, knowing Sandy would hear it, An undeniable message of the His love.
That night, a phone call interrupted my sleep.
“He knows me by name!”
“God knows my name is Philip! He knows me…”
He shared the story with me, pausing for frequent voice cracking breaks, his demeanor and mannerisms out of character… chatty, fired up, super charged. To this day, he shares this story with anyone who’ll listen, never able to say “He knows me by name,” without tears. He left home with an acute case of “diseverything,” returning a changed man.
I suspect God is speaking all the time, and we are the lackeys with plugged ears. He’s a gentleman, who won’t yell over the top of the other noise in our life, and doesn’t need to. He knows exactly what it will take to get our attention, being our Creator and all.
Before my mom died, in 2002, I sat with her every day in the hospital, reading the Bible aloud, praying her seemingly sleeping mind could hear God’s word. I begged God to give me a sign that she would be in heaven… at peace and free of pain. My expectations were that she would awaken and say something reassuring, like “Jesus told me to tell you, it’s all good, you can pray about other stuff now.” That didn’t happen. Instead, moments before mom died, my sister and I walked into her room, finding her wide awake, smiling, gazing straight ahead. Whatever she was looking at, was beyond our understanding. One thing was clear, Whomever she looked upon blinded her to all else, satisfied her every need and filled her with joy. Then, she left the room, or at least in spirit. The nurses told us we could stay with her as long as we wanted. But why? She left, leaving only the parcel she rented space in, behind.
That day, God spoke, giving me everything I needed to never doubt. Like Thomas, who needed to stick his finger in the hole in Jesus’ side, I needed to see Jesus through my mother’s eyes. Nothing else would have sufficed. He knows us well. Yes, indeed.
A recent study found that those speaking the truth are 75% less likely to suffer from heart disease than those who tell a lie. Sounds like a government study… right? Relax, no lying rats were harmed in this study, I made that part up (oops, that’s what I’m talking about…).
Years ago, I took a job as a professional liar. That’s not what they called it, but truly, I was a liar for hire. The official job title was “shopper,” specifically banks. It began innocently with fibs, innuendos, lies of omission. Corruption begged company, so I enlisted my husband, bringing him along for the heists.
Like Bonnie and Clyde, we hit the banks on the list pretending to be ordinary customers, cashing checks, making deposits, asking questions. Unsuspecting tellers would later be evaluated as to his or her customer service skills. Victims chewing gum or forgetting to say thank you, landed on the hit man’s list back at headquarters. Those were carefree days, racing away in our get-a-way Subaru, conscience slightly smudged.
We excelled at our job, leading to increased hits spreading throughout the Northwest. Soon our escalating lying skills led to the big time… hustling loan officers, a position requiring top notch lies of the sort they named the club after.
We were given an attache full of new identities, including names, jobs, financial histories, to which we added personal details for flavor. It was challenging racing between the ever growing list of jobs. We grew weary, making small mistakes like taking the wrong exit or misplacing notes. The lies grew like weeds twisting around truth, making it difficult to distinguish fact from fantasy.
My last bank job, the one that scared me honest was in Portland. It was the final job of the day. I was late, rattled, weary from building lies. The loan officer offered her hand, inviting me to sit. The cool, collected Bonnie and Clydeness abandoned me. Taking her extended hand, I opened my mouth, trusting that whatever name came out would be correct.
“My name is Ida Thurman,” I said.
“What? Oh… no… really? That’s my name too. I’ve never met anyone named Ida Thurman. Both first and last names? That’s crazy!”
The moment I heard it, I knew I had unconsciously spoke the name on the brass nameplate displayed on her desk. Too late for a clever lie as to how I confused my own name with hers, we began a lengthy, clumsy conversation about the Minnesota Thurmans, none of which I could recall except possibly Sue Ann sounded “familiar.”
No matter if the lie is white, barefaced or polite, a fib, a whopper, or my favorite – The Butler’s lie (coined for lies intended to save face), lying is stressful. Maybe you’ve never lied; never experienced that flushed face sweaty palm moment; never needed a shovel of reinforcement lies to dig yourself out from the grave of deception. If so, I commend you, albeit with much skepticism.
I know my family culture promoted the art of lying, selectively of course, with good intentions and purposes; such as lies to friends or family, protecting feelings; lies to neighbors and busybodies, restricting gossip, lies to the police, limiting jail visits; lies regarding taxes, saving money. This is just a small sampling of the acceptable practices in the art of moral lying. If you research styles of lies, you’ll be amazed… Wikipedia lists 35. As a former not so nice chick looking for trouble, I believe I’ve practiced all on the list and more. I’m not alone. Just look at the songs written about it- to name a few: Rolling Stones – Lie; The Castaways – Liar liar; Eagles – Lyin’ Eyes; Queen – Liar; Fleetwood Mac – Sweet Little Lies.
Personally, I had a hard time taming my lies, sometimes still do. For me, lying was a natural gift for survival. It was easy and harmless creating a tall tale to fit the occasion. Even as I write this I’m holding back an urge to boast of instances when one of my lies helped someone. Alas, the command to not lie made God’s top ten list, thus the need to change. One thing I’ve learned, if God commanded it, then you better listen up because He only wants to protect you from the dire consequences.
Today I can honestly say I’m no longer a gifted liar. It’s like making gravy, it takes practice keeping the lumps out. I don’t miss the thrills or even the sense of self-awe after creating a doozy (not on the Wikipedia list). I do enjoy knowing my word means something today. Turns out telling the truth relieves stress better than the typical recommendations of rest, meditation, exercise and it’s even better than a strong dose of Vodka or a bottle of wine. That old saying “it’s always best to tell the truth? Turns out it’s not some hokey line parents made up to find out what their children have been up to. It’s true.
Keep in mind, this is based on my own experience with the relationship between lies and stress. We might need a spendy government study to prove it, being a sound source of truth telling. As obvious as it may seem to stop telling lies, I believe we all need a little reminder since it is a prevalent, even expected practice, in the world we live in.
I conclude this post with a confession: Stress or not, if you ask me, “does my butt look big in these pants?”… I’m going to lie.