Is It Real?

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I was but a tiny girl.
I peered around the corner at my mother, sitting in the kitchen.
The ashtray overflowed with ashes as a pillar of smoke rose from the center.
Beer cans were scattered across the surface of the table.
Her eyes met mine for five seconds – long enough to pierce my soul with fear.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

She sat in the rocking chair, tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Mommy?”
I placed my hand on her hand and turned my empathetic face up to hers.
She shoved me, knocking me to the floor.
I knew I must have done something wrong.
It was my job to keep her happy, and she was not happy.
But she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Nineteen. An adult.
No job. No college. Just obedient toe kissing.
Baking. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching. Parenting the young siblings.
Twenty-three.
No job. No college. No dating. No parties. No hanging out with friends.
Just more obedient toe kissing.
Wearing homemade dresses. Dedicating my young years to domestic “ministry”.
“It’s for your protection,” she said. “It’s God’s design for girls.”
And she said “I love you” last night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

“Giving the world a new approach to life!”
Follow these ten steps.
Drink these seven basic principles and drown in them.
They look like Biblical righteousness from where you sit in the stadium, but really they are chains of slavery.
Beat yourself over the head with these 49 character qualities.
And remember that grace is you doing what you’re supposed to be doing… perfectly.
Dating is fornication. Once attracted, you must marry.
Hook, line, and sinker… I swallowed it all.
But God said “I love you” in John 3:16.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Long eyelashes. Hazel eyes. Best friend turned something deeper.
Engaged just 2 weeks after realizing it’s more than friends.
Married 4 months later.
We did it right. We were righteous.
Courtship trumped worldliness.
We waited to say “I love you” until we were promised to each other.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Eleven and a half years of total dedication.
I made myself everything I thought he wanted.
Always quick to forgive. Very slow to judge.
Everyday I strove to trust and give the benefit of the doubt.
Shove the paranoia to the back burner.
Smile.
Hug.
Kiss.
Believe the best.
Ignore the warnings.
Say “I love you” every day and every night.

Is this love?
Is it real?

Go to work.
Leave work.
Walk in the door.
Hang up the jacket.
Kiss the wife.
Whisper, “I like us.”
Chat over dinner.
Sit in the living room with the computer, ipad, or phone.
Tuck kids into bed.
Watch TV.
Get intimate in bed.
Fall asleep.
Repeat.
He said “I love you” tonight.

Is this love?
Is it real?

I thought it was all love.
I thought it was all real.

“You mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.”
Reality shattered. There is no fixing it. There is no healthy, loving relationship.

“Your over sheltered life has your thinking and belief system in complete turmoil and bondage.”
Reality shattered. Protection from life is psychologically harmful.

“There is no new approach to life. The greatest approach was given 2,000 years ago through the life and death of Christ.”
Reality shattered. There is no man who has “new revelations” from God.

“All your striving to be perfect has made you resistant to His amazing grace.”
Reality shattered. There is no doing what’s right, because it’s right… perfectly.

“I’ve spent our entire marriage trying to escape you. I don’t think we should have ever married.”
Reality shattered. There was no best friend. There was no “us”.

“Working late again.” Coming home smelling like perfume. Texting pictures back and forth. The list goes on.
Reality shattered. The words “I love you,” “I like your body,” “You’re beautiful”… they mean nothing. Just empty words to hide a lie.

There is no love.
Nothing is real.

But then He whispers.
He shows me that grace is not a list of rules to keep. Grace is Him looking down, loving me just where I am, and wrapping me in Christ’s righteousness.
He shows me that He is a good, good Father. Always providing. Giving good things. Holding. Hugging. Listening. Always patiently listening.
He shows me that His heart knows brokenness. Betrayal, deceit, abuse, devaluation… He’s felt it all.
He shows me that being human means always questioning. It means blood and tears. And He’s ok with that.
He shows me that He is the God who sees me… ME… in the midst of crap I never asked for.

This is love.
This is real. This is the only reality. It will never shatter.

The Day I Left My Rock for the Beach

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My house is a humble home, but it is set up on a large precipice. The view is phenomenal. When I stand at my front door, I can see for across the treetops and the glistening ocean in the distance. Sometimes the wind is fierce and rain pounds the roof and windows, but I am snug and warm inside my house on the rock. There’s not another place in the world that I would rather be, but there was once a time when I thought differently.

It was a warm and dark summer night. I stood, resting my head on the doorframe, looking out across the tops of the trees. It had been a very long and hard day, and I was feeling restless and agitated. A flicker of light down by the beach caught my eye, and the humid nighttime breezes brought with it sounds of laughter. A party was in full swing down on the beach. The longer I stood watching the flickering lights and listening to the gaiety, the more I longed to be down there.

I stepped out onto my porch, closed the door behind me, and started toward the porch stairs. As I lowered my foot to the first step, I hesitated. I’d never left my rock before, but the pull of the sand and the waves and the party was strong… so very strong. I bounded down the stairs and took off down the long path to the beach.

Approaching that sudden place where the trees toe the sand, I paused to observe the crowd. They were cool. They were hip. And they were having fun. Music blared and beach fires flickered. A group of three women raised their bottles and roared with laughter. A young couple sat right where the waves kiss the sand, wrapped in a passionate embrace. My eyes moved to edge of the flickering light to a small group of guys. One of them met my gaze and winked, beckoning me to join him.

I’m not going to lie. I had the time of my life that night… lifting my bottle high… joining in the uproar of the party life. I relaxed in the arms of the winker, letting him cover me in kisses.

I thought I had finally found the life, but as the east edge of sky began to ever so slightly glow with the coming of the sunrise, things began to change. The strong, muscular arms wrapped around me suddenly turned old, brittle, and death like. I looked up into his face and his eyes appeared as the eyes of the devil, dark and empty. I screamed and leaped to me feet.

All around me the happy partiers were turning into miserable creatures. The sand beneath my feet no longer felt warm and firm. Instead it felt cold and shifty. As I backed slowly away from the horror story unfolding before me, the ground turned to quicksand, pulling me into itself.

I gasped, bolted toward the trees, ran all the way up to the top of the rock, bounded up the steps, tore through my front door, slammed it, and slick my back down the inside. I tried to calm my breathing, slow my pounding heart, and stop the terrifying shivers vibrating over my body, but I could not.

I think my house on the rock understood somehow, because I felt it envelope me in some sort of safe and comforting embrace. This was home. This would always be home. This house on the rock was my safe place.

And now when I long for human connection, I just wait for someone to visit my rock and together we rest in its safety.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
(Mat. 7:24-27)

When you hear the beckoning of a beach vacation, resist it, my friends. It is a lie. Sin is but a miserable nightmare disguised as pleasure. Its foundation is shifty and you will fall hard. Cling to your Rock. Abide in Him. And when the storms of life come, you will be safe and secure.

The Journey of a Maple Leaf

mapleleafA crisp fall wind pushed its way through the branches, fluttering the last three pointed leaf wildly until it broke loose from its lifelong home. Up, up it soared and then back down again, diving into the picture window of the house it had stared at every day. Inside, a small girl huddled in the corner peering over the tattered ear of her teddy bear at her fighting parents.

Just as the leaf began to slide down the pane, the fall wind yanked it away to the windshield of the red car driving down the street. In the backseat, a little boy sobbed uncontrollably. “Shut up!” the woman behind the steering wheeled yelled as she impatiently flicked on the wipers.

The leaf flew to the side of the road and into a ditch, but before it could catch its breath, it was pinging between grave stones, crashing into one right after the other. Each stone bore the etched name of someone dead… someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, child. So much death. So much dreary coldness. Relieved to finally reach the other side of the graveyard, the leaf fluttered to the curb and lay silent for a moment, trying to forget the names it had slapped against.

Suddenly, it began to vibrate. What was that rumbling sound? It was getting louder and closer. Before it could find the answer, the leaf was forced into the air and pressed against the window of a passing city bus. It studied the face of the woman only inches away. Her eyes were distant and sad, and her hair hung in greasy lumps against her tear streaked cheeks. She gingerly pressed her fingertips against the glass separating her from the leaf, and as she did, it was pulled away once again by the invisible force of the autumn wind.

It pushed and pulled and tugged the leaf right into the revolving door of a tall business building. The clumping and clacking of sophisticated footsteps over and around it overwhelmed the fragile leaf. A rather large rubber sole trampled carelessly onto it and the leaf found itself stuck. Up it went, then down again, pressed firmly between the sole and the floor.

The breeze created by the man opening a heavy wooden door loosened the leaf and it fell freely to a cold marble tiled floor. The man plopped his brief case on the floor and leaned against the sink, glaring at his own reflection before him. “You really messed it up today, Max. When will you even learn?” He slammed his fist against the counter, picked up his briefcase and stomped back out the door, sending the leaf back into the swarm of feet.

“Everything is so sad and ugly,” thought the leaf to itself, as it lay face down on the shiney, hard floor. “What a useless, miserable existence!” It no longer cared if it the feet squashed or torn into its veins.

Suddnely it felt itself being curled and lifted by a chubby, little hand. “Weef, Mommy!” a high pitched voice exclaimed. “Yeah. You found a pretty one,” a woman’s voice answered. “I keep it?” the little voice asked. “For a little while,” the woman answered again. The leaf swung in short swoops up and down as the chubby little hand transported it through the revolving door and down the sidewalk.

The wind gusted, yanking the leaf from the clutch of the sweaty palm. Up and up it soared. It looked down and watched as the little hand waved. “Good bye, Happy Weef!” the squeaky voice called. “Good bye, one and only happy child,” the leaf called back.

The leaf found itself flying higher than it had ever been. Up higher than the towering buildings of the city. It looked down, saw the scurrying people, small as ants, the glint of the sun on the skyscrapers, and the orange and red powder puff tree tops lining the streets. What a breathtaking view!

It wanted to stay up there forever where there are no tears, no yelling, no death, no ugliness, but the wind force had other ideas. It plummeted the leaf straight down toward the river snaking through the city. The leaf was sure this was the end, but just as it was about to hit the water, the invisible wind caught it and cradled it.

Faster and faster it sailed, hovering just above the surface of the sun sparkled water, between the rows of orange and yellow and red. Other leaves joined it and together they soared over and through the mystical tunnel of beauty until the wind puffed, scattering them into their own journeys.

The maple leaf floated into a park and onto the back of a running dog. It found itself being jostled up and down as the furry beast playfully chased three giggling kids. This was fun! The leaf hung on as tight at it could and felt a giggle burst out from deep inside itself.

But the three pointed leaf could not hold on tight enough and it was soon zipping through the air, doing loop the loops and nose dives. “It feels good and happy to dance,” the leaf thought as it soared right between a man and woman holding hands and straight into the hair of a mother. The leaf inhaled deeply, letting the fragrance of her shampoo and perfume engulf it. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

“Higher, Mommy!” The swing pushed the wind and again the leaf fluttered and swirled, this time landing inside a stroller right on top of a sleeping baby. The leaf lay as still as it could, feeling the gentle rise and fall of this tiny chest. It leaned in close and listened to the rapid heartbeat of this precious life.

Up it soared one more time, high into the vast blueness. The leaf looked down at the happy humans, young and old, loving and living in harmony together. It looked down at the sunlight glitter playing in the river and the colorful tree branches dancing in the autumn wind. It listened to the children’s voices and giggles. It smelled the scent of earth and leaves and coffee and life. Each sensation mixing with the other until it all melded into something so overwhelmingly beautiful that the leaf thought it just might burst.

The leaf’s journey had come to an end, and the invisible autumn wind gently floated it to a pile of other leaves at the base of a tall tree. “What did you see up there?” a small oak leaf asked.

“I saw that life is full of sadness and anger and dark death. It feels empty and cold,” the maple leaf answered, “But if you soar up high enough and see the bigger picture, the scene will engulf you with such beauty that when you have fluttered back down into reality, that’s all you’ll see.”

The three pointed leaf smiled and whispered, “I saw beauty.”

 

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My Psalm 73

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I know that God is good to good Christians.
But me? Eh. I flounder around in confusion.
I find my soul enviously angry at men
Who enjoy the pleasures of adultery without consequence.

They flirt their way into bed with luring women, but feel no pain.
They dine and laugh as her earrings dangle and brush her neck.
Their heart skips a beat when she texts, and they smirk in glee.
They sneak into private places with her and press their body against hers.
Then they scamper home to kiss the wife and pat the kids on the head.
They feel the thrill of secrecy, and say, “Who will know? God can’t see.”
These are the adulterous men, always at ease, living the life.

I have kept my heart clean and pure in vain.
I am the one left crumbled in pain.
I am told that I am unloved and unwanted.

But when I truly try to understand this paradox,
I am dizzied with the magnitude of injustice
Until I fall on my face before God.
Then I understand the impending end of adulterous men.

God, you put them on a slippery slope
And bring their lives to ruin.
They are swept away in a moment’s notice,
Engulfed by the explosion of terror.
Like one who wakes from a nightmare, hating the demons,
You despise them.

When I was bitter and cried, “No fair!”,
I was ignorant and acted like a caged dog toward you.

And yet, you’re here, beside me
Holding my hand in yours.
You guide me with your divine wisdom.
And you welcome me into your glorious kingdom.
I have no one but you, God.
And there is no one here on earth that I would rather have than you.
My heart may shatter into pieces
And my body may crave the arms of a man,
But you are the strength of my heart and the eternal answer to all my needs.

All those who are far from you will take their last breath
And those who are unfaithful to you will meet their end.
But for me… it is good for me to be near God.
I have made him my safe place
So that I can shout his works from the top of my lungs.

 

 

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A Little Game of He Said/He Said

wash in truthWhen words cut to the very heart of your soul, there is only one way to heal, and that is to replace them with truth. It’s time for a little game of he said/He said.

he said…
I don’t love you anymore.

HE said…
You are loved with an everlasting love that is steadfast, and nothing can separate you from that love. (Jer. 31:3, Psalms, Romans 8:35-39)

he said…
I’ve been trying to escape you.

HE said…
I’ve been pursuing you since the moment of creation. (Proven over and over in His Word.)

he said…
I choose someone else over you.

HE said…
I chose you. (John 15:16)

he said…
I don’t know if I ever wanted you.

HE said…
I have wanted you since before time began, and I prayed for you over 2,000 years ago, that you would be one with me. (John 17:20-21)

he said…
You are not attractive enough.

HE said…
I created you as a beautiful image of Myself. (Genesis 1:27)

he said…
You are not important enough for me to truly get to know you deeply.

HE said…
I know everything about you from the hairs on your head to the thoughts in your thinker. I know you inside and out and back again, and you are precious to me. (Luke 12:7, Psalm 139)

he said…
I do not take pride and joy in you.

HE said…
You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and everything that I make is good. I am proud of you, My Creation. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Hear, oh my heart. Hear these words. Let them seep into every jagged crack, filling in those broken places, making you whole. He will rebuild you and make beauty from ashes. He is God, and He can be trusted.

Bring on the Carmel (Hold the Chocolate)

Megadim_Cliff_Mount_Carmel_-1Ok, so the title is probably a bit misleading. This post has nothing to do with candy. Is it about Carmel though… Mount Carmel. You probably know the story… how Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a god competition. (If you don’t know the story, you can read it here.) I’ve always read/heard the story with the idea that those stupid people who worshipped Baal needed to be put into their place. But when the story teller at our children’s Sunday night Pioneer Club retold the story, I heard something else.

Think about this… The prophets of Baal set up a proper sacrifice. They had a nice pile of wood, plenty of burnable material. They chose a bull, cut it into pieces and laid it on the wood. That right there is barbeque waiting to happen. They just needed Baal to bring the matches.

Elijah, on the other hand,  built an altar of stone. He dug a ditch around it, placed wood on top, and laid the pieces of bull on top of that. The ditch is a little weird, but ok. We can cook on stone. Then he turns to some people and says, pour water over it all. They did. Then he said, “Do it again.” And then “Do it again.” Everything was soaked. There was so much water, it filled the ditch around the altar. If you remember, Smokey Bear teaches us that water puts out a good campfire, so I’m thinking it would be pretty darn hard to start a fire when everything is that wet.

So we have barbeque waiting to happen and an impossibly soggy pile of meat. Those prophets of Baal spent all.day.long crying to their God. “Please, just light the darn thing on fire. We’ve even set it all up for you. Just one tiny spark should do just fine.” They cut themselves and danced. I cannot imagine the amount of physical pain and weakness they went through to try to convince their god to just show up for the picnic.

When it was Elijah’s turn, he prayed a simple prayer. “You are God. Answer me, Lord, so these people will know that you are the one and only God, and that you are turning their hearts back to you.” Immediately, the entire soggy mess burst into flames. The fire burnt up the meat, the wood, the stones, the soil, and dried up all the water in the ditch. Now I was under the impression that stone and dirt don’t burn, but this time, it did. If that’s not proof that He is real, then I don’t know what is.

How many times, though, do I prepare my sacrifice, and line up my dominoes perfectly, then pray to my “gods” to make things happen? I set it all up, and then I look to my husband or to my kids or to my friends or my ego or my “set your goals and achieve your dreams”ness… or whatever to make it all happen. I get so worked up, trying everything to get the attention of these gods. I mean, come on!!! It’s a barbeque waiting to happen; just bring the darn matches already! And all I get is crickets.

And God is there the whole time, waiting for me to just stop.

I don’t have to set anything up for God. I can bring Him the absolute most impossible, and it doesn’t phase Him one single bit. He simply reaches down from heaven and proves that He is real and that He can be trusted.

God is real.

He can be trusted.

He is a master of the impossible.

 

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