Puddle Jumping: new life

puddle jumping

“Come on, let’s go back to God.
He hurt us, but he’ll heal us.
He hit us hard,
but he’ll put us right again.
In a couple of days we’ll feel better.
By the third day he’ll have made us brand-new,
Alive and on our feet,
fit to face him.
We’re ready to study God,
eager for God-knowledge.
As sure as dawn breaks,
so sure is his daily arrival.
He comes as rain comes,
as spring rain refreshing the ground.” Hosea 6:1-3 (MSG)

Second puddle jump: new life

No rain, no new life.

This week Easter is a coming. Eggs will hide in grasses grown tall. Baskets will come out of hiding to hold eggs hidden and found. Plastic ovals and eggs dyed gay colors of bright greens, blues, reds, oranges, yellows, and purples found by little hands. Feet pitter patter like rabbits as they run to be the first to find the prize or to gather the most. Baskets are filled with chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, and candy chicks too. Easter has arrived, and it is a child’s delight.

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We wear our best Easter Sunday dress. Rainbows of spring color splashed onto finely pressed clothes hung on young skin parade in church halls. Children dance and sing for the coming King.

Jesus. Savior, Maker, Lover, Friend.

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Puddle Jumping, April showers of Grace: rainbow glory

 Today, I am kicking off a series of posts I will be posting every Monday in the month of April for Alabama Women Bloggers. I was chosen to be the blogger of the month. The theme this month is No Rain No Rainbow, so I created a series called, “Puddle Jumping: April Showers of Grace.” I’d love you to stop by and leave me some comment love. If you are new to the blog – hi and welcome. You can find out more about the blog and me here.

puddle jumping

They say that April showers bring May flowers, but sometimes when we are experiencing the showers all we see is the gloomy gray. We forget all about what the rain brings. When we become adults we forget the childlike wonder of jumping, singing, and playing in the rain. Not a rainfall comes in which one or all of my kids don’t want to jump in the puddles. This month let’s pretend we are kids and sing and dance in the rain. Don’t forget to wear your galoshes because we are going puddle jumping too. Ready? Here we go.

First puddle jump: rainbow glory

Without the rain, there’s no rainbow.

Springtime in Alabama is my favorite. The first to bloom are the tulip trees. It is still cold, but they start the chorus of hope off anyway – their bright pinks and purples brightening the gray skylines. Next, the stench of the Bartlett pears is nothing compared to the sight of its first white snowy blossoms, the rain making each one fall on the ground and reminding us of the autumn passed. Then the purpley red-buds and red buckeyes dot my wooded backyard.

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photo credit (1): Aamir Choudhry via photopin cc (I adapted the photo to include text.)
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The adaptation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

On risky writing and questions

My last writing assignment for my (in)courage group was – What keeps you from taking risks in your writing?

If I was going to lay out everything on my mind for you, you would find that I have a few questions right now. Last week, I talked about how Dave Rahm died while flying at an air show, and asked the question, “what would you be willing to die doing?”

Truth is if I expressed some of my questions, I am afraid some things would end for me, and I am not ready for those possibilities to come to an end, so I don’t risk it. Plus, I don’t believe everything has to come out in the light for everyone, so not everything may be appropriate to share here.

Yet, truthfully, I am at a crossroads – I need to deal with some of these questions and speak some of my truths or I am going to be eaten alive. Either way, whether I want to remain safe or not, something has to end. Endings are hard. I have to choose – my life, my integrity versus safety. For a “good girl,” people pleaser, safety is what I prefer to choose. This is one of those moments when I want to stuff my emotions down deep.

I’ve written a couple of posts that are half-finished but I haven’t shared them because I can’t come to a conclusion. I can’t figure out what it is I wanted to really say. I think that’s partly because I’m not dealing with the things I need to deal with, or I’ve dealt with them but I haven’t sought to resolve them with the appropriate persons.

I have cultural questions, and there are questions about church that are pressing into me. When I’ve begun to ask the questions, I’ve been told to stop.

I met with a new friend who seemed to have journeyed a similar path as me, and I was free to talk and listen and know that someone else has asked the same questions. She unknowingly raised another question for me that applies to this post – do we share what is risky with our readers only to get more readers and recognition? Do we share our secrets to be more popular? And do we lose authenticity when we do so? It seems like the solution for a people pleaser, at least, would be to be more open and vulnerable, assuming it pleases God, but not at the risk of integrity or losing authenticity.

I recently got my hair cut. The cut is funkier than is usually me. Remember I told you I wanted to be one of those persons to dye it a streak of color. Well I almost did that, but I got it cut in a wonky way, with half of it pixie short and the other side a little longer. I actually like it. It is true I may have tried it to be a little edgier (and I first thought upon seeing myself later I am sweeter than I thought), but it is also true that deep inside of me I am asking risky and raw questions. My hair currently reflects the sweet and sour side of me, the unresolved places of me coming out in asymmetry.

Another thing that keeps me from asking the questions publicly is my commitment to truth in this place. I want to reach people for Christ, not lead them away. I want to use my platform wisely.

Really it seems to come to integrity – am I willing to let my readers really know me and am I willing to be honest and full of integrity even if it means that something will have to come to an end?

Because I want to be a woman of integrity, I must choose risk over safety.

Have you ever been confronted with integrity versus safety?

To the Life

After thinking about what I would be willing to die doing, the only answer to that question, no matter what my calling may be, is to live for Christ.

To live is Christ and to die is gain! (Phil 1:21) To the Life!! until death grabs ahold me – for Christ alone I’ll live always.

“A Restless Grace Haiku”
searching wrestling me
answering gaining Christ’s plea
Grace drifter I’ll be

restless grace

Fortunately, I can do a number of things while living for Christ. Everything I mentioned on my last post and more – just not all at once. My restlessness for a calling and a purpose is a symptom of my disease. Indeed in my restless heart, I am prone to wander. If it is not one thing it is another thing my heart seeks. It used to be my heart ached over friendships or the lack of them or the lack of understanding of them, now the ache is for calling. Really, I’m trading one idol for another. Indeed I must just keep serving Him, and in the doing, maybe one thing rises up and makes me be more fully me.

“Come Thou Fount”

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Just when I think I’ve ceased the striving to a smaller measure, I am reminded that until I see His lovely face, I’ll keep on being restless.

“Because God has made us for Himself, our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.” St. Augustine

Today, may your restless heart cease striving, cease seeking, and be still and found – to the Life, to the Love, of Him.

To the Death

For a long time now I have struggled with the question of what has God made me to do.

I’ve listened to Beth Moore, and she did many things before she found her thing, but she had mentors and people who helped direct her path when she finally got there.

I have served in a lot of capacities, and my calling does not seem clear, and no one has said this is the way – walk in it. I’ve taught children both Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. I’ve written bible study materials, led bible studies, taught women, baked cakes and goodies, written encouraging cards, and just listened. I’ve felt led to missions, then to write and speak, to orphan ministry, to church plants. I did the room mom thing – not my strength. I tried to organize a contributor blog – again, I failed. I actually appreciate the failures because they show me what not to do.

If you feel tired reading my attempts at service, never fear, I find myself a walking enigma. As spring and then summer draws near, the year of shmita draws closer to its end, and I feel like there are so many “coulds” – things that I could do. I could start a women’s supper club. I could be secret card encourager. I could be the bake person. I could help with orphan ministry. I could help start a new church. I could homeschool my kids. I could do a number of combinations of these things. I could… but what should I do?

My (in)courage writer’s group is ending soon, and I’ve finished reading Annie Dillard’s “A Writing Life.” The last chapter was about a pilot named Dave Rahm. He was a pilot that also performed in flight shows, and according to Annie, he had a special gift for it. He knew how to fly a plane to his and its limitations and succeed in a way that created beauty, art, and showmanship. Of course, as Annie illustrated in her book, crop dusters all know that they will bite the dust performing their life’s work, and so Rahm did as well. He died performing a flight show for King Hussein.

Today as I ponder my gifts, I ask myself the question the last chapter of “The Writing Life” surmises in its prose – “What would I be willing to die doing?”

I don’t anticipate a throng of followers in whatever it is I do, yet I know that those who are passionate and willing to push the limitations of their work usually do have multitudes following them, because of their very willingness to die for their craft. We are attracted to the passion in others. Sacrifice and willingness to fly to the limits (perseverance) are what set them apart from the crowd. Sometimes I must admit I’ve looked to the measuring stick of success to see if a particular service is my gift, instead of my own passion and sacrifice.

My dad died while on the job. To be fair, he died doing something he loved. Those left living don’t always appreciate this kind of dying, but I am reminded of a line from my favorite movie, “Anne of Green Gables,” where Anne has forgotten to put the cheesecloth on the plum pudding sauce, and a mouse drowned in the it. She said,

“Well, I suppose in the end it was a romantic way to perish, for a mouse.”

This week’s writing assignment was to explore risk taking in our writing. I’ve meandered away from this to explore the question of dying and finding calling. I often think of myself so plain in my pursuit of living that my words do not feel risky enough. I love recognizing the risky writing of others. An old high school acquaintance of mine, Robin, wrote about the gay agenda, and this week, my bloggy friend, Rebekah, wrote about the way she’s being hounded by church people who don’t understand her journey and told them to defriend or unfollow her. I don’t know if my beliefs or journey lines up with either of these women, but I admire their willingness to risk it all and when I read these type posts, even if I disagree in whole or in part, I am happy because I know they are free! Wildly and abundantly free.

I don’t know if writing is that thing I’ll do passionately and freely. If so, I’m still exploring the edges and trying to make beauty, but wherever God leads, I want to be willing to go whole hog, living passionately, sacrificially, and freely. In the end, I suppose it will be a romantic way to perish – to the death.

What would you be willing to die doing?

A Lenten Blessing

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On the 19th day of Lent – a Lenten Blessing

During this time of Lent, may you meditate on the truth of Jesus – on His life and ministry, leading up to His death, resurrection, and ascension.

May you be blessed in being poor – either in wealth or in spirit, for you will receive the kingdom of heaven. May you be blessed in your grief, for you will be comforted. May you be blessed in your meekness and humility, for you will inherit the earth. May you be blessed in being hungry and thirsty, both in the belly and in the spirit heart, for you will be filled. May you be blessed for showing mercy, for you will receive mercy. May you be blessed for your purity for you will see God. May you be blessed for being a peacemaker for you will be called a son of God. May you be blessed for being slapped, kicked, beaten, tortured, and killed for calling on the name of Jesus, for you will receive the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-11)

May you be aware of the weight of your own humanity, but be encouraged by your union with Christ. May all the Saints be united in thought, in love, in spirit, and in purpose. May you act in humility and look not only at your own interests, but also those of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

May you not desire to be a god or even equal to God Himself, but may you be willing to be a servant to One and to all. May you be willing to give up all that you are to be exalted by God. May all that you give up magnify and glorify the Most High name of Jesus. (Philippians 2:6-11)

May you find His grace sufficient for whatever life brings your way today. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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Biscuit Communion

We meet at the little café – The Alabama Biscuit. The atmosphere of the small eatery is one of simplicity – with aged wood boards lining the walls and eclectic wooden tables with aluminum chairs. It is a mix of country living meets modern, and it is perfect for a little café in the city for organic biscuits, a modern twist on a Southern tradition. Two worlds have met and created their own atmosphere, and it is fun and unique. Quiet and simple, we can focus on the food and the fellowship and be distracted by nothing else but the sheer beauty of simplicity and other couples chatting.

She orders the Goat Cheese, Pecan, and Honey with a coffee and I the Ham and Cheese with an Iced Tea. She buys my food as she owes me one, and so I comply and let her. They pour her coffee and my tea, and she either sweetens or creams it and then we sit. We talk of children and family, and then our biscuits arrive. The biscuits are brown, and hers has a white creamy cheese oozing out the sides.  Honey has managed to glide off the biscuit onto the plate before it was served. The pecans sit on the cheese, and it looks delectable. Mine contains pink layers of ham and white cheese, and it is salty not sweet. Though the restaurant uses organic spelt flour, they’ve managed to make a biscuit that is healthy, tasty, flaky, and light, not heavy. The tea tastes lightly sweet, flavored with bergamot. I love its yumminess.

Biscuit

I pick my biscuit up and munch into it and taste it for the first time, while hers requires a fork. We eat and chat, talking about school, church, struggles, and we contemplate how we don’t know the answers to most of our questions. It is not awkward, but it is a mix of sweet communion and fellowship. She listens to me talk about being a mom and my stories. She tells me that I am doing a good job as a mom, and I drink in her words. I listen as she tells me her stories, and I commend her methods of ministry. We stay for two and a half hours, and we’ve watched people come and go until we sit alone in the café with only the managers or cashiers at the counter. It is time to go and yet we still talk some more.

She gives me a birthday gift, a reminder of the biscuit communion we’ve had and the Communion He gives – a cross bracelet. It is silver with five colored bands that remind me of pony tail holders, each a different color – blue, silver, copper, black, and green, and a silver magnetic clasp in the back. I slip to the bathroom before we leave, and then we exit and hug in the parking lot, and say our goodbyes.

It reminds me of the simplicity of fellowship I have with the Maker, for it is certain with we’ve communed with Him in this holy moment.

I sit in my trusty spot on the bed, the place I meet with Him most. I grab my Bible and I ask Him to speak to me. I open His word, and He does. I read and He speaks, and I speak and He listens. He tells me stories and I listen. He is my best friend and just like He was there in the midst of my time with my friend, He sits with me as I read His word, setting my mind at ease and speaking life into me.

Against the Current

Recently I read in “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard, a story about a man who rows out to get a log, and while he has rowed out, the tide catches him, and for a while, he must row against the current. The tide changes in the middle of the night, and he rows with the current and makes it home. Annie is talking to her writer friend, and he says,

“You asked how my work is going,” he said. “That’s how it’s going. The current’s got me. Feels like I’m about in the middle of the channel now. I just keep at it. I just keep hoping the tide will turn and bring me in.”

The last fifteen years of my life have felt this way, like I am rowing against the current, and I am tired and weary of doing the same thing over and over again with seemingly no change. I am weary of crucifying dreams day in and day out. Yesterday, I thought about putting the oars down and letting the tide and current take me where it takes me – lost at sea, instead of the destination I want to go. My hope was frail, and I didn’t know if I wanted to hope anymore. The signs were there to give me hope, but instead they made me angry. I became more like a tempest on the sea, and I needed Jesus to come and calm the storm within.

Days like yesterday are when I know grace is really real, because I cannot imagine anyone wanting me when I am so weak and frail and dare I say it, lost. I’ve only ever known Jesus to keep on loving me in the storm.

I had this low only a few days after I’d written about being on fire. And so you may be wondering why that is and why I am writing at all. I need you to know that sometimes we are surprised by storms and the water comes and threatens to douse our fires, but we must not let the light out. The Holy Spirit won’t let it out, but we must be protectors of it too.

I need also to say that today may be a stormy day for you. You may experience surprises, hope turned angry, and threat of losing the fire, even while it rages. There is only one cure – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Never let go and never stop fixing your eyes on His beautiful ones. They calm even the most tempestuous storms.

There are days like yesterday when I want to give up; I want to stop believing, but believing is the only cure, and so I must pray that Jesus helps me with my unbelief and prays for it even when I am unable to utter the words or believe or have the faith necessary. Why? Because His heart is ever stayed on mine, no matter what storms rage within.

Today I urge you to keep rowing against the current, whatever that means for you. You are on your way home. To stop rowing is to be lost at sea, so keep at it. You and I will get there eventually. Sometime soon, the tide will change, and the current will carry us home.

On being “On Fire”: commentary on believers burning

If you are not familiar with “church talk,” being “on fire” or “on fire for God” is a phrase we use to say we are passionate about God and the things of God, that we have a holy fire raging within us. It is so commonly used that I am not sure people within church stop to think much about its meaning anymore. So for the church goers and for the ones outside the church, this is my interpretation. :)

onbeingonfire

It is that time of year when the plants are pruned, and crisp cuts plummet the drying and dead ends to the earth. The limbs lay in piles across the yard. Rocks are gathered in a circle, and a fire is started in the middle of them, behind the house near the trees and woods. It starts with a spark. A spark lights a flame, and the flame consumes. The piles of detritus fuel the flames; the holly’s make the flames hotter and higher. The roses, being freshly cut and less dry, soften the fire. Thick, chunky, tree limbs extend the life of the flame. The smoke rises, and the wind blows it, threatening to move the fire across the dried fallen leaves that are so decayed they are now a life-giving fertilizer to the soil underneath. I, in my tights, and brightly colored dress of plums, blues, pinks, and greens, dotted onto one another, and flat black shoes, look an oddity holding a blue hose pipe, ready to douse the spread of catastrophe at any moment.

However, the motion of the flash and flare of the glare burning mesmerize me. I think of being “on fire,” of the burning bush, on fire but not consumed, of Pentecost – Holy Spirit fire raging down, of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace, unburned with no smell of smoke. It has been a long time since I’ve sat by a fire and really watched it rage, continuously feasting, and not just smoldering. One can see why people become pyromaniacs. The fire is intriguing, alive, and fiercely dancing and calling me to join in its rhythmic motion. It moves, it roars – the heat sounding like a lion as it feasts on the dead. It glows red, orange, black, and yellow. The smell permeates the air – the smoke fills our nostrils so that no one notices the stench of my husband’s burnt hair. I breathe it in and out and in so doing, taste it, both bitter and sweet it is. This fire awakens our senses, and we realize that the combustion combined with debris and air cannot be trifled with.

A child of God is like that burning bush Moses saw – engulfed in a flame that never consumes the life-meat of Him in us but the dry and dusty-dead parts of our souls that need pruning, that hold us back from the goodness of Him. That which is alive in us remains conscious and like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in no way do we smell of smoke, instead we smell like the sweet fragrance that is Him.

If we are a people on fire, what does that mean exactly?

“Spirit filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God.” – Samuel Chadwick

Believers on fire glow.

The minute you set a fire in an uncontrolled environment, it makes itself known. It seeks to kill and devour everything in its path that it may not die. A child of God is aflame with a Spirit controlled fire – our bodies holy temple fireplaces. People should be drawn to the light that glows within that escapes every crevice and breath we take. The flames inside cannot be hidden. Walking luminaries we are.

Believers on fire kindle.

The fire inside of a believer can never be quenched. It only gives spark to and illuminates those in which the Spirit wind blows on – either to bring to life or to give over to death, because yes, a fire can cause a great stench if moved in the wrong direction. We are holy fire starters for “the least of these” – those desperate for death of self and life new.

Believers on fire consume.

We burn but we are not consumed, in that we live and die at the same time. Our hearts, minds, and strengths are ever stayed on His great love. Our actions are driven by the thoughts consumed with Jesus.

Believers on fire burn.

As the furnace within envelops self, the dead and sinful fuels the flame, and keeps it burning. Our hearts are scorched and so it is necessary that at times, we will sear others. Fire is not safe. The flame never leaves sin clinging on – it eats it and purifies us making our hearts clean, steadfast, and new.

Believers on fire radiate.

The fire blazing inside us goes on and on forever, never-ending, but sometimes we forget to stoke or fuel the flames and the fire burns dim – our lights small and our bodies cold. We must call the Spirit wind to blow hard and fan the embers still burning – prayer giving passion, raising the heat hotter, and more engaging, that the heat rises within us and spells over providing warmth for those who are dead and cold.

Today, let this post stoke the living fire within you and fan the flames higher that you may glow, kindle, consume, burn, and radiate.

If this kind of fire does not live in you, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to blow your heart aflame that you may know Jesus, my Savior and King.

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Rhythms of Faith and Remembering: Charity

Today as part of my series on Lent, I am going to ask you to do something I have never asked my readers to do. I am going to ask you to give me a gift!

Have you ever heard of Blood:Water Mission or Save a Drink?

Since charity or “almsgiving” is traditionally done during Lent, and since the closer I creep up to 40 (yes 40 years that is), the closer I feel panicked and like I haven’t changed the world yet and oh my, why am I here on planet earth?

So if you will care to hold my hand and do me a teensy weeny little favor? Do me the honor of considering giving a small donation to my fundraising page for clean water in Zambia.

Clean Water in AfricaI share these things on my fundraising page, but I want to share with you five reasons to consider giving.

  1. My birthday is March 22, which is World Water Day, so when you give a donation you are helping me celebrate my birthday by giving to others.
  2. It is the season of Lent, and it is my first time to participate. During this quiet reflective time, I wanted to remember the life Jesus gave me and participate in the charity aspect of Lent.
  3. When I was a college kid :), I thought I would be using my degree to give others clean water, and yet, now I am a mom and I don’t use that degree any longer. When you donate, you are helping me fulfill my dream of giving clean water to others.
  4. I personally do not drink enough water for my own health. This challenge is incentive for me to make healthy choices that others don’t have the luxury of making.
  5. I love Jesus and Jesus loves you, me, and all the people who need clean water. Ultimately, I am doing this because Jesus is living water, and how can people know the water of Jesus without first having clean water to drink and use?

If all of my regular readers donated only $5, we could easily raise $100. If all of my subscribers gave only $2, we could raise over $150. Although the challenge is to consider giving up your favorite soda or coffee or beverage during the season of Lent, which I would love you to be able to do, I am only going to ask you to consider giving up ONE drink and donate $5. My goal is to raise $250. I am taking a giant leap of faith in asking you to partner with me. You have until April 15 to donate! Click here for more information!!

photo credit: Bread for the World via photopin cc

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