A Prayer for my Hair

What is it about my perpetual dissatisfaction with the color of my hair? I mean, the Lord made it a lovely mousy-brown for a reason. The salon-fresh highlights couldn’t possibly add more to its beauty than He already provided… at least not for the 4 weeks while they actually still look fresh… I mean, I’ve had nothing better to do with 3 hours than soaking my scalp in a pool of chemicals anyway.

True confessions of habitual hair hang-up:

I have high maintenance hair.

And sadly, it doesn’t even look that great. No matter what the Hollywood fad is, I do not like skunky roots. Period.

So, once again, I washed that blond right out of my hair. Of course, I had to go way darker than mousy-brown and give it a luxurious, rich red-brown sheen so that over the next two weeks, as the shampoo strips out this month’s supply of chemicals, it might actually look something close to mousy-brown by January.

So, here’s my prayer. Lord, give me the conviction to resist the salon and bottled blond at the store. Open my eyes to the beauty of mousy-brown and help me walk proudly with it through this world of artificially beautiful hair. You’ve accomplished a similar, seemingly impossible, feat with me when you opened my eyes to the beauty of not-exactly-curly (i.e., frizzy) hair and helped me set aside the straightening iron. I know you are all powerful, and all capable. I know this is not too much for you. Thank you Lord.

And don’t even get me started on the grays…

There is only one Judge: Jumping into the Brittany Maynard Conversation

I’ve not spent much energy engaging in the Brittany Maynard conversations, recognizing the cesspool of strife that would be stirred up by opposing positions on her decision. I didn’t find much value in slinging arrows in the crossfire. However, in the last 12 hours, I have been nudged twice to respond to the situation and I find I have a statement to share afterall.

Here is a link for the background on the story: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/terminally-ill-death-with-dignity-advocate-dies/ar-BBcEQgq?ocid=ansnewsap11

Honestly, I’m dumbfounded more by my fellow Christians on this topic than the agnostics or atheists. OK, to be honest, when I first read her story, my snap reaction was to judge her against the topic of suicide and murder in the bible, and write it off. But, it couldn’t stop there. God wanted me to think deeper about this. And here’s the revelation that came to me:

I’m not sure why any of us believes we have a right to condone or condemn her decision. Either position we take assumes the role of Judge, for which none of us has a right to occupy.

For those who do not believe in God, the question is simple, “By what authority do you have a right to judge her (for or against)?” From there, the conversation is not about Brittany or Dying with Dignity but becomes a spirituality and faith discussion.

For the Christians, the answer is clear. You have no authority to judge her. I challenge you to step past my initial snap reaction, to step out of God’s chair as Judge, and recognize that only He can decide whether what she did was righteous or not in His eyes. If she sought His direction and received His blessing, she made the right decision. If she did not, and acted upon her own desires, she made the wrong decision. Only she and He truly know which one it is.

I have observed people using all kinds of stories to support their position: my grandma died that way, the 9-11 jumpers, those who chose to live it out, etc. Using these stories is merely a means to justify your judgment and is not what we are called to do. We are called to share the word and pray that others will receive it.

Here are the things we know from the bible.

The taking of a life is a sin. Suicide is the taking of a life, your own.

We know the story of Job and intense physical pain (endured)

We know the story of Judas and intense emotional pain (suicide)

These stories, and many more, are God’s word. If you want to use a story to glean understanding, then use these (unless you happen to know God’s wisdom from the 9-11 attacks… which presumably none of us do). Their teaching is very clear, avoiding suffering is NOT our primary goal when faced with extreme challenges. However, that does not give us the right to use these stories to judge whether Brittany acted from a place of serving herself or God. They are a means to direct your own life and to teach others.

The answer in every situation is always the same, seek God first then follow His will for your life. Unless somebody knows with certainty whether Brittany did or did not do this through her journey, we cannot claim whether her act was righteous or not. So stop looking for the story that supports the definitive answer; stop taking either position to condone or condemn her. Just pray that from this, the world will turn to the true Judge and relinquish their perceived right to act in His place.

God Does Answer Prayer

I’ve been praying recently asking God to repair the damage that was done to my adopted son’s brain during the first year of his life due to the lack of a nurturing adult to care for his needs. Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that maladapted brain patterns develop in the absence of receiving comfort and human contact during that first year. All the efforts I have put into trying to rewire his brain have been largely useless, bringing me once again to the place that God so often does, to rely solely on Him.

Today, I opened a book I bought a week ago, Dannah Gresh’s “Six Ways to Keep the ‘Good’ in Your Boy”. Here is a quote from that book: “Research has shown that there are two periods in one’s life during which there is explosive proliferation of connection between brain cells – during the last few weeks before birth and just before puberty (8-12yrs old)”. My son is 9. He is in the prime age range to have his brain patterns altered before they are set for life. It then goes on to explain exactly how to accomplish that.

God does answer prayer. He is not going to miraculously heal my son but he did equip me to take advantage of a critical opportunity in my son’s life to repair the damage that was caused early on. He is faithful. He is good.

(ps – I highly recommend this book to any mother of a boy – phenomenal)

Worlds Apart Post 2: Icarus and the Pride Test

Icarus is a Greek Mythological character who escapes imprisonment by the king through his father’s successful attempt to create wings of feathers and wax and fly away. Before they fly to freedom, the father warns Icarus not to fly too high nor too low so the sun cannot melt the wax nor the ocean dampen the feathers. But once free from captivity, Icarus soars on his wings, not heeding his father’s advice and flies too close to the sun. The heat melts the wax and Icarus falls to the ocean and drowns.

The second chunk of lyrics in my series on the Jars of Clay song, Worlds Apart, are this:

Soaring on the wings of selfish pride, I flew too high and like Icarus I collide

Most people think pride is synonymous with arrogance. They think of the guy who’s always bragging on his bankroll or the lady who’s got her face in the mirror all the time. Although pride may manifest that way, that’s not the whole deal. I’ve splashed a couple scriptures through this post to build a better picture of what God says it is. They rocked me off my rocker when I was first convicted of it…

Here’s the first:

Psalm 10:4: In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God

Ok, so basically, not thinking about God means there is pride. It means when there is a problem, we are not looking to our Father for advice on how to fix it. We should expect the wax on our feathers to be getting a bit gooey if we’re not in His word looking for the solution.

Here’s another:

Proverbs 13:10: Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice

Who has strife in their relationship with their husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, child, co-worker? OK, seriously, who doesn’t? I sought plenty of advice, as the scripture directs, before my marriage splintered… and I made darn sure my husband knew about it every time. And that he knew everything HE wasn’t taking advice on. Strife is pride; it has a sneaky way of getting masked as “helping”. I had to get over trying to “help” my husband.

Proverbs 14:3: A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.

Lashing out at somebody, accusing them, is prideful and foolish. A world of hurt results from inaccurate interpretations of the other person’s motives as assessed by their behaviors. This is my soapbox, so I’m going to cut it short here before I write a novel. I had to learn to seek knowledge about my husband’s behaviors instead of accusing him. Asking questions (real, legitimate questions, not accusatory, directed questions) creates the shift to overcome this highly destructive behavior. “You always” and “you never” type statements are your red flags that you’re floundering in foolish folly.

So, here I am, back in my car listening to Worlds Apart (see post 1), tears streaming down my face, with God showing me how prideful I’d been in my marriage, breaking down, shredding, that perception of myself that I was the one doing all the work and the entitlement I felt about that. Here is the little litmus test I devised for myself to check whether I’m backsliding into the pit of pride:

If I am spending more of my time thinking and talking about what the other person is doing wrong than I am searching for how to change my attitude and behaviors, I am stuck in pride.

And I’m just going to go ahead and restate that so you can experience it at a more personal level:

If you are spending more of your time thinking and talking about what the other person is doing wrong than you are searching for how to change your attitude and behaviors, you are stuck in pride.

If you are currently feeling low, consider this powerful scripture:

Proverbs 29:23: Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

It is your pride that makes you feel low. Kind of a shocking revelation, isn’t it?

Are we at risk of melting our wings? We need to stop and assess whether we are flying too high. If so, we need to step back and take the advice of our Father and behave according to His word. We should not expect anything more than to crash and burn should we choose to fly too high.

http://www.vagalume.com.br/jars-of-clay/worlds-apart.html

Worlds Apart Post 1: I am the Only One to Blame for This

Jars of Clay self-titled debut album, Jars of Clay, is a deeply beautiful music composition that is both theologically sound and intensely personal. Its music speaks to every Christian at every stage of walking with Christ and grows with the listener as s/he matures in relationship with Him. I had known this compilation for nearly 14 years when during one of the darkest times of my life, a 9 month separation in my marriage, the track Worlds Apart recreated itself for me. Its lyrics came to life in a way I had never known before; they washed through me and over me as I listened to the song over and over and over for months on my way to and from work every day. It broke me apart and tore down the ugliness of the life I had created as the truth of God’s word convicted me through its words.

I recently heard this song again after many months and was moved to tears once more with awareness and humility of how great our God is and remembering how He recreated me closer to His image during that time. I was inspired to write a series of posts that are my personal exposition of the individual lyrics of the song and how they transformed my life.

“I am the only one to blame for this”

That’s the first lyric. It stands alone, a statement almost beyond verbalization. I challenge you to think of any problem you are facing right now and with it in mind, declare that statement above. If you are like me, the words just don’t want to come out. It’s too hard to believe. It’s too hard to accept. It’s too hard not to jump to all the things the other person is doing to you. This is the first thing God convicted me of regarding my separation… on my way to work… with tears ballooning over my eyelids… and running down my face… while heading toward a man’s world of developing power transistors for military devices… Good thing they didn’t care what my makeup looked like.

I am the only one to blame for this. I am the only one to blame for my separation. I am the only one to blame for the wreck the marriage ended up in.

But I tried so hard! How could that be?

I read marriage books and counseling books and personal growth books and went to counseling and *lovingly* encouraged my husband to grow past his flaws and…

I am the only one to blame for this. I did not live up to my marriage commitment, until death do us part. I did not live up to my vow, for better or for worse. I was always one foot out the door, waiting for it to fall apart. Always threatening, directly or indirectly, that “unless you…” that I was leaving.

What marriage can stand the perpetual threat of impending failure?

I was the only one to blame for everything I contributed to the decay of the marriage. I was the only one to blame for not living up to the vow I made to our God. I was the only one to blame for not taking the time to understand the institution of marriage as designed by its Creator and follow His plan for its success.

If you’ve never felt like you’ve literally been broken in half and crumbled to pieces, this could be the one that does it. Accepting this truth. And through this breaking, the freedom of shedding a life lived for yourself to a life lived for God and His Word instead, is beyond words. It is a freedom that enables you to let go of the bind that knots you up to someone else’s shortcomings and allows God to recreate you for what He intended you to be. Only then can the other person, opposite you in your problem, be free to accept their own blame and allow God into their hearts to recreate them from the inside out.

I am the only one to blame for this. Try to accept it for just a moment. Allow it to transform your life.

http://www.vagalume.com.br/jars-of-clay/worlds-apart.html

The Days are Long

The days are long

They run through time but never end

Bringing us closer to the day of the end and the beginning

But what do we do with these days?

Fill our hearts with worldly desires and trinkets that make us happy

But do they?

Happiness is a walk in a peaceful place where your thoughts are not your own but are handed to you from the Savior above

Happiness is a contentedness that comes despite the chaos of life around

Happiness is a deep breath that fills your soul with the presence of the Spirit who loves beyond bound

Happiness is writing this and knowing its truth as it frees the brick inside my chest and lets a solitary tear run down my cheek

 

 

 

It doesn’t have to be that way

I’m absolutely heartbroken by the news of Robin William’s death. Not because I claim to have a personal relationship to him, or that we had some special bond, or even because I enjoyed him immeasurably as an actor. But because of my renewed awareness for the thousands, millions, of people who have not tapped into the source that provides peace beyond all circumstances. Jesus.

Jesus is the source that brings peace beyond all circumstances.

I don’t make this claim because I’ve had some easy foofy life that allows me to walk around with blinders on saying, “peace man”. I grew up with 8 siblings and one union workers’ income – not exactly the lap of luxury. I was a victim of sexual abuse. I had some pretty messed up world views as a teenager and young adult. I had a marriage that was frayed to a single thread, ready to snap for good. I sought, and acquired, all the wrong things trying to find happiness – partying, career, money, houses, cars, boats, vacations. But depression, fear, anxiety, inferiority, and unworthiness still subverted the peace in my life. It was only when I heard the gospel of Jesus and accepted Him into my life that my heart was filled with peace. A peace beyond circumstances – none of those situations have changed about my life – I still was poor, abused, and broken. But today I walk in peace every day, calling on Jesus when any one of those old emotions tries to drag me down again. He has never failed me.

Jesus is calling out, screaming out, to each of us every day. On billboards, in churches, through miraculous events large and small, in the longest running book in print in the history of the world – the bible, in opportunities to meet him – like this blog post, on bumper stickers, through friends, in dreams, even on t-shirts in Walmart now. But so many people, millions, turn away from Him. They can’t possibly believe it could be true. But what does not believing cost? Robin Williams. It costs a life where depression and fear and anxiety and unworthiness control us, sometimes to the point of no return.

Don’t let another day go by where you turn your back on His call. Find Jesus today, and find peace.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I’m Not Going Back to Egypt

I’ve heard the story of the whiny Israelites complaining to go back to Egypt hundreds of times. God hears their prayers begging for freedom, He saves them from 400 years of oppressive slavery by the Egyptians, parts the Red Sea for them to escape the army of soldiers bearing down on them, provides them food every morning and evening, and leads them toward the promised land. But even after all these miraculous events, the Israelites fret at every inconvenience they stumble on and whine to go back to Egypt, saying that slavery would be better than dying in the desert.

It’s been so easy for me to scoff at this faithless and untrusting brood of people. I mean c’mon, He parted the RED SEA afterall! Until I got whomped in the face this morning while reading this story yet again. I’m 7 months into this faith walk, of God leading me out of the slavery of corporate America, into the promised land of being what He created me to be, a writer. That means 7 months without a paycheck, just to be straight here. I have yet to not put food on my table, or to not buy my kids necessary clothes, or to not pay a bill, or to fall into debt. 7 months without a paycheck. But as the 30th of every month looms closer and closer, I invariably start questioning whether I should turn back and look for a job, wondering how the bills are going to get paid THIS time. No matter what miracles I’ve watched over the last 7 months, I still go forward with faltering faith, wondering when I should run back to Egypt and find a job. A job that (for me) means slow death by stress and exhaustion. But I wouldn’t have to worry about food on my table… oh, which God is already providing for me…

So, this chick is staying put. I’m going to walk this out to the end and stop looking backward wondering when to “save” myself. God is the only one who can save me. It’s in His hands.

Take One More Step

Jesus knows exactly what it takes to get a response from this world. He knows that things have to hit rock bottom crisis mode to get someone to listen and respond to your needs. And He will use it to maneuver your life for His purpose and your benefit.

If you’ve not read my previous posts about my adopted son, you can check them here, http://bit.ly/17HYhoc http://bit.ly/1mIL86X In short, 3 months ago I found a homicidal note in his room about me. This was the final blow I could bear after years of being subject to the behavioral manifestations of a child with abandonment trauma, kidnap trauma, neglect trauma, and starvation trauma. This was rock bottom, crisis mode. We started researching residential programs and re-adoption options to move him out of the house. But amidst the confusion and disorientation and strife of living in crisis mode, I clung to a biblical truth that everyday fought for a minutia of my attention. That breaking up a family could not possibly be the Lord’s will. After living through the destruction that the breakup of a marriage causes, I knew somewhere in a lighted corner of my then very darkened world that breaking up a family in any way would be just as catastrophic. So although I could go no further, the Lord asked me to take one more step, and I did.

Stepping through that darkness brought me into a light that only He could orchestrate. A homicidal note is a crisis situation that gets attention from the world, including a massive response from an otherwise untapped wealth of therapeutic resources available through our county health system. Following one phone call to the Department of Health and Services explaining this note, we have received an avalanche of support that I so desperately needed. A team of therapists comes to my home 2-3 times/week to give Tadi intensive therapy at my kitchen table while I cook dinner for the family. The Lord arranged it such that the team lead for this group is a woman with 4 children adopted from the Ukraine (Tadi x 4, nightmare!!!). She understands him through the depths of her own suffering. After 40 intensive in-home visits, they will then transfer us to outpatient therapy for some unspecified period of time (as long as we need it). The cost to me for these services is $0.00 and will continue to be $0.00. Services that even when employed, I would have been unable to pay for due to the intensive nature of them. Tadi’s progress toward healing has skyrocketed and my knowledge of his traumas has exploded. All of this because of a crisis situation that I chose to step through with faith in our Lord Jesus.

Jesus knows exactly what He’s doing. When you are in your darkest hour just remember that the Lord’s hand is at work. He knows exactly what it takes to get a response from this world and He will use it to maneuver your life. So when you’ve hit rock bottom and you can’t possibly go any further, remember in your darkest hour awaits your greatest glory. Take one more step.

“Christianity is a Crutch”

A friend of mine once told me that Christianity is a crutch. He believes that it is a religion for weak people to lean on to make it through life. At the time, my Jesus muscles weren’t big enough to rebut him eloquently and influentially, so I snickered under my breath and let the comment pass. But I’ve thought about it often. I’ve thought about it as I’ve walked through the fires of trauma, addiction, marital strain, financial pressure, job stress, broken friendships, and more. Not wallowing over the fact that these things have happened to me, but that I’ve chosen to walk into the fire of refinement to overcome them because Jesus was leading me and pushing me there. Walking through the scorching pain of having my pride torn down and my world view radically altered and being stripped of the need to control my environment which felt literally like I was going to die and having my hands pried open to release my money into His kingdom, has felt like anything but a crutch.

I was reminded of this “crutch” comment again during my morning bible reading. “The Cost of Being a Disciple”, Luke 14:25-35

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+14%3A25-35&version=NIV

Here is the explanation of these verses (taken from the Life Application Study Bible by Tyndale and Zondervan):

“When a builder doesn’t count the cost or estimates (the cost of a building) inaccurately, the building may be left uncompleted. Will you abandon the Christian life after a little while because you did not count the cost of commitment to Jesus? What are those costs? Christians may face loss of social status or wealth. They have to give up control over their money, their time, or their career. They may be hated, separated from their family, and even put to death. Following Christ does not mean a trouble-free life. We must carefully count the cost of becoming Christ’s disciples so that we will know what we are getting into and won’t be tempted later to turn back.”

And here is an excerpt of the definition of “crutch” on dictionary.com:

1. a staff or support to assist a lame or infirm person in walking

3. anything that serves as a temporary and often inappropriate support, supplement, or substitute; prop: He uses liquor as a psychological crutch.

Thinking these aren’t the same… just sayin’.

There is no crutch about Christianity, only the promise of a peace that transcends all understanding when you step out the backside of the furnace. Freedom from fear and oppression and addiction and brokenness. If your walk with Jesus is painful right now because He is tearing down who you thought you were, march on soldier, you’re headed in the right direction. If your walk with the Lord is not now or has never been painful, it’s time to throw away your crutch and step into the fire with Him. Hand Him your life today.