Monday, March 7, 2011

The Story of Your Life

In a couple of my recent posts I have referred to Donald Miller's new book, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." In his book Donald explains how you play a big part in writing the story of your life. Watch the video! The antidote to a boring life.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Facing the Dragons in the Story of Life

Every story has its dragons, and probably every year of life. Dragons should be faced with courage, not whimpering, because dragons eat "milquetoast types" for breakfast. However, even a brave hobbit has a fighting chance.

Milquetoast? What does that mean? I must confess that I had to do some research on this fanciful, whimsical word. To be milquetoast means to be a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated. I do not want to be the milquetoast type, this I know! I want to be a brave hobbit, ready to face my dragons!

It was rather splendid to be wearing a blade made in Gondolin for the goblin-wars of which so many songs had sung; and also he had noticed that such weapons made a great impression on goblins that came upon them suddenly. “Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter. - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Philippians 3:1-14 speaks of forgetting the past, and reaching for those things still ahead, pressing toward the goal, and moving forward. It's the only thing to do! We have hope to find courage to face the dragons in our life.

What dragons are you facing today that make it hard for you to face the new year? Honestly speaking, I've found myself in a bit of a rut the past few months. Not sure how it happened, but it started when my father had open heart surgery in October. This event threw me off course. As one who has experienced depression and fear in the past, and has tasted freedom, I refuse to stay in that place. Time to shake off the dust! I have hope. I do not have to fear! Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe, it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life. (Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

How do we know this is true? His word is true, but only if we look to Him. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. If you will call upon Me, and pray to Me, I will listen to you. You will see Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13) If I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, "Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you." (Donald Miller)
God has a plan in the story of our lives, but He would like your help in creating it! He wants you not to just exist, but to truly live life.

I am a firm believer in having a vision and writing it down each year. Without a vison, people perish, and so do dreams. Today make it a point to write down your vision for the new year. It can include relational, financial, educational, or any other personal dream or goal. I wonder if the reasons our lives seems so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes in which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea of what we want. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain. (Donald Miller)

Write the vision: Write what you see. Write it out in BIG BLOCK LETTERS so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness pointing to what's coming. It aches for the coming - it can hardly wait! And it doesn't lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on it's way. It will come right on time. (Habakkuk 2:2-3, The Message Bible)

This year along with my more practical goals, I have made it a goal to try something new (whether it be big or small) at least once a month. It's something I have been trying to do for about two years now, but this year I plan to commit to it. It helps me to stay out of my comfort zone and to face my fears. Perhaps I will write about some of my new adventures!

This year, do not become milquetoast! Face your dragons head on! It's the only thing to do! On we go!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real

We are a nation of people living in a culture of fear. We have become encapsulated by fears of job loss, terrorism, war, epidemics, natural disasters, and the list goes on. Fear is a thief that steals our health, finances, relationships, and even our destiny. According to Wikipedia fear is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. It is an emotional response to a percieved threat. Unfortunately we can become consumed by fear, and can become paralyzed by it. Fear is often described as "False Evidence Appearing Real."

There was a time in my life that I lived in fear. It began sometime after my youngest child was born and lasted about three years. It was crippling. There really is no explanation for it. I had always thought of myself as someone who was somewhat adventurous, but not anymore. I had always firmly believed that God had me in the palm of His hand. My faith had been almost unshakeable. There were times when I should have been scared, but I was confident in His protection. But at this time in my life, I was led by fear.

On April 13, 1992, just a few days before leaving The Netherlands to move back to the United States, the strongest earthquake in more than two centuries rocked northern Europe. The epicenter was near Maastricht, a city near where I lived. Tremors could be felt as far away as Milan and London. I remember waking to loud noise and the house shaking. All I could see were the trees outside the window moving in a strange way. When I was expecting my oldest child in 1996, I experienced North Carolina's Hurricane Fran. In North Carolina, we did not have a basement. We were renting an old farmhouse, and we sat in the living room and watched as the storm began to brew. That night we slept in the hallway with a matress folded over us. The next morning we woke to many trees down surrounding our house. Not one touched us. I believed God was my protector. The first verse I memorized when I became a Christian at the age of 20 was Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." I believe that to this day. Why then do I still at times have to fight to get out from under fear?

A few weeks ago I found myself once again dueling with Mr. Fear. I live a life where I purposely try and conquer fear. Oftentimes I force myself out of my comfort zone, even if it means something stupid like conquering the scariest waterslide with my kids. I had been through months of doubting and questioning my decision to continue on this path to a new career. So on this particular day in my fifth year of this new journey, I was traveling for school to my first residency in Phoenix, AZ. Rain slapped my face and the wind stole my breath away as I raced across the parking lot to catch my plane. I was a little late since I stopped at the store for some much needed tylenol and a magazine. Upon entering the plane and finding my seat, I breathed a sigh of relief. We won't discuss how I happened to lose my driver's license along the way and security had to come find me. Next to me was a woman having a full-blown conversation with herself. After a few minutes she interrupted herself and nicely announced that we were about to have a bumpy ride. All courage vanished and I was convinced I was doomed. Take-off was delayed as we had to add fuel because of the wind conditions. Fear crept in. Trying to calm myself I opened my magazine to the first crisp page. I had no idea it was a Christian magazine. "Life-Beautiful." There centered on the page were these words:

When you lead, dear Lord, I venture out into the great beyond with courage and expectation. A protected cove is safe, but you have called me to live with passion. I may encounter risks, but I know your provision and care are enough. Give me hope in your saving me from storms, climbing mountains before me and finding me when lost. I trust in you and I thank you for the adventures in life that make me who I am called to be. Make my way purposeful and glorifying to you. Provide me with all I need for the journey-your perfect peace, joy unspeakable and unwavering faith.

Like always, He showed up. With Him there are no delays. He is the co-pilot of my life. He leads and I follow. He has always been there for me, and yet after twenty years into this journey I am still amazed at His faithfulness. Even the little fears in my life are important to Him. I felt the peace that passes understanding. (Phil. 4:7) My week turned out to be incredible. And while I was there, I feel that all my doubts vanished and it was confimed to me that I was on the right track. I was assigned to a professor that personally trained under the Dr. I have been following. Divine connections.

I am reading "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years," by Donald Miller. He states, "Fear isn't only a guide to keep us safe; it's also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life." The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is "Do not fear." It appears hundreds of times, so it must be important. We are supposed to fight fear. Do not let fear rob you of passion and adventure in your life.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Love rEVOLution - The Muslim Mosque

It's been awhile since I have blogged because I decided to take the summer to concentrate on my latest project which was learning to become a revolutionary. This summer a group of us got together and studied and discussed what it means to truly love people. We even came up with a few projects to help those in our community. A love revolution. What was unique about this group was the fact that we were so diverse in our ages, interests, etc. Yet, we were able to work and enjoy being together. We learned from one another and we respected one another.

I have to admit that all the debate about the building of the Muslim Mosque has been a little irritating to me. Mostly because at heart I am a peacemaker, and I don't like to enter into these debates because it means I must venture out of my comfort zone. My first glimpse of this subject was spread out in one of the latest issues of Newsweek. I will admit that my first thought was quite negative concerning the building of this mosque. After much soul-searching, I realized that my thoughts stemmed from ignorance and fear.

FEAR. People like Hitler ruled out of FEAR. I will never forget walking up those attic steps behind the bookcase in Amsterdam. It was life-changing. I was visiting the temporary home of Anne Frank, my childhood hero, a girl with woman like wisdom. She was a victim of fear and religious persecution. That day changed my life forever. My heart was filled with love and compassion for all mankind. What does Anne Frank have to do with the Muslim Mosque? Everything!

I do not claim to be an expert on this subject, but simply stated, how would I feel if someone denied me my religious freedom because of the ignorant actions of someone who claimed to be a Christian? (i.e. people who bomb abortion clinics) I do not believe terrorists are behind the building of the Muslim Mosque near Ground Zero. There are already two Mosques in the area, and have been there for many years from what I understand. Perhaps I will eat my words, but I am willing to take that chance.

Recently one of my friends shared this story - I hope he does not mind me taking liberty to use it. "I went to an Arab grocery the other day after it was recommended that I HAD to try their bread. So I went and checked it out and the recommendation was right. WOW, for the br...ead. I got this stone-oven flat-bread type stuff. As big as a garbage can lid. I said, "How much?" The lady told me, "Nothing today, you come back again, today for free." I kept thinking of the verse in the Bible that says, "I was hungry and you gave me bread." Then I thought, who have I given bread to lately??? ...Oh yeah, that would be MYSELF."

Ohhhhhh.....OUCH. Do you feel the pain? Truth hurts.

Another quote:

The fact that Fox News anchors back the President on this simply highlights how utterly ugly and odious the campaign against the Mosque has become.
The opposition is all based on lies, misinformation, religious bigotry, hatred and lack of respect for our constitution.
This is one of the most impressive and commendable things our president has done.
With no political benefit to be had and with considerable political risk, he had the personal courage and moral leadership worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
NYC mayor Bloomberg compared him to George Washington who wrote a famous letter supporting the building of a Jewish synagogue.

I am thankful that my President (whom I did not vote for) stood up and protected the constitution. I am thankful for freedom of religion. We can't like it sometimes, and other times not. "My country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty!"

Matthew 24:12 talks about the days when the love of many will grow cold. I have been thinking about that a lot lately. Who is Jesus talking about? I hope I am not one of them. As a Christian, I believe it's time to stop pointing out what we are against, (Judgement) and start showing people what we believe is right. (Love)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Revolutionary Road

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. -
Robert F. Kennedy

I'm feeling a little restless these days. Today there is a feeling of itchy feet, and I have a mind full of wanderlust, ready to take on the world. The constraints of this life though, keep me here in this place. I have often wondered at what turn in life I got lost, and missed the boat? Sometimes I feel stuck here, like I'm on Gilligan's Island. I've often wondered why God filled me with such passion and burning zeal to just keep my feet planted here on solid ground? I should not be tied to a desk, but should be wandering the world. Perhaps though, that restlessness is meant for a different road? The revolutionary road.

My friends and I are doing a weekly study called "The Love Revolution." (Read the book by Joyce Meyers) It's been life changing. Each week we have committed ourselves to a different project, something that can benefit others in our community. We are learning to love others. As all good Christians are taught, I have been taught all my life to love people. The first Bible verse I memorized was in second grade - "Love one another and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:44. I will remember that verse till the day I die. Imagine my shock when I realized not too long ago that I really don't love people! Well, that is not entirely true, I love those who I want to love, and who I choose to love. (If you are honest, you are probably like that too!) I love when it is convenient to me. I am just fine here in my own little house, on my own little street, in my own little town, in my own little state, what? In the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth! What can one little person do to impact this world? One person can start a revolution. I have come to the conclusion that I can just sit here on my comfy couch, or I can step out and try to make a difference in this world. Can you imagine if every one of us stepped out to try and make a difference? Did you know the 7 wealthiest people in the world could totally wipe out world hunger? Our minimum actions can result in maximum world changing results.

I am not a women's libber, but I love women. I weep for women. I hate injustice against women. About ten years ago while floating through life, I attended a function where we were asked what we had a passion for. One moment I had no idea, and the next moment I knew exactly what it was - I had a passion for women. I spoke that out loud, and then I wept. It's been a process, and one not void of injustice and pain. Sometimes we have to hurt in order to feel other's pain.

Twenty years ago this year, I believe God put into me that restlessness and passion in my heart and soul. He put in me the desire to make a difference. I have always wondered what he would do with that desire. There have been times that I wondered if along the way I got lost, or took the long road? Twenty years ago He took me through the streets of the Red Light District in Amsterdam. I had just read a book about some missionaries who were living right there among the prostitutes, trying to help them to get off the streets. Back then they were there of their own choice. Today, many of them are there because they have been trafficked. They were stolen, and bought and sold. Last Fall I watched a move called "Taken." I had no idea what it was about. It was about Human Trafficking. I thought it was an excellent movie. A few days later, I flew to California to a conference. I had no idea who the speaker was, or what she was going to speak about. It was Christine Caine, founder of the A21 Campaign. A tiny woman who has made a significant impact on the world. She is combatting Human Trafficking. The A21 Campaign started with her, one woman. God has a peculiar way of working and preparing us doesn't he? Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later an aquaintance of mine started to tell me of her work with the prostitutes in Duluth. She spoke to me of one client in particular, a young girl who was trafficked to Chicago. She ended up very sick and she was dumped off on a return trip to Duluth. Yes it's really going on, young high school girls in Duluth, being befriended and trafficked away. I know what my passion is, what is yours? Whether it be here or abroad, you can make a difference.

Revolution? Yes, revolution. It means a sudden, radical or complete change. A change in thinking and living.

"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Call Me Rebellious

Stamp it on my forehead please. REBELLIOUS-ANTI-RELIGIOUS

I have been labeled as "religious" more than once over the years, and I am OK with that because I know I have been guilty of it in the past. Religion however, kills relationship. Too many times in the past we have gotten it wrong. Church is not supposed to be about giving people a set of rules and new things to feel guilty about. It's about helping them to see who God created them to be. He created each of us with gifts, talents and with a unique purpose. Jeremiah 18 speaks of God as the potter. "Can I not do with you as this potter? Look, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand." What the potter makes depends on the quality of the clay. What God makes of His people depends on their response. The clay can frustrate the potter's intention and make him alter the vessel. The quality of a people limits what God will do with them. It is not up to us to mold people into the "image" we want. God does not want cookie cutter Christians. The church needs to have a garage sale. It's time to clean house and get rid of all the "junk" collected over the years that have separated people from God. Church is about relationship with God and others. Religion is about rules and regulations.

Jesus's greatest anger was reserved for religious leaders who weighed people down with guilt and shame. He says to a group of Bible scholars and teachers, "You experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." He goes on to say that it is possible for religious leaders to actually get in the way of people entering into the life of God (Velvet Elvis - Repainting the Christian Faith, Rob Bell).

Let me clarify something. I am not saying "church" is bad, or a certain denomination is bad. The past twenty years that I have spent in church have been very influential in my life. However, like anything else it has its ups and downs. The recommendation that I would give is this: Don't be a church hopper. It's not healthy and takes away from what matters most - relationship. The relationships we form with others (and by relationship I mean we can truly say we let them into our "messy" lives) is what spurs us on in our relationship with God. If you are in a unhealthy church, or it is not healthy for you, find something else that works. Sometimes that is necessary. In the Bible, the term "church" refers to not a building, but to the group of people who believe in Christ and are followers of Him - the body of Christ. If you do not go to church, at least find others in the body who you can fellowship with. What I have learned the past few years is this: When I visit with my best friend over coffee each week - I am at church. When my girlfriends and I go out to dinner on a Friday night - I am at church. They speak into my life. I speak into theirs. We share a common bond. We are followers of God. It's all about relationship. And please don't say that you don't go to church because it's full of hypocrites, because OF COURSE it is. They are everywhere! Half the population has been married to hypocrites that they are now divorced from. They said one thing, and did another.

M. Scott Peck in his book, Further Along The Road Less Traveled, decribes my relationship with God perfectly.

Stage 1: The Criminal Stage: Our lives are chaotic, without boundaries, and we just grab for whatever we can get.
Stage 2: Rules-Based: We find God. We find church. The church helps us set rules and boundaries. In stage 2 the teachings of the church are effective and help us raise good families. Most people stay in Stage 2. Though not necessarily bad, it's very religious.
Stage 3: Rebellious: We begin to question all the rules we learned in Stage 2. The healthy rebellious kid asks, "What's behind these rules?" Stage 3 is threatening to Stage 2 and you may hear loud cries of alarm. "Lawbreakers!" Stage 3 people don't usually realize there is a Stage 4.
Stage 4: Mystical - Stage 2 is about the answers that were given to our questions. Stage 4 is about experiencing the answers for ourselves. It's about a REAL God who actually is doing REAL stuff in our lives. It's about relationship. It's about tearing down religion.

When you experience Stage 4 you find yourself in a place of not just knowing "about" God, but knowing God. In Stage 4 you not only know you are supposed to love people, but you truly learn to love people. It's about passion.

"I came to love you late, O Beauty so ancient and new; I came to love you late. You were within me and I was outside where I rushed about wildly searching for you like some monster loose in your beautiful world. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called me, you shouted to me. You broke past my deafness. You bathed me in your light, you wrapped me in your splendor, you sent my blindness reeling. You gave out such a delightful fragrance, and I drew it in and came breathing hard after you. I tasted, and it made me hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned to know your peace." - St. Augustine

Monday, February 1, 2010


If there is one person in my family that I feel I identify with the most, it is my grandmother. It is from her that I get my predilection for travel, or insatiable wanderlust from. Wikipedia describes the term wanderlust as "an ache for the distance." When I was a child, my grandmother would travel and send me piles of postcards (which I still have to this day) and bring me back souvenirs from all the far-away places she visited. She went to Disneyworld and brought me back stuffed Mickeys and told stories of riding through "It's a Small World." Almost thirty years later, I made it there with two kids in tow, who made fun of me as I cried while riding in the boat through the little doll world. She also brought me a cotton plant from the fields of Alabama, and described to me the shows she saw in New York City. With every trip and tale my longing grew. It was not surprising that she came to visit me many years later (at almost 80 years of age) when I lived in The Netherlands.

I have been blessed to experience many adventures, and to visit many parts of our country, as well as other countries. I am always amazed at this beautiful world God created. I always feel very insignificant when I am standing before another of His wonderful creations for the very first time. Genesis 1 speaks of how the earth was without form, and void, and then He spoke it into being. Who is the great person who discovered that the earth was round? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers (Isaiah 40:22).

I have a fascination for water. It would be impossible to live without water. Water is life-giving. In a spiritual sense, you need more than water, you need spirit. John 3:16 states unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Water stands for the physcial birth. Spirit refers to the spiritual birth that happens when you believe and come to know Jesus. I am not talking religion - I hate religion. I'm not the religious type. That's another story for another day. In 1990, while living overseas, I made a trek to the Belgian coast of the North Sea. I was 20 years old, and had never seen the ocean or sea before. It could not have been a more perfect moment. Giant sand dunes hid the sea from my view. I raced up the hill as fast as I could go. When I reached the top, I gasped as I looked out over the sea. It was what I call a "God moment." That day I not only saw the sea, but I touched, tasted, smelled and heard it. It became a part of me. Since then I have partaken of the Atlantic, the Pacific and other various waterways such as the Rhine River, Lake of the Ozarks, Resurrection Bay in Alaska, and Lake Koningsee (picture attached) in Bavaria. When I am by the water I feel cleansed, and free. I have pictures of my oldest child when she first learned to walk, running on Myrtle Beach. She loves to look at those pictures. She had not been to the ocean since. Two years ago, I took my girls to the ocean for the first time at Clearwater Beach in Florida. I was amazed at their reaction. My daughter lay down in the water and smiling said, "Mom, I feel like I'm home." My youngest was amazed by the shells along the beach. They watched baby dolphins playing in the water. Wanderlust. They are like me.

As an adult, I know I missed my calling. I truly believe that God instilled that "aching for the distance" within me for me to be a missionary. When I see images of Haiti, I long to be there. Let me refer back to my blog about "purpose." Sometimes our purpose involves those things we love and have a passion for. That's ok though, I know He has another plan for me. God is the god of second chances. Someday, I will take my kids on a short-term mission trip. They have that longing and love to serve mankind like me. Wanderlust with a purpose. I also have an aching for that distant place - my eternal home with the God of creation.

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. Genesis 1: 31