Husbands, Touch, and Turkeys

He reached for me and I recoiled.

It isn’t him, it’s me. The storms have intensified and when that happens I go into lock-down mode. He softly reaches out, tells me he can’t handle it when I draw back.

It shakes me, he leaves, we go our seperate ways.

I’m sitting on the couch folding clothes when he returns. The kids are in bed and he heads for the recliner, exhausted. I have a choice and the old me would like to make excuses and take advantage of his tenderness and willingness to forgive, say I’m sorry and let things continue, just this time, me on my couch and he on his.

But the new me wants more.

I go sit in his lap.  “I’m sorry,” I whisper against his skin. “I’m so overwhelmed and we both know my natural response is to withdraw, clamp down, preserve what I have left. Sometimes I forget that’s not what I really want.”

I’m talking about the old Me, the one who for so long believed the lie that to preserve oneself, you have to self-protect, draw in, give the bare minimum.

But the truth is that to preserve one’s self, you give yourself away. To find your life, you must lose it.

Sometimes I can’t see when I’m falling back into the trap, back into the old habits and ways. Sometimes life happens so fast you start acting instinctively.

That’s when I need someone to tell me I’m being a turkey.

A turkey and an eagle both respond to the threat of a storm, but very differently. A turkey runs under the barn, seeking shelter and hoping the storm won’t touch her. An eagle, on the other hand, leaves the security of her nest when a storm approaches. She spreads her wings to ride on the air currents of the coming storm.

The eagle knows that a storm’s currents can take her higher than she could ever go on her own.

For many years I lived the turkey. It is very instinctive for me to self preserve. But somewhere along the way, through many, many storms, I got pushed out of the nest and realized I wasn’t a turkey after all. I’m an eagle.

The free fall was terrifying. But then Father Eagle was there to scoop me on His wings and my trembling eaglet body relaxed and began to discover the awe of what was happening.

It happened again. And again. And again. Each time, Father Eagle pushed me out of the nest I wanted to stay safe in, each time He swooped down to bear me up on His wings.

He taught me I was made to soar.

Until one day, when the choice was mine to leave the nest or to stay, I took the plunge.

It felt good… to deliberately choose giving up safety in order to soar. It felt good taking the risk. It felt good to live for something other than myself, to know my purpose.

The turkey in me still wants to run sometimes, to hide, to keep safe, to not leave security, at least what she perceives to be security. But the voice of a dear loved one can remind me I’m made for more than cowering.

Sometimes it’s another eagle who can show us what we’re made for. Because we all forget sometimes.

They help us remember that we don’t want security most after all. We want to fulfill our destiny. We want to be what He made us to be, do what He created us to do.

We want to soar.

So go soar my friend. Go soar.


Learning to Live All Over Again

I saw the pictures today… how he just welcomed his new son… how he transferred to a new hospital… how he is learning to live all over again, this time without legs.

I can’t pretend it didn’t ache.

I can’t pretend I didn’t wish for things to be different; I wished those boys had a Daddy who could chase them and lay on his back and flip them on his knees, like my kid’s daddy does.

And I wish the burden just a bit easier for the family and thousands and thousands of families the world over crushed by a fallen, sliding world that we can’t keep in orbit.

But wondering how the world can carry on doesn’t in fact help anyone.

Calling on the One who spoke it into existence and sustains it’s every blade of grass, who changes earth’s inhabitants like a garment, who sees the gazelle giving birth in the secret place and the sparrow plummet and Who carries each of His beloved ones to their dying day… drawing near to Him helps.

Because when I press against His heart, I hear something. I hear steady. I hear calm. I hear no crisis.

I hear complete confidence from a God in complete control who creates something from nothing and who calls Himself Love.

We are safe.

Somehow, Jake knows this. Somehow, he believes.

Somehow, he found his way close to that Heart before the ugliness of his circumstances told him to despair.

Wait. Maybe that’s just it. Perhaps that Heart told him there is no ugly. Just a dark glass that we look through that distorts things, giving the appearance of ugly. And Jake chose to believe.

Will I?

To read about this incredible young man, Jake, click here: Jake’s story
For Jake’s most recent photo’s, click here: Jake and Family


Un-sheathed

The tube is just about dried up, but I pump it anyway, twirl out the last color, brush across lashes.

I want to be beautiful.

One of my earliest memories is when I thought I was…ponytail in hair, painted nails.

Mom had made me beautiful.

What happened afterward…that boy man who saw innocence and took it for himself…well, a big brush dipped in black slashed across soul and beauty was marred and I guess I’ve been trying to recover it ever since.

Or running from it.

That big black X said all sorts of things about me. It has been a task master, a slave driver. I’ve taken its message as truth.

But something happened somewhere along the way.

I encountered Beauty.

And as I draw closer to Him and awaken to words of Beauty, He whispers, “You don’t have to be beautiful; You can borrow Mine.”

“You don’t have to be good enough; You can have Mine.”

“You don’t have to try to be something more; You can have Me.”

And Beauty makes me beautiful.

I read the words and Beauty offers His cloak:

“Consider the lilies of the field. They toil not, neither do they spin.”

Those who allow Beauty to clothe, cease striving.

I can never rid myself of the black X. I don’t need to. Beauty tells me I can stop trying.

And flowers do this well while I miss it?

Oh no, I’ve been looking for Beauty all my life and here it is, that Pearl of great price. I’m not missing it this time.

“Yet I say to you that not even Solomon, in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.”

Yes, I think I will learn from flowers, how to be clothed with beauty. How to stop striving and trying and piling things on to cover up the black.

“If God so clothes the grass of the field, will He not much more clothe you? Oh you of little faith!”

Perhaps I hold on to the seed, not allow the bulb to die because I’m afraid I’ll be left with nothing. I grasp tight, thinking to save what is, not believing in what is to be.

But all along, the bulb begs to begat the lily that becomes clothed with splendor that surpasses Solomon.

Will I hold on to the bulb, tuck it away, refuse to plant and trust and wait… and settle for store bought color instead?

Must I insist on paying?

Earned beauty is nothing more than a tube of color that eventually dries up.

The secret of real beauty is that it’s offered without cost. Beauty has been poured out, made available to us, generously and lavishly offered. Just like wings that soar and seeds that bloom and grass that softens our steps,  beauty is ours, no charge.

Unsheathed beauty is that seed which falls and dies to all self effort and striving…it takes the risk…it gives up and lets go…it releases it’s shell, undergoes decay…waits on the One who clothes the grass…and is brought forth in splendor.

[ Adj. un-sheathed: not having a protective covering ]

Oh soul-scarred one, let Him birth your beauty?

{I’m taking the risk.}

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I would love the chance to attend a woman’s writer’s conference while we are in the states on furlough and am humbly entering with this post. If any of the other entrants happen by here, may I say I think you are beautiful? I have read a few dozen of the entries and have been so touched!  If you would like to learn more about the opportunity to win yourself, please see this post and check out the SheSpeaks website here.


Eucharisteo Is Not A Formula

I love Ann Voskamp.

I read her blog, have read (and marked up) her book, even given copies away as gifts. I’ve learned from her and keep my own “list.” But…

But…

There is something that needs to be said {and I need to say it to my own heart}:

Eucharisteo is not a formula.

It is possible to start a list and hope to see God in it and “do” everything just right yet end up missing the whole point. Let me explain.

Our approach in Western Christianity is to make everything a formula. Our independent, affluent, self sufficient culture sort of makes this our default.

The problem is, formulas indicate control~ ours. We do something for God’s revelation, power, goodness, grace, manifestation, etc. God’s outpouring in our lives is dependent then on us and on whether we have concocted the *right* formula.

God, on the other hand, invites us to relationship, which is the relinquishing of control and trusting in the character of another (God.)

Relationship is Trust. Faith.

I say this because I am afraid our tendency is to see people like Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore and others, and love what they have with the Lord and we want to follow their footsteps to having it too. So we “try it” amd are discouraged when we can’t follow suit or when ours doesn’t look the same or when the results we thought we’d see aren’t there.

The pattern for many of us is that of constantly jumping from one thing to another, thinking…hoping… this time will be “it,”  that somehow this is the missing piece and it will all come together, finally.

But it is faith that builds relationship, not Beth Moore’s bible study or Ann Voskamp’s List. The transforming factor in their lives is faith, not formula.

I know this agonizingly well.

I spent many years of my Christian life “trying” instead of believing.

Faith is about letting go of control. For Ann, eucharisteo was the way she practiced letting go and trusting God. For her, like it must be for us all, it is not about formula but faith.

We like to control our own spirituality. In fact, we even believe our spiritual growth is our responsibility. When caught in this trap, something wonderful like eucharisteo then becomes a formula we try to use. It is such a way of life that many of us can’t even see it.

“For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own…” Romans 10:3

It is possible to desire righteousness and seek after it and go about it all wrong because you know not about God’s righteousness, which only comes one way:

“But now, apart from the Law (works, self-effort, formulas), the righteousness of God has been manifested, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:21-22

We don’t have to manufacture our own righteousness, we can simply accept Christ’s.

If you can’t use spiritual disciplines as a means of deepening faith, letting go of control, and receiving Christ’s sufficiency…then let the discipline go. It only creates self-effort.


Permission to Believe

I stand at the window, watching the dying embers of orange fall over the horizon.

I wonder about days ahead, when kids aren’t in toddler beds and backyard isn’t strewn with sticks and balls and popsicle wrappers. I wonder how I might stand at a similar window, seeing similar sights…how might I be so different, so strong, so full of faith and the Holy Spirit, like Stephen.

He speaks. He says, “What are you waiting for?       A lightening bolt from Me? A rushing wind? What are you waiting for to believe?

“I AM who I Am and you are who I say.”

This is every woman’s dream, is it not? Every man, woman, boy, and girl’s, to be everything God speaks of us, once we really hear what He’s said?

So why can’t I believe it? What am I waiting for?

I ask it of Him: “Lord, You know me better than I know myself. You know I long for this, to be in You and Your Words in me and to be full of faith and the Spirit and so monopolized by You that nothing else matters. So what am I waiting for?”

He answers with scripture, “To them He gave the right…” (John 1:12) “You need to give yourself permission to believe. I’ve given you the right.”

A lifetime of religion (much of it good) somehow left me thinking God’s word and God’s gifts and God’s grace came with strings attached. God’s word always needed to be explained. It was always expounded upon and elaborated on, like it had to undergo surgery so we could understand what God was really saying, so that we would not take it to mean or say what God didn’t intend.

There was no simple, blessed gospel. 

I see it happen all the time and I call it whittling. It’s like taking a knife to a tree and whittling it… whittling, whittling it right on down to a mere toothpick.

“Here,” they said Sunday after Sunday, handing me the toothpick. “Here’s what you can take away from this passage.”

And now God is saying, “You can take the whole blooming tree! I’ve given you that right.”

“You are fully loved, freely forgiven, unconditionally accepted, deliberately chosen, delightfully approved, purposefully adopted, lavishly blessed, and exquisitely beautiful.”

“And I am exactly everything I AM. You have permission to believe.”

So after the toddlers are in their beds and the yard is still strewn, I open up worn, beloved pages and I take the hand of my Savior and I say, “Jesus, with Your help and by Your permission, I will believe this,” and I begin to read:

“Grace to you, and peace {Grace and Peace, The signature Gifts from God!} from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in His mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love.

“Long, long ago, He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

“Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people. Free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ…

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us…” (Ephesians 1:3-12, MSG)

I feel like preachin’ a sermon, a simple one: Brethren, we’ve been given a permission slip. We can skip class and homework and all the demands of rigid teacher and we can go out and take the whole blooming tree.

{Bet you never heard a sermon like that}

But Hallelujah, it makes sense to me.


Jake’s Story

On Feb. 11, 2011, my squad of Marines patrolled through the 
Sangin Valley in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. It was a very long 
grueling patrol through knee-high mud and torrential downpours 
throughout the day.

We complained, moaned, and groaned all day about 
the distance and nasty weather. I carried a machine gun with the rest 
of the machine gunners near the rear of the patrol.

Normally, other Marines looked to me as a source of positive energy even when the 
situation had turned foul, but, today, even I was having trouble 
finding anything nice to say about this day or patrol. Also, there was 
a bad feeling in the back of my mind that I had spent the last 24 
hours trying to shake to no avail. Around and Around we walked and 
that’s when it happened.

       BOOOOOOOMMM!!!!!! I stepped on pressure plate-triggered IED 
(Improvised Explosive Device). I heard the ‘BOOM!’ and when I hit the 
ground, my first thought was, “who got hit?” Then I looked at my legs 
and I realized it was me.

I screamed in terror; then I screamed again 
meaning ‘why me?’; I screamed a third time meaning ‘please God, fix 
it!’.

Then I heard my mother’s words in the back of my mind (in her 
voice even) “Don’t say ‘WHY?’; say ‘what now?’.” I stopped screaming 
and did a half-second assessment: legs gone, right hand broken, lying 
in crater of IED, NEED corpsman! So, I yell for a corpsman and one 
immediately appears behind me and goes to work.

He is putting  tourniquets on whats left of my legs, but I can feel blood leaving my 
head and still functional left hand. I’m going into shock! I can’t let 
this happen; breath… breath… breath… Concentrate! Meditate! 
Stabilize!

They’re pulling me out of the crater that had been big 
enough for my whole body to fit inside. I’m flat on my back, my team 
leader is talking to me. Breath. Concentrate. Meditate. I respond in 
my usual sarcastic manner to let him know I will be alright; I even 
insult a couple Marines around me to raise moral and hopes for my 
survival. Breath. Concentrate. Meditate.

Breathing is getting a little 
harder and blood flow to my face and good hand is diminishing. I pray 
to God that I am ready if it is His will. I feel His answer throughout 
my entire body: “NOT YET.” I open my eyes and double my efforts to 
keep blood circulating to my head and arm.

I force more adrenaline 
through my body to keep me awake and fighting against my own death. 
Finally, a helicopter lands, I’m loaded aboard. My fight is done.

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“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”

– Psalm 118:6

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       About a day later when I regained consciousness, I am 
surrounded by a team of medical personnel who fully expect to be a 
shoulder to cry on or possibly have to introduce strong, fast-acting 
sedatives, should I burst into a torrent of fear, anger, and 
depression attempting to lash out and destroy the world that took my 
legs.

Instead, all are bewildered that I immediately smile and start 
making jokes about my situation. “Don’t say ‘WHY?’; say ‘What now?’.” 
What now? Be myself, because that’s still who I am (just a little 
shorter). What now? I walk by FAITH, because that has become a deep 
part of me, it runs in my blood. What now? I get better and strive for 
the same life goals I always strove for. “God is on my side… what 
can man do unto me?”

He can beat me, shoot me, blow me to pieces, even 
kill me, but because I have committed my soul to walking by FAITH, I 
can never be defeated by the things of this world.

I can say with every bit of honesty that I was not afraid during 
my tour in Afghanistan. Anybody who has been through what I have would 
say, “anybody says he wasn’t scared is an idiot or a liar!” I am 
neither typically (nobody’s perfect). I can stand tall (manner of 
speaking) and say, “I was not afraid!” because I walk by Faith.

If my  wife is reading this, a lot of those times you get frustrated because 
I would rather ‘wing it’ or ‘play it by ear’ I’m actually walking by 
faith, and how many times do things just seem to work out somehow? 
(Just picking on you, hunny)

Every step of the way I knew God was 
there; I could feel his presence all around me. I knew in every fiber 
of my being that whatever happened was the will and plan of the 
Almighty and that He would direct me to fulfill my part of it.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of 
love, and of a sound mind.”

– 2 Timothy 1:7

       Fear is the antithesis of Faith. If you have that little Fear 
in the back of your mind that you may not be on the right path, then 
your Fear is truth. You must shed your Fear; just let it go; let the 
burden fall off your shoulders so that you can see what Faith really 
feels like. You CANNOT see the path until you SHED the Fear of not 
seeing it. FAITH is knowing WITHOUT seeing; then, you are able to SEE 
what you KNOW.

I will heal. I will take care of and maybe grow my family. I 
will run. I will relearn how to fight. I will strive to have a career 
with Law Enforcement. I will go back to school and increase my 
standard of living.

“What now?” I will carry on…

 

Jake is a 22 year old father to son Liam. His wife, Michelle, is due to deliver their second son any day now. Jake lost both of his legs and will possibly lose his right hand (it is not healing properly so please pray?) He asked me to share his testimony and desires that it be shared with as many people as possible. He is still in hospital with other complications and injuries.


Sing and Soar

I barely get to the kitchen table and open the pages when little one sounds off.

I quickly jot down the grace of orange across sky and pause as bird stops outside the window.

She sings for a bit, then moves on.

I savor the sight of her, delaying the inevitable start of noise and chaos, wanting to suck all the life from this moment.

All during the day, I notice the pattern of the birds: Sing… then Soar.

Sing…Soar. Sing…Soar.

I think how different I am from the birds.

The bird is not concerned about being overwhelmed. She does not worry about what may be asked of her, what price may be exacted from her.

She sings and she soars.

And when her belly tells her it’s time to eat, she finds food.

Me on the other hand? I’m so fearful of the unknowns, of how I’ll handle just around the corner, that I clamp down and clam up. Yes, that’s it, I’m a clam.

I think there’s a reason why Jesus said “Consider the birds of the air,” not “Consider the clams of the sea.”

In my attempt to miss the pain, not take the risk, cut the losses, I also miss the good. Can I learn from the birds? Can I learn to just sing and soar?

I try it. Like a baby bird learning to use her wings.

The winds blow and I chirp, praises to God. Then I dive headlong into the winds.

Sing…plummet…

Caught by the Eagle on Wings and we soar.

I’ll try again.

And Again.

And I’m starting to understand. Sing…Soar.

Sing…Soar.