Hope for Today

I’m getting older today, which is kind of awesome. I mean when your story is about overcoming and becoming, then getting older is awesome. If your story is about existing and hoping for the glory of someday, then it’s hard… it’s especially hard. Living can be draining where stagnancy resides.

But today is a choice.   Today could be the day we choose life.

There’s this tricky mindset that has crept into Chrsitianity that seems like partial truth. It’s this idea that if once upon time you had an encounter with God then that should set you good for a life time. And I suppose it would work if our god was fairy tale story. If encountering God was like finding Nariana, then I suppose it’d be ok if once upon a time we were okay.

But for some of us… Life doesn’t work like that. For some of us today will be very important.

And it’s not that today is important because something huge and successful, that isn’t necessarily going to happen, but what will happen is choices. Today is important because I can choose to be happy about getting older today, and not fret of other days I might have lost along the way.  Today might be important because today I remember suffering… as a memory and not as my current dilemma.   Today might be important because I hope to do even better than I am today.   Maybe today is important because I am not scared of today.

Today is definitely important because I choose to remember those who may not understand how important today has been. They might be existing, failing, sorrowing, struggling. They may not know that I send them my prayers and love, because today I have enough to share. …and that’s pretty important too.

I haven’t always loved life itself, let alone my life, but today maybe I can do that. Maybe today I’ll share what love I have in my heart in hopes that it can patch up a loss of love in someone else’s heart, because I know how that feels too.

Today is victorious, because I remember pain and I don’t let it hurt me today. The only pain I feel today is knowing others still struggle with their pain, their choices, their waning hope for something better. But that pain doesn’t defeat me, it drives me to continue to hope, to continue to overcome, to continue to be and become.

Freedom is calling me today, and I want to answer. I want to take a plus one or plus 90o and one with me.

Today I will let a friend, a loved one call me beautiful without shunning the compliment. Because today a I grow older gracefully, courageously. Just for today, I can handle that.


Love Languages in a World of Profanities

If you’ve had any long exposure to the church system, there’s a chance you’ve heard an excessive improper use of the 1 Corinthians chapter 13, known as the Love Chapter. In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 there are character descriptions of love, but often it’s used a the chapter in the Bible that defines love. Personally I think there is a difference between a character description and the actually definition of a person, place, or thing…in this case Love.

If I saw to you my husband is a handsome, funny, nerdy, intelligent, sometime creepy, and strong man then you have a very brief character listing of my husband. If I posted a picture with no description, then you’d make your own assumptions about what kind of person he might be. However if you meet him, depending on the day & company his with, you might have a completely different idea of what kind of person he might be. Experiential definitions are super important.

If we read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and say “this is what love is” it’d really be hard to put into practice in all the applications of life, or even to sift through different moments of our life and say “ah ha! there’s love!” because it’s only a brief character list. There’s more to love than the quick sentiments shared in 1 Corinthians 13.
However, this one particular chapter is important, because how many times do we lose sense of what love truly is in our world & culture around us? Love becomes to vaguely used we forgot what the core characteristics of love actually are. Moreover, sometimes “love” becomes a foreign word and we don’t know what it means anymore.

There’s beautiful older song by Avett Brothers called “I and Love and You”  which talks about how the three word of (or the combination there of) “I” and “Love” and “You” have become difficult to voice. Sometimes I think that’s an anthem that many of us can relate to, and can agree with. Sometimes words or phrase like, “I love you” have depreciation value set in so deep that the words are useless. Other times these words are so hard to use because we hold them so sacredly that there is no matching it.

Sometimes the most beautiful phrase get lost in our perception of the world around us. Other times, it’s stolen from us.

There are times in life when I’ll be listening to new album from a favorite band or I’ll be really into one or two specific songs, and at that time I also happen to meet a person. Now this song reminds me of that person because they happen to come into my life about the same time.  Well an occasion, when that relationship or friendship might go sour, I’d stop listening to those songs or sometimes that band because it so reminds me of that person who’d now brought hurt or shame into my life.  Those beautiful songs become lost to me, at least for a long while if not forever.
We have this same problem with words and phrase, and unfortunately sometimes the most beautiful ones are the ones we lose.

Sometimes the word “love” doesn’t really seem to mean Love anymore. It because nullified. Sometimes the phrase “I love you” starts to mean “I own you” or “you owe me”  or worst things than that. Sometimes the beautiful is stripped of its worthiness and we can’t bear these words anymore.

It’s curious to me, how it seems like more people at a younger age have horrorific words coming out of their mouth on a regular bases and no one shrugs or blushes or flinches in the least, afterall “they’re just being real”  or  “sometimes there’s no other word that really expresses that”. I totally can’t agree. How profanities are rapidly on the rise and words and phrase like “I love you” are declining in meaning… that my friends, is a strange and messed up world to embrace. Instead of embracing it, I’m going to suggest there’s something wrong there. Maybe something is being covered up. Maybe there’s a lot of hurt that happened to nullify the beautiful things, and all we’re left with is the ugly venomous things.

The Bible has this super simple statement, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks
Unfortunately in world of broken hearts where words are used for manipulation, words become nullified and often we don’t take the time to really consider what we’re saying or implying or what we mean to say. …and too often this continues to add to the hurt.

Thus we find ourselves back at places like 1 Corinthians 13, which remind us of some original characteristic of love. Things we had forgotten. Things we stopped considering. And some things we find aren’t there at all, but we had put them on it because of our bad experiences. At times something like 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us of we’ve been thinking about love under false assumptions. We haven’t actually addressed love in its purest form, and maybe we stopped believing that such a version of love exist. …and somehow, when we don’t see and don’t strive for it, it does stop existing around us.

When we allow our bad experiences to define our words, our phrases, and our expressions then we lose the freedom that comes from understanding the core characteristics of what these things can mean. Phrases like “I love you” can be painful instead of beautiful. If there is ever to be a time where I can listen to those old songs again, or where we can hear the phrase “I love you” again, then we’re going to have to remember the core essences of where the beauty lies more than we remember the hurt that came along with these familiar notes.

If we’re ever going to be in place where we can say “I love you” with more force and power than we say F.U. then we’re going to have to find a way to believe in the power & core of Love more than hate. We’re going to have to be willing to make a change that will remind us of some of the pain that brought us here, because getting stronger hurts a little bit. It pushes us to our limits. But being weak hurts all the time, and we hurt others all the time. Being pushed around by every experience and every sharp word brings our spirits certain death, and out of that overflow we bring forth death into the words from our lips and our experiences towards other. …unless we chose to interrupt this cycle. Unless we chose to seek core truths. Unless we start thinking about what we really mean and what we really intend to do with our lives & our words. Unless we reestablish our core, we will be pushed around by every experience and by every sharp word. Sometimes this happens, but we need to reestablish our footing, and get up and get at it again.

The brief character list in 1 Corinthians 13 won’t be the absolute healing power to redeem love for us, but it will tell us where to find love and what she looks like. From there we have to have a strength to approach Love and be willing to be in an experiential relationship with love. Then somewhere along the line, we might be able to begin to distinguish between our faulty experiences with “love” and that which love truly can be. If we chose to continue to do this regularly we might even find that love has found us, that words have meaning. that profanities are for the weak and hurting. …and we all hurt, but we don’t all have to dwell in our hurts. We can be a people who heal, who grow strong, who break spiraling cycles.

Choice is powerful. Thought is innovative. We can be who we choose to be, if we’re willing to try. Are we willing?

Follow Your Heart: Vices & Virtues

Is it too bold for me to stay everyday is not perfect?
Honesty can be bold, but so can a lie. I happen to think there’s something about boldness and strength that cause for people to poke & prod, to test and disrespect for no other reason than the see something that appears odd to them. Maybe this contempt comes from the fact that the boldness of honesty can be mimicked by a lie as well?

I do try to ponder these things. For as much as I try to live honestly before people, from those very same people I am too often (meaning it happens at all), accused of being false or faulty in grievous ways by people I trusted. It’s like a quick character shanking, and they look at me with perfectly normal contentment while I bleed a little. What just happened?

I remember for years and years I had an emotional involved flirty-friendly relationship with this one guy who I thought at some point we’d be dating and maybe even contently married at some time. It would of made a great story or movie someday! But there were definitely problems. He never had the guts to really ask me out or just tell me how he felt one way or another with earthquaking honest. Instead the relationship was maintained through hints and flirts, emotional deep involvement and little teasing affections. It was fun, it was an adventure, and I love adventures.
But it had other problems. Many different times he suggested I was too tough, too boyish, too closed-off, too…whatever, and back then that really hurt. Well, the memory hurts a little knowing how I so deeply felt for him at that time and knowing he treated me in this kind of way. I didn’t understand what I lacked, but I tried everything that I could, still being me but bending to what those suggestions said I should or shouldn’t be.
As I recall, the bending hurt worse, partially because he never loved me anymore for it. Instead there was something else that was wrong. Sometimes I’d continue to change for him, other times I’d get upset at him, but the cycle was on & on for years and years.

There did come a time where I finally I started to understand, it really wasn’t what I was lacking that this guy didn’t like; it was actually something I had a lot of but didn’t realize it: strength. I was too strong for the timid spirit he had. About 7 years into this mess I realize that he didn’t actually Love me. Maybe the idea of what he imagined me to be, he loved, but not actually me.  It was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to close that chapter of my life and start rebuilding myself honestly.
side note: I think it was about 2 months later I meet my husband for the first time.

I learned a hard beautiful lesson from that mess, and for that much I am thankful. The memory itself still contains some pain, but I think what hurts is realizing this isn’t just one story that happened “once upon a time” in the past somewhere. Unfortunately I am still prone to people telling me what’s wrong with me. Even people I trust and love and adore will at times tell me what to do and who to be, and not always to my own benefit; sometimes only for their own sake. Sometimes to make them feel more comfortable with the image they have of what will happen and how things should be. …and that hurts at times. But I am just tough enough to remember this hard lesson and what I’ve learned up to this point, and from there make consider what must be done next.

I also learned it is up to me to know my heart precisely and to follow it.

That’s difficult, you know?
If I do succeed at this, then that’s all the more reason for people to tell me that I don’t listen, I’m just hiding, I’m closed off, I … I lack. I lack something that I can only receive from the wisdom of others.
…And that’s almost true.

I am a big believer in communal life. I am!  But your heart… Your heart isn’t for everyone. Your heart is your personal space. You decide what goes in there and what stays in there. It must be guarded and tended to. It must be refined and renewed. It is the wellspring of life. It must be kept from polluters, which means you must know your own heart and not let anyone else define it for you.

By “heart” I do mean your core-being. Your emotions, your character, your internal spirit, your vices & virtues, these all come from the heart, your core and inner most self.

When you tend to these things, you can begin to live honestly from your core-character. You can know your own heart and follow it to the greatness you’re meant to be. But sometimes… just sometimes, when you’re strong enough to tend to your core and be healthy in the inmost parts, people will be accusatory towards you. Stay.
Stay strong. Stay where you are.
If you fall to pieces, fall right where you are, but don’t move, shift, or reassign yourself because of such attacks. If there’s anything to found or corrected it’ll be right where you are. Don’t move.
Don’t move until you’re strong enough to stand up and start walking again, following your heart again. Stay where you are.

So in the words of Martin Luther, when he was on trial, I say: “Here I stand, God help me. I can do no other.”

Here I am.
Is that too bold?

    I truly am thirsty for you, my God.
In my heart, I am thirsty for you, the Living God.
    When will I see your face?
Day and night my tears are my only food,
    as everyone keeps asking,
    “Where is your God?”

When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.

When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.

Every day, you are kind,
    and at night you give me a song as my prayer to you,
    the Living LORD God.

Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
    “Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears, harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day, “Where is this God of yours?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?

I trust you!
And I will praise you again because you help me,
    and you are my God.

Without the help of the Lord
    it is useless to build a home
    or to guard a city.
It is useless to get up early
and stay up late
    in order to earn a living.
God takes care of his own,
    even while they sleep.

Psalms 42
Psalms 127:1-2


Beauty: Misunderstood

Sometimes it’s nice to be comfortably in the age of adults. Sometimes it’s enough to forget some teenage year struggles and social awkwardness. I think as much as I might have struggled at that time, I also had fun with it. I found reasonable ways to push the perimeters and made my life a questioning statement about the “set rules” of life. …of the good life of good Christian living.

One of my strange joys of my teenage years was to hunt through thrift stores to find odd & old patterns on shirts and dresses that seemingly no one else would want and attempt to wear them. Sorry I didn’t take the time to find these old pictures for today, but I can say that there was plenty of things which my mom said looked like the 1960s that were my favorite.

Confession: At that time this had less to do with my actual love of the retro style and more to do with buffeting the system, even though it was a very tiny protest at that.

Now I’ll also say that the retro style is an acquired taste that really grows on you (in my opinion), and I don’t doubt that I generally love it more today than I did back then. Although I am particular about which retro-styles I like. However, I bring it up not to discuss styles, but actually to talk a little about beauty.

In my teenage years, I had read the saying “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and another one that says, “Beauty is more than skin deep”   and it’s these kinds of things make me wonder what could be done to test and/or prove this.

For most of my young life I was told that I was pretty or cute or beautiful as a baby and toddler, and I enjoyed the pure attention and admiration. But I remember I wasn’t more than 3rd or 4th grade before these kinds of saying become tainted. Suddenly it wasn’t just a compliment on its own, but now it was a sort of testing of waters. Now when it was said it had something to do with “boyfriends” or “fighting off the boys” or if it was a boy of similar age it was expected that I might compliment him back. But What for?  I didn’t understand this change. Neither did I enjoy this change, because it seemed to make “beauty” ugly and cheap. Now I had to be guarded against even compliments, which were once good things.

What kind of beauty is it that allows one person to look at another person as a object to use for their own gratification? How is that even considered connected to beauty at all? My conclusion was this had nothing to do with me or my beauty, but the distorted vices of the hearts of those who would pay such nullifying compliments. But yet the guardedness and insecurity of such changes would stick with me a long time into my future.

So low and behold, as my teenage years rolled around, I was ready to put to the test these ideas of what was beauty, and how far could someone claim something to be beautiful before it was ugly or undesirable …or just too strange. And thus began my adventures in my own clothing styles.
Imagine a reasonably smart, good humored, young girl wearing multi-colored paisley shirts, embroidered jeans, modesty-conscious, crazy fun hair styles, and not too particularly concerned with any one’s great opinion or stares.  …then we’re getting closer to what I might have been during that time.

Yet not matter how ugly my shirt or crazy retro my dresses or odd my hair might be, I still had compliments …less, yes, but still compliments. I did notice people were general less bold now. Something about my new fashion sense made people a little more aloof, which I was totally ok with, and those who did still mention it just labeled it as my particular style or me being me. But in the end, it’s just clothes and external expressions. How many people noticed my heart? Or my struggles? Or my joy? Or how many noticed when I was usually quiet? Probably less than a few.

That thing which we call beauty, isn’t usually about beauty at all. External changes in clothes, hair, makeup, accessories, or lack there of  in any of these, isn’t really the display of more or less beauty. Maybe it cries out for more or less attention or expression of some happening internally, but not so much beauty.

Most of the time during my teenage years, I wouldn’t actually have thought myself beautiful. People say there’s a lot of conflicting messages in the media and in children’s toys & dolls and role models, but I’m not sure those are things to blame. Some where, at very young age, we have the wrong idea of what beauty is and where we see it. I’d heard beauty is more than skin deep and that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but what was the likelihood of discovering such truths in our modern day life?

I think at some point I must have discovered something about beauty which wasn’t so much told to me or explained out loud. At some point I realized what we look like doesn’t have a lot to do with beauty. What we look like has a lot to do with self-image. Beauty, however, is seen when we notice the details of someone’s character or heart or beliefs, or in showing respect to other living beings. Sometimes beauty is discovered when we take on the ugly and learn what it is to be little more lowly but still have joy and pride in life.

I remember looking at a picture of my mom, who rarely truly considers herself beauty, and in this one photo I was looking at she had wrinkles and her glasses weren’t not exactly straight and she had a meek smile. As I consider the photo, I remember thinking how beautiful she was. I thought about how she might look at the imperfections in the photo and not think too much of it, but I remember also being captured with how beautiful she really, really did look. Wrinkles are bound to come. Glasses sometimes don’t sit straight. Smiles sometimes get captured in that halfway position when a photo is taken. …but so what? Certainly such tiny things don’t define beauty.
What my mom may not notice is that she has a perfect diamond shape face that allows her to look great in almost any type of glasses, beautiful innocent brown eyes, thick full rich hair, and Love in heart that is always conveyed no matter what kind of smile. She’s beautiful.

It took me a while to understand beauty for myself, and it’s taken me a little bit beyond that to understand that many people don’t even consider what words actually mean. Often we have our associations with this word or that word, and that’s it. There’s no more defining or consideration or thought. …and that’s a shame.  There’s many consideration-worthy things in this life. There’s many joys to be found, and lessons to be learned. There’s healing to be obtained.
And for me, I know I am here today, so I might as well do something with myself, besides just nodding my head at others opinions. I have some time and I’m still breathing, so maybe I could try something more adventurous. Maybe a long the way I’ll discover things that well help this world make a little more sense to me …or even help someone else.

Today beauty. Tomorrow…?


Spiritual growth, Spiritual maturity, and heretic

Spiritual growth, Spiritual maturity, and a heretic = What do these things have in common?

I suppose it depends on your honest perception. Honest meaning not necessarily the first thing out of your mouth, because many of us a trained to give certain answers immediately, but more like the second thought or third (or later) thought that comes up in your mind. The solid answer that comes to your mind as you real start to consider if we do faux-pas in throwing these things altogether at any given time. As you consider the question, and I hope you do, I’ll start off with a fun example.

My husband and I have run into some leaders here & there who simply find us “off”. Most of these don’t know how or what to call us at all, but few ever actually like us. Early in the year a pastor who was trying to thank us for something said to us, “There something about you two. You’re…” and as he searched for a sufficient wording and I joked, “Good Christian people?” to which the pastor replied “No. More like… uh…” and continued to search for adequate but not overly-blissful praise. This is something I haven’t stopped laughing about yet, and it was very early in the year when it happened.

More recently, I opened my mouth in defense of a Christian brethren who was being accused by a conference leader/speaker of descension and/or division, and since we (my husband & I) sided with our friends we were all accused of not enjoying the “spiritual meat” because “there’s plenty to go around“, to which I also replied something along the line of it wasn’t meat but baby food.
One might think there’s a big difference between actual meat and baby food… but then again..?

Also slightly after this last event, my husband was encouraged to write to the good-hearted leaders of this said conference, so that they could also know our opinion, after giving some time and hindsight to consider the full implications of it all. My dear husband also found himself getting accused (by such good-hearted leaders) of similar things “not appreciating the spiritual meat” “there’s plenty to go around”  that very same “spiritual food” that both I and he called baby food or to be politer, a happy meal.


Can it be, that one would get in trouble for wanting to spiritual mature past baby food and kids meals and spiritual Cheerios stage? Can it be that one would get into trouble for knowing how to seek out, prepare, bless, share, and partake in our own healthy regular spiritual diet, and therefore not come starved enough to intake whatever is being given out? Instead we might actually be looking for quality ingredients to form a spiritual meal?  Apparently if anyone could get in trouble of this type of thing, my husband & I will be the ones to do it.

The problem?

I am not insulted by you telling me I am spiritual “fat” because I know how to feed myself prepare full healthy meals, and I am not spiritual anorexic or anemic. I am not insulted. Neither am I bullied by this. Nor can I be bullied into eating whatever is being served up, just because its there, and its what “everyone else” is doing.

There is this cool story in the Bible that you get to hear about once in a while and it’s found in the book of Daniel chapter 1. It talks about 4 friends who’s lives where spared when their country was invaded, but they were still taken away as slaves. (Good luck, bad luck.) From there, they got chosen to compete for positions of training and honor in this foreign kingdom, but in the midst of this preparation they were serving types of food that these 4 friends do not indulge in. Therefore they had to make a secret deal with their supervisor to only eat the foods which fit their diets.
In the end, they turned out to be healthier, smarter, and all around better off than all the other young proteges, and had much success in their new land, by the blessing of God.
(that’s the short form; it’s very suspenseful story)

I like to ask, Why didn’t they just indulge in the foods like so many others with them? Why did they abstain if God had brought them to this place of privilege, didn’t that in itself give them the right to enjoy? But I don’t ask to judge these 4 friends, but I ask to judge ourselves. I am a big believer in that if we don’t learn from history we will be doomed to repeated. We must see the patterns that have already been created, and learn from others mistakes and victories.
I think these 4 friends choose life while they were still alive. They choose to honor God with the “temple” they had left, their own bodies. but… What about the others? Maybe the other young candidates had previously been scared to death at being taken as slaves and watching their beloved city burn, and maybe they never recovered. Maybe something in them died, or lacked graditude toward God or just saw these circumstances as most favorable and so they “lived it up” while they could.

In my experience, the terrible thing about growing up, especially spiritually, is that when you learn how to make meals and share what you have, you sort of become pickier, in that you learn things taste better fresh and not prepackaged. This does apply to physical nutrient and cooking for your body’s own health, as much as spiritual nutrient and spiritual food. I love learning new recipes and meals and trying different foods, but I don’t go back to eating baby & toddler food unless I am ridiculously sick or in a gross-food-eating-contest.

In my physical and spiritual life, I still eat Cheerios, but I eat them with fruit on top and milk surrounding them and on an occasion, but not as a snack or meal staple. I’d be so hungry if I only ate Cheerios ever.

Recently, in this blog, we’ve discussed that there is a difference between hunger and craving. We absolutely have to know that there is a difference, and that we are not to mix up which is which. This part of growing up. We have to be able to discern what is healthy for our bodies and our own being, and therefore we must not take in just whatever is available, but only that which is beneficial and enjoyable (in a non-indulgent way) to our insides.
Our physical bodies are the perfect example of our spiritual health needs. Some people have food allergies. Some people LOVE pasta (Thank you God for pasta!). Some people like spicy. Some people can’t sleep because of caffeine, others aren’t affected by it, still others try to be health conscience about it. Listen, you must know what you need! You must disciple yourself to do what is best for your inner parts. And I hope I don’t really need to say this, but you do not need to be following trends, enjoying “quick fixes”, and going along with the latest greatest.

Be real.
Be moderate.
Be authentic.

So have you been considering what do spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, and a heretic have in common with one another?  I hope very little, to be honest, but if you’re in our shoes (or many of the sandals of the saints), they might just be the measure of success!
If you’re growing up spiritual, you might get accused of the opposite, but the proof is in:  “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes” (Proverbs 24:16)

Let’s keep going friends. There’s more adventure, insults, and joys to be found, and I can hardly wait to see what’s next!

“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Matthew 11:18-19