Christianity

The Toes of Little Boys

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While visiting an orphanage in Mozambique, several of us decided to have a little foot-washing ceremony with the children. We hoped to demonstrate a selfless and servant-hearted love to them. We wanted to erase the pain in their hearts and replace it with Father’s love. Since it was evening some of the little fellows had already tumbled off to sleep in the dormitories by the time we arrived, armed with water, strips of old bed-sheeting and some leftover dish soap. We didn’t wake the three little guys who were asleep arm-in-arm all in the same tiny bed, but several were still awake and curious as to our presence.

They sat side-by-side on the long bench, grubby from a busy day in the hot and dusty African sun. We knelt before them, gently and simply explaining that this is what Jesus would do, if He were here, and the translator helped us request the honor of showing our love in the same way. Will I ever forget the roughness of their feet, caked with mud and little torn toe nails? How they responded to my loving touches! Tousled heads, bashful and yet hungry for love, cheeks like downy feathers, their eyes searched mine to see if they could trust this act of love.

I couldn’t help but wonder where these grubby little toes had been that day. Many of the children had been rescued from the dumps that overflowed with the stench and smoke of burning filth. Where would these same feet be in 15 years? Would they become the refined and reliable feet of one who runs in the will of the Father? Or would these feet be caught in the thicket of life once more, and struggle to stay in the Presence of the Holy One? And what about these bruised and bloody knees in front of me? How easily I perceived Father’s thoughts when He has gazed at my wounded heart and mused, “Now what was it that caused My daughter’s heart to bruise like this?” And yet He needn’t ask the questions for He knows the answers. He knows our times and our places, and is intimately acquainted with all our ways. As we washed the feet of the little boys, it was impossible for any of us to hold back the tears because all were aware of the dirt and pain being washed away, and what newness of life comes when we’ve been washed clean.

Take a moment today, while basking in the presence of the Lord, and allow Him to wash your feet, and your heart. Allow His living water to break down the hardened places in your life which have become calloused from running your life your way. Sit with Father a while so that He can bandage your wounds. Like the Good Samaritan He’ll be faithful to pour in the oil and wine, first softening our wounded places so they’ll be receptive to His cleansing touch.

“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:30-37

Pictured is my dear friend Kim Campbell as she prays for her sweet refugee children. This is what love looks like.

The Courage to Feel

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Have you ever thought about how love feels so much like grief?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because the symptoms are so similar … emotions careening outside the fabulous yellow lines and leading swiftly toward the guard rails. The truth is the two ends of the spectrum demand a lot from us emotionally, and we feel. We’re not permitted to leave the moment without admitting that we feel something.

And feeling something is a poignant part of life.

Different people have different impacts on us. When we find ourselves attracted to a man or a woman, it completely jams our sensors. Bright lights go off and bells sound. Of course it triggers, silly. But its more than that…

I remember ten years ago or so, I was attracted to one of the pastors of our church. A worship leader. Just a guy with a lot of charisma, and charm. Everybody adored Van. There was something about him, perhaps it was his transparency or wonderful personality but it caused the women to drop their guard and FEEL. They felt loved. They felt cared for. They learned about themselves and were drawn into a deeper relationship with the Lord. I didn’t know a single woman who, at one point wasn’t positive she was going to marry Van.

Heron Haven, OmahaBut, what’s my point?

As women we often tether ourselves to one man because he has caused us to feel. When a woman doesn’t know herself very well, or if she has some past wounds that she’s not dealt with, she suddenly feels safe as she discovers who she is, and her own inner beauty. She finds the courage to deal with her past pain and makes tremendous progress in her personal journey. But somehow that deep well of thanksgiving translates romantically to the man who helped her along that journey.

It’s wholesome and yet a tiny bit fractured.

Feeling is not optional. A full life demands that let people into our lives, to thaw, and forgive. True freedom comes when we set those men free, when we release them and move into our own emotional freedom, whether love, grief or something in between.

Be truly free to feel.

Ciao!

On Love – What It’s Really Like

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And … she speaks. Finally.

Did you ever find yourself completely outside your normal way of behaving, and have trouble finding your way back to the Central Headquarters that define *you*? I’ve been there. Sometimes a man throws us so far off the rails that we find ourselves gathering our skirts and scrambling back to that place we are comfortable. Unfuffled reathers. “You haven’t permission, Darling, to mess with our world as we know it. You, in fact, are too complicated. Not we.” As handsome and beautiful as you are, you take us so far off the grid that we desperately need to get back to zero, even alone-ness, to regain our sense that we’re going to be okay.

Yeah, there’s one or two of you out there.

I know what it is to have every interaction feel like you’re being clobbered in the solar plexus. It’s messy, caring for someone It’s certainly not as you thought it would be. It’s a bit like being in a fender bender car accident where you walk into moving traffic to collect your bumper and put it into your trunk. Or examine a headlight that got crunched because you didn’t measure spatially quite right. Smile. You know what I’m talking about. Easy Captain, don’t crush the Girls.

In fact when you speak, it’s the language of the Kingdom, the words you speak call us higher. Our parents told us about you. They told us that one day you would walk into our lives. They counseled us to wait for the one who reminded us of Home. To wait for the one who loved us so well, not saying and being the things we wanted to hear but the things that would make us become a better person. A Giant. That’s the one to marry. Be-friend and employ whomever you like, but marry the woman who reminds you of your selfless mother. The man who reminds you of your servant-hearted father.

There’s nothing wrong with needing the ministering heart of a friend, but a husband or wife comes along as a peer. They appear as one who floods Life into the picture. Fire-breathing Strength. Tenderness and transparency are to be cherished, but a good marriage is built on the bridging of two healthy people standing on their own … not to steal strength and emotional stability from us, but to give.

Lastly, there’s something to be said about one being able to feed one’s self, to eat of the meat that is Christ, and to stand. “And having done all these things, to stand…” That’s what life will demand of us as individuals in Christ, the ability to walk it out: to make a plan and stick with it. To discipline ourselves to bring about healthy change. To bear fruit that lasts. A healthy marriage will require no less.

There’s nothing more beautiful or demanding than the call to love someone. It wouldn’t be honest of me to let you walk away thinking I know what it’s all about. I don’t. But I love *you*, and that gives me an idea of what this concept of marriage might be about.

Ciao!

On Becoming A Safe Person

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Here in LA, moreso than any other place I’ve lived, I have very different roles.

I’m one person but my day job demands that I be on, analytical, and accurate down to the semi-colon that is required for SQL script to execute. I yank apart Java script over and over and over until it runs. I love what I do. And yet there’s an entirely different side of me that is wildly creative, a side that has been completely overlooked and is vital to my life. It needs expression too.

In order to transition from one role to the other, I need to know that I can. I am unaccustomed to the freedom to operate in that wildly creative, let it all go, rest, let someone else open the door, color outside the lines, fluid personna. But it’s in me and, wow, do I ever want to nurture that. A person doesn’t shift from a high control role into a flimsy, whimsy, walk among the daisies mindset easily. It takes work to dial down and, here in LA, everybody’s doing it. Everybody has their money-making gig, and their creative gigs. We’re all shifting from one to the next on a day-by-day, or even hourly basis.

I’ve talked about the bird who circles and circles until she can find a place to land. Without revisiting that allegory, it’s important to know that there are people in life with whom we can land. Who are those people and why are we so drawn to them?

Safe people have been broken and tested. They have walked through the dismantling of their ego, and had it handed to them in a baggie. They have found their space in the heart of the Father. It’s not that they lack motivation or drive. On the contrary, they’ve little need to prove their identity to you.

Safe people have learned the hard way. They’ve walked around the mountain a few times more than they care to let on.

Safe people like to pay the bills and appreciate financial security, even tremendous wealth, but have no illusions in regard to image or a certain salary solving their problems. They can be trusted with a little or a lot.

Safe people are free.

Safe people have been strengthened by their life’s lessons and they know how to stand. And, honestly, they just stand there. With nothing to prove, and at home in their skin they just stand beside you.

Be a safe person.

Ciao!

Entering the Creative Process

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The bird also has found a house and the swallow a nest for herself

where she may lay her young. 

Psalm 84:3

With a singular focus and deliberation the bird circles and circles until she finds a safe place in which to nest. She is stirred and on a mission until she finds what it is she is looking for: a place. And then she broods, rarely if ever leaving until her eggs hatch.

A woman intuitively looks for safe places in which to lay her young, whether it’s for the children of her womb or the artistic endeavors of her spirit. She longs to give birth to the verses and the stories and the melodies but until their appointed time they remain hidden deep within … taking form, growing, nourished through her until they are able to sustain life on their own.

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man,

All that God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Cor 2:9

Scripture talks about how the way of the Spirit of God is mysterious. I would venture to say that the way of the Spirit is not unlike the mystery of conception and birth. A baby is a twinkle in her Daddy’s eye … he’s got a great idea. But from the point of where the idea begins until he bounces that sweet-faced child on his knee … we can only marvel!

When we enter into the creative process we are partnering with God to bring the stuff of the Spirit into the natural realm. The miracle of birth is always God’s doing but every time His own DNA mingles with that of the child’s parents. And let’s not forget about the heart. God always mixes in love, an ingredient He never forgets. Whether a creative work or the much hoped-for wee child: all that originates in His heart bears His image, His thumbprint.

As women we are utterly consumed with the birth process: awaiting the day when our knowing look will give us away; carrying the planted seed within, stretching out our lives to prepare for its presence; yielding to the transition and then the inevitable, unavoidable birth process. If a mother does not give birth she will likely die and certainly her child will die. Birth is not optional. Her body literally changes structure, her emotions are all fiercely protective and locked in on one objective: to bring this child into the world. And so it is with the creative works that He plants into our hearts, designed to come from us. Beautiful and yet ugly; awkward and yet perfectly orchestrated, red-faced and slippery our little ones come into this world.

Just as a mother has a core-level connection with her infant so have we with our creative works. Nothing is so wildly beautiful to a mother than the face of her son or daughter. From the outside we observe and critique but a mother never hears friend or foe call her baby ugly. Her role and calling are to lovingly carry, lead, discipline and cheer her child until he reaches full maturity.

Revision upon revision, reshaped until it stands on it’s own. One day the song will sing its melody in hidden places throughout the earth. The story will tell itself to the nations                      … until the day in which the melody expands and the story’s seed is flung to the wind.

And Father’s heart will have expanded once again.

With dove’s eyes the Creative will again find a safe place in which to lay her young.

Ciao!

Till Christ is Formed in You

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“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” —Galatians 4:19

Do you ever wonder what Paul really meant when he spoke about Christ being formed in us?

If we think about the formation process, whether it’s cinnamon rolls or a pot pie on the manufacturing floor, there are the ingredients, climate, assembly, and cook time. Drawing on my experience in the food manufacturing business there are a lot of complexities to a pot pie or a bag of hermetically sealed, ready-to-cook popcorn. It’s important to note that in every case there are the ingredients, the DNA of the end product. Cinnamon rolls always have cinnamon, and popcorn almost always has genuine popcorn kernels. With us it’s true as well. The end product of who we are meant to be always begins with the right building blocks. Take heart, even if you are deeply in process of becoming your best you, you have the right raw ingredients! The Lord has seen to that already.

I’ve noticed when I take a step and venture into a new space even though I may fail miserably, I can’t help but see the raw ingredients of potential. At times it’s easier on my pride to focus on the potential instead of seeing and admitting to the growth opportunities too. Do you ever notice when a package arrives, even if it’s damaged beyond recognition you still have to acknowledge it’s arrival. The UPS guy stands there until you sign. I have a friend that wisely says, ‘You can denigrate the witness all you like but that doesn’t absolve you from acknowledging the message.’ And it’s true. Our growth opportunities can arrive in completely mangled packages but the package has still arrived at our doorstep.

The formation of Christ within us, or within a person that we love, is completely messy. No one ever prepares us. To care is freakishly messy. If you want to be tidy about your life, do not get involved. Do not care about a single person and you will be just fine. You’ll be alone. But tidy.

Our days are filled with repeat performances. Over and over again we go through something. The Lord is not about beating us with a stick. He’s usually building a skill set. The responsibility factor increases and we continue to repeat the same circumstances with greater authority, greater responsibility.

There are people who coach us, pray for us, contend for our best selves … they are the ones who labor until we get it. Likewise, we stick with a friend until she learns how to fight without being freakishly defensive and hurt. When we all learn to stand in love, to not capitulate at the sign of conflict, but manage our emotions and positions with kindness … that’s when the picture of Christ begins to emerge in our lives.

… till Christ is formed in you!

Ciao!

A Woman of Excellence

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When you think of a woman you utterly respect, what does she look like? She might be your mother, and she might not. Perhaps your wife, or even a family friend. More often than not that woman has a proven track record of wisdom. Flawless? No. She’s probably poked your eyes with pins a time or two, but likely you respected her in the morning.

Ruth of the Bible was a woman of excellence, and the whole city knew it. She followed her mother-in-law into a foreign country to serve her and be a companion in her old age. It was mainly because Naomi had walked out faith in the God of Abraham. Ruth had abandoned the religious beliefs of her family and adopted the faith of her mother-in-law. This was extreme sacrifice to accept a life of likely widowhood and poverty, when she legally could have returned to her family of origin and lived much more extravagantly.

The plot thickens though. There’s a man, you see. (Hum, there’s always a man when the plot thickens. Just sayin.) His name is Boaz. And so as to shorten this blog entry, she basically asks him to marry her. I know, right? Shiggy-diggy. She goes for it. His response?

Then he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, … You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. … do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. Ruth 3:10-11

When I think of what it means to be a woman of excellence, I’m a bit dumb-founded because this book of the Bible (or any) was written in a time when women were incredibly oppressed. Okay, understatement there. But the whole city knew she was a woman of excellence. That says to me that she didn’t go around in secret begging for mercy every step of the way.

She had a voice. She made herself heard … in wisdom.

She had compassion. She served sacrificially, and people knew it.

She knew how and when to stand, in her Esther moments, and she didn’t back down.

She knew what it meant to pay the price of obedience, and to walk that out before God. Yup, she put on her big-girl knickers and dealt with stuff.

She had the humility to admit her wrongdoings, and to correct them.

A woman of excellence.

Looking back to the woman of excellence in your own life, we both know she had failures the length of her arm. And yet. Her successes outweighed those failures by far.

A real woman keeps standing up when morning comes. She keeps clothing herself with courage and humility. A real woman sets her face like flint, and is unashamed because she knows her King.

Ciao!

The Children of My Heart

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For the woman who wanted more children. The Dad who always wanted a little princess. For the unmarried woman who sees her wee ones in every child that passes.

As a write this I’m seated in a crowded restaurant and the couple next to me cuddles an adorable little girl dressed in white patterned tights and lime green corduroy dress that has delicate smocking across the front. The dress looks just like dresses I wore when I was a little girl. She’s getting ready to launch from her Daddy’s arms, flapping her wings, certain that she’s ready to fly. At the table next to them is a little boy who is trying out screaming tones for the first or second time …By jove, I think he’s got the hang of it.

This morning the Lord gave me a glimpse of the babies I’ve carried in my heart. So numerous they were! I watched as they turned somersaults and toddled around Heaven’s playground. When I asked the Lord about what I was seeing He said this …

Every time you agreed to carry something in your heart for Me, I gave birth to it in the realm of the Spirit. So many broken people have abandoned what I was birthing in their womb and while it does break My heart I have a place for these little ones.

Your heart.

Your life.

You have not known the fullness of what I’ve been doing but perhaps you’ve felt it?

While showing me these children He reminded me of all the times that I carried a dream or a prayer in my heart … a willingness to dream big dreams with a friend, or believe for healing of a friend’s illness … In Heaven’s economy we are owning another person’s pain, linking our strength with their fragile faith. It’s the heart of a parent manifesting. And Father never withholds, never ceases to reward a single glance of our eyes. Our heart expands and Father tucks another wee one under our wings.

When I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly clear on how the dots connect, He simply said, “My economy rocks My way.” And at that moment, I just saw Him as a man with His arms full of babies, rocking one with His foot and the woman in me cannot help but smile and do what I’m wired to do.

Ciao!

2013: When Morning Comes

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The correlation between grace and the Israelites’ manna was so rich, it seemed worthy of a Part Two!

While you were sleeping I looked at the verses a bit more and I hit the skids when I read verse 35:

“The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” — Exod 16:35

With the Israelites’ arrival at the border there was a shift that was about to occur in their culture, on their perspectives about freedom, government, day-to-day provision and much more. Most had never known anything but a lifestyle of nomadic wandering. Their lives were centered around the present moment, around this day just like the manna was supplied for one day at a time. I think we could even perceive manna to be an economy of sorts.

We also have this way of living. Our way of doing life. Manna, for us then, is the substance of our faith, the fibers of our communion with God.

The promises that hovered over the Israelites belong to us as well. Looking at verse 9, we know with certainty that the ragged and raw places that threaten at the periphery of our lives cannot touch the hidden core of who we are because, “in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord”. You see, when the Presence of the Lord invades our hearts, all our resistance melts like so much day-old manna. When morning comes to our hearts we feel Him. We feel His revelation stealing into places that were previously old and cold.

What is the manna of your relationship with The Spirit of God? The substance of your connection with Him, the umbilical cord of life flowing from Him to you, is found in a secret place. The starkness of the world, the drone of its demands on you have compelled you to hide this life-giving interchange. And yet the world longs to see the glow of your communion with Him.

How do we carry that glow in such a way that it is seen …the truth of what life in Christ is all about, and yet protect it like the petals of the rose that it is?

We only have today. Use it well. Live intentionally.

Ciao!

2013: A Graceful Beginning

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2013, a new year. The difficult thing about anything new is that one is at the start of a path never taken before. The Lord and I have a bit of a standing dialogue with one another on this. I’ve played this card with Him so many times in the past, thinking it will get me out of an insane circumstance I want no part of. For example, haggling with repair men over prices, car purchases, home purchases, big-anything-purchases. Minor stuff? I’m on it. Major? I want to bury my head in His shirt, and pretend I don’t need to make a decision. He knows it. The conversation:

“Lord, You know I’ve never done this before. That should have some bearing on this, right?”
“Sam, You know that I know that you’ve never done this before. What? Am I suddenly going to desert you?”
“Nooo…”

“Then why are we having this discussion? I’m right here. Now, take a step.”

Sounds a bit toddler-ish, doesn’t it? Pfft. Nevertheless, a new beginning contains unknowns, scaries, and funky, “In 800 feet turn left on Cahuenga Boulevard.” Cal Hung a Whacky Who? Oh left! Left! Turn left now!Lauritzen_berries

I’m thoughtful of how the Israelites everlastingly did.not.know. where they were going, when they’d get there, what they’d eat… wait a minute, what would they eat? The passages in the book of Exodus 16 are familiar but the principle is not as well known. The Lord daily supplied a substance called manna which, translated means, “What is it?” (Pretty cool, huh?) The substance was completely unknown to them, just as was the idea of daily relying on God’s provision. If the people gathered more than they could use it would not last until next day, it would rot. His intention was that they would daily gather just what they need for that day, for their family and that they would focus on Him a little bit more than they did before.

Scripture, if you take a step back is God’s story of increasing intimacy with mankind.

Oftentimes stories in the Old Testament foreshadow or project a visual image of a concept that is explained in the New Testament. This OT story is a visual image of the concept of grace, His daily provision. In order to walk at rest or better, to proactively love other people on a daily basis we have to connect with the Lord. It’s necessary to re-align ourselves, our hearts and needs with His heart. It’s not something we can soak up plenty of, and make it last. I like the analogy that grace is an awful lot like a good wine, which is meant for the present moment.

May your days in 2013 be rich and full of moments where you find His grace, His daily provision for rest, peace, laughter and above all, the ability to outrageously love those around you.

Ciao!