My parents were of the 50’s era. My mother bobby-soxed her way through high school and college, and returned to Michigan sporting cat-eyed glasses and a textile design degree from a prestigious art college. She worked for Sak’s Fifth Avenue as a genuine switchboard operator! “Connecting…one moment please!”
My father stayed close to home and became a nerdy pharmacist with beautiful, longish curls and a full beard, revealing his loyalties to the hippie subculture. They met at a party and I think they were engaged in six weeks, married inside of six months.
When I look at the photos from the years in which my siblings were born, Mother is still wearing gloves and a hat at a baby shower for my cousin. Her hair was still smooth and styled like Jackie O’s. It seems that in spite of the wild 60’s there was still a.way.to.do.things, and that involved white gloves for a baby shower. It may or may not have involved vintage MG Magnets, Jaguars, Martinis and Marlboros. We simply declined to confirm what was actually in the martini glass. We are rather confident, however, It ain’t apple juice for the baby, Sweetheart.
John F. Kennedy’s assassination occurred before I was born yet it heavily characterized my childhood, even a bellwether for other world-changing events that would occur in the next two decades: the ongoing, never-ending Vietnam War in which we had invested 8.7m troops; the Watergate scandal and burgeoning anti-war sentiments. There were breakthroughs, of course. I remember being a little tot standing in front of the snowy, black-and-white television and touching the screen while Neil Armstrong took a “giant leap for mankind”. My Dad, with a pipe always between his teeth said, “Sammy, you need to remember this. It’s world history.” Those were the kinds of things my Dad would say to a toddler. Smile.
There were so many socio-political issues during that era, stated as if to say that there weren’t issues before or after. And there were, but it was the sharp decline of social mores, the requisite white gloves and a hat, if you will, that had smartly guided women and family life right up until Kennedy’s assassination; that disappeared in the late 60’s. Up until that time, women wore the same style of clothing. Everyone wore their hair the same way. As women entered professions, and began to earn salaries that would one day approach the equivalent of men’s salaries, a certain level of predictability disappeared. I remember when I pieced together the realization that my own mother worked full-time, and other kids’ mothers stayed home and made chocolate chip cookies. That’s what this is all about, really. It’s about chocolate chip cookies.
It’s about our need to create stability for our children, a climate and culture they can lean on while they look out at the wavy world around them. In spite of the tumultuous 70’s and 80’s, my parents managed to provide pillars of identity and a foundation of memories and repeated activities. From this we kids formed our ideas and opinions of who we were and what we were to become. There are lots of things to be ‘against’ these days, even more than in the 70’s but I don’t want to be known for the things I’m against. I want to be known for the things that I’m for. The legacy I leave behind will be one of providing stability and consistency for my children and the people around me, a safe and positive culture in which to become someone great.
And He shall be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure. Isa. 33:6
This train of thought has been brewing with me for a while now. I want to talk with you about unanswered prayer.
Broaching this topic is a bit risky. It’s like saying, “I want to teach you about God.” Hah! And so now you know. I know precious little about answers and the lack of them except what I’ve experienced. But, that being the point, we come into greater understanding by putting little bits together. Sometimes the pieces fit, right? And sometimes we set them aside, and go looking for a piece of blue sky for our puzzle.
But it is a puzzle indeed.
Only you know what life has handed you, and what questions remain unanswered. I’ll never be able to hand you the puzzle piece to fit that gaping hole you are staring at. I know this though, so many times we stare and stare at that gaping hole — that ache or longing for something or someone — and we think we know why it’s empty.
For so many years I thought my prayers had remained unanswered because I had done something wrong. Or that I failed God in some way, or hadn’t had enough faith, or hadn’t prayed right, or sacrificed enough. For real. I have repented, fasted, declared, obeyed, sinned, run the gamut of emotions, and flip-flopped all over the place trying to understand.
I wonder if you’ll hear me when I say this: It’s never, ever been Father God’s intention that you would beat yourself up over this thing.
He’s a super great communicator. If you had done something wrong He would have let you know and once you dealt with that situation, it would be over; i.e., it’s never His intent to punish forever. He’s not mad at you, and holding something over you for what you did in 1985.
He’s a super great communicator. If He wanted you to do something in terms of obeying Him in an area, He would let you know, and that step of obedience would become important to you. I tell you it would. That’s His nature. Scripture says, “… for it is God who works within you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” We are so wired! to be in relationship with Him. Don’t go chasing after legalistic things you think you should be doing in order to find your answers.
He’s a super great communicator but just like any loving relationship worth having, He gently tugs us out of our navel-gazing, and sometimes victimized thinking. At times He gently cajoles us, pulls on our sleeve a bit. Sometimes we’re looking for a direct answer and He just wants to talk. Period. Instead of giving me answers He’ll say to me, “Watch this…” and He’ll show me something or someone that interests Him. Other times He’ll play Hide N’ Seek. We’re after our answers like a heat-seeking missile and He’s dodging behind doors and peeking at us to see if we’ll chase! Why? Because He loves us, and He loves being in relationship with us. Father God gets a great kick out of telling me riddles. Oftentimes I know its the Lord speaking because my next step will be in the form of a riddle. Remember this … no matter how He communicates with you, what He shares with you will always reflect His character and His nature. You’ll see His character and His nature reflected in Scripture. Get to know His ways with you.
My greatest treasure in life is to have had some unanswered questions over the course of perhaps 20 years. There is grace that accompanies any suffering, any lack, and there is an enormous blessing in every affliction. It’s up to you to find it.
Most of the time, with unanswered prayer, you’re not ever going to know why or when or how long or who but you have a wonderful opportunity to know the Holder of the ‘Why’, and He wants to hold you. In the midst of your heartache, He wants to hold you; He wants you to let the “holding it all together” go, even if its for a few minutes. You get so exhausted doing that … holding it all together.
Just let Him carry it for a few minutes. Let Him carry you.
Monkey bars. Do you remember them? They sort of beg you to hang upside down and look at the world from a different viewpoint, don’t they? It’s a structure so you’re either on the monkey bars or you’re not. You are either willing to climb and stretch and twirl. Or you’re not. And it’s okay, really. There’s always the teeter totter that will knock your chin into next week, if you like that sort of thing.
But, really. We’re all grown-ups here. And this is still the playground. And you can either see London, France and Stinky’s underpants, or not.
The big decisions come as little ones. Actually. They masquerade as, “So whaddya think?” And your answer to “Whaddya think?” sets the whole trajectory of your life. Or, at the very least, it exposes what is in your heart.
As a Christian I have at my fingertips the concept of Grace. And Christians are wildly prone to apply grace to themselves but be really super stingy when it comes to other people. We just do this. I don’t know where we learned it. And I’m really grossed out by that, and apologize. Yeah.
Grace, we’ll happily recite to you is unmerited favor. Awesome. Let’s throw a few Christianese jargon-y words in there so you can’t be on the team, once again. We’re still in Junior High apparently and picking teams, and if you know the words and how to use them then you’ll be picked to be on the team. Good grief. What a recollection. I hated Junior High and being the last one to be picked. Late bloomer. Whatever. I’ll need counseling after this.
Using other words I’d say that grace is about open-heartedness. It’s about giving the benefit of the doubt without requiring a person to change, without requiring that they give me, or anyone, all the precise details about how.you.got.here. In the first place.
That’s God’s nature. Actually. If we want to connect with Him in authentic relationship, that’s really how He rolls. Is it because He’s really artistic and does the broad stroke and misses detail? No. It’s because of His Son. And love. You know, love makes us all do really crazy things. And that’s what God is like. It doesn’t really matter where you’ve been or what this is all about. It’s about relationship.
Copeland produced a song called Brightest, and the lyrics are like this:
If you find yourself here on my side of town
I’d pray that you’d come to my door
Talk to me like you don’t know what we ever fought about …
To me, that’s what love looks like. Love just can’t figure out a reason to fight anymore. Like a surfer yields to the next wave, you lean into the equity of what you have together and just drop it. You let it all go, and yield to the covenants that you share with one another, whether its a lifelong commitment between best friends, or it’s a couple, or even siblings. It’s the best picture that I have for the way Father God is with us. Instead of looking at the mess, He just nods quietly and looks over at His Son. He sent His Son for our messes. Christ died the most gruesome death. But there was a purpose, so that Father could gaze at us, eye to eye. So that we could connect with Him. Father and Son. Father and Daughter.
Watch for real Love. Wait for it. Don’t accept the counterfeit. Because real love lets you be you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.