On Loving Los Angeles and Listening

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I look around. I find myself in the land of Canaan, this Los Angeles-land that the Lord told me to confidently enter and occupy. So many words and promises led me here. It all looks so different now.

When I first got the word to occupy the land, to dwell in it, and cultivate faithfulness, I did not see all the ways that I would fall flat on my face. I couldn’t perceive the way my nose would drill into the ground like some kind of woodpecker because my hands and arms would not once break my fall. Somehow the promise that I would not be hurled headlong remains true. Yet the reality of having taken more than a few social, emotional and financial face plants is no less true.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. — Psalm 37:23-24

From the outer periphery of the vision and His calling me to LA, I peered in saw nothing but fruit. Promises fulfilled. I was called. I believed I would make a difference. Is Los Angeles more beautiful now that I’ve been here? Does her face seem more washed, her edges a bit more soft and loved? Each of us, called to live here and pour out love, takes a hit for our efforts.

We pay a steep price for love … this beautiful City of Angels.

From the yawning city streets that are still lined with trash, I look upward and wonder. The price I’ve paid for this vision cannot be measured. It has cost me everything. I could decorate my walls with the costly parking tickets I’ve paid.

Here I will dwell.

When God chooses Zion as His dwelling place, He selects the choicest of places. We know that He indeed chooses Israel as a nation and a people group, but specifically He chooses Zion… a place within a place. He also chooses to dwell in the hearts of mankind. Our hearts. The choicest place within our hearts. Not the outer edges. Not the crunchy parts of our hearts but the hidden, lush places … here I will dwell.

I have had the privilege of watching specific third world countries change over the course of time; becoming more civilized, cleaner, healthier, all because people choose to invest in the people and in the land. Love beautifies a heart. Love beautifies nations. Love beautifies Los Angeles.

For the Lord has chosen Zion;
He has desired it for His habitation.
“This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” — Psalm 132.13-14

He has called me here to shout Love! to Los Angeles. And I have. Her streets have received His love, as I’ve poured it out. There have been days and stretches when I have forgotten to tell her that Father loves her. But simply because I am fully and completely loved, I carry love. I carry transformation and reconciliation on my shoulders just as the priests of old carried the ark of the Covenant on their shoulders.

It is our privilege to partner with God to love specific people, cities, nations, knowing full-well that we are not alone. Others walk beside us pouring out their love, investing their talents and and letting their laughter ring in the streets. We don’t always get to see the full transformation of a land. With the new year I open myself quietly to hear His voice, reiterating the words He has spoken or to hear a new direction. Each of us has long since released our control over the how, why, and where of His calling. We have already paid the price … love always costs us everything.

And so it is with the the Zion of our hearts we listen. Where to dwell? Whom shall we love?

The results are not up to us and I’m not measured by my results.

I’m measured by the intentions of my heart.

The Mystery That Is You

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It’s been a few years since I’ve worked with men and women to help them find emotional freedom, but it’s during this time of year when I would see the telltale signs of things unraveling for friends and loved ones. I so wish they could see themselves as a very lovely, intricate package of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects which requires a safe and healthy climate in which to thrive. It’s sometimes challenging for me to observe a loved one reaching out for help when they cannot yet understand the mystery of their own heart.

Friend you don’t realize that you carry unresolved anger but you are frequently ill or on edge. You don’t perceive that you are grieving a loss but you can’t seem to get past the mid-80’s when that happened. You build walls of excuses around yourself until that wall closes you off from everyone in your life. Hopelessness consumes you, but you do not stop the process, and set things right for yourself.

Life is swirly. All the experiences that we have in a day or a year affect our lives in multiple ways: circumstances out of our control, feeling invisible, feeling rejected by a friend, ongoing disagreement with a loved-one, never fitting in. If we don’t learn how to express how we feel we eventually become a walking timebomb of toxic thoughts and feelings; these result in ended relationships, chronic illness, depression, college drop-out, broken marriages, unemployment, and homelessness.

As the Christmas holiday rolls in, make a commitment to know yourself. Find a friend that you can trust, with whom you can explore the beautiful mystery of you. It might take from now until next Christmas before you laugh again but you will not regret it. Allow your Heavenly Father to unveil the mysteries of Himself in this process as well. You might be surprised to find that He was there all the time…through the good, the bad, and the ugly. But most of all you will be able to embrace each holiday with laughter and thanksgiving. What a gift to give to yourself! Hope, Laughter, Joy, and Love!


But Now I See…

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 It’s not often that I can see. Really see.  

And yet there are moments when Father gives the ability to look into His eyes and see that place that He has been speaking to us about. Regardless of what twist in the road we currently find ourselves on, we recognize that place as the fulfillment of the promises He’s spoken over us.

For some it is a vast place where children are fed, sheltered, educated, and where fresh water flows freely.

For others it is a deeply personal place where freedom reigns within and longed-for healing washes over us and on to our sons and daughters.

For some the place we see is an extension of ourselves in the marketplace …where truth and Kingdom stuff happens as a result of our day-in and day-out pursuit of His glory while making bricks in the land of Egypt.

 For still others it is a place where we are laid-down lovers of the King and His love emanates from the work of our hands, touching nations.

 The birth of Isaac must have caused that kind of keen insight for Abraham and Sarah of the Old Testament. In Genesis 21 it says, “And Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.’”

The complete fulfillment of the legacy made to Abraham would come later through Jacob, and the naming of the twelve tribes of Israel. Nevertheless Abraham had in this moment a glimmer into the complete fulfillment of the promise, just like I’m talking about. Those moments are brief, and we usually respond with at least the thought, “This is what I’m created for!”

In those moments we can see into that place He’s called us to and we recognize the dreams He planted in the soil of our hearts. We can see where they germinated in darkness and began to take root. Like Sarah we feel the laughter bubble up within us and overtake our being. We can smile easily with belief and with faith in His goodness toward us. And if we look closer we don’t even see ourselves actually because we’ve come to be hidden in the secret places of Christ. We only see the fruit and the laughter. The knowing, like Isaiah expresses so deftly, “This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad …”

The journey has not been for naught, Friend. The sharp turns and deserts have been for our good.

Let us find our footing in His heart once again….till again we see.

House of Love

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Not long ago circumstances were such that I felt a terrific stress lifted off of my shoulders. I felt myself sort of looking around, and wondering why my heart was quiet all of a sudden. The reasons for the peace were numerous, among them was the ability to pay off some debts. It’s hard to describe the hope that seemed to steal into my heart. I think, in a way, you could say that I’ve begun to carve out some space for me…pursuing things that are deeply important to me, and not waiting for a better year.

The other night friends and I had dinner at M’s in the Old Market. I had a lovely Sangiovese from a Willamette Valley vineyard, and they fearlessly dove into brews new and old. She had a Flat Tire and he did not offer to fix it. A leisurely four hours together found us wandering down the paths of old memories, and reliving them together. We laughed until we cried. I came away feeling so rich and full, and in my heart I was reminded of that same peace and bubbly joy. Where was it coming from?

If you do not know me you wouldn’t appreciate the intensity with which I charge at life. It’s great guns ahead with this girl. Analytical until it hurts. The numbers call the shots, not the feelings. In fact, feelings are so confusing that I find myself blogging on joy, in an effort to understand.

That’s it! It’s joy!

This is what joy feels like! Joy. It’s a mish-mosh of believing you’re loved and worthy of love; of being rested and at peace enough to stop and feel; and then moving beyond “doing the right thing” all the time. It’s a combination of living loved and giving it away. Joy is about loving myself, and respecting myself enough to say ‘no’ to some things, and ‘yes’ to others. Scripture says that if you try to save your life you will lose it, and if you willingly lose your life you will find it. God’s economy is always upside down to our thinking. Yet I think sometimes we try to find ourselves by giving more of ourselves than we really had to give…sort of like overdrawing on a bank account. In doing so, the portrait of who we are begins to crumble at its edges. Yet, if we take love all of the time, and never give it away, it will slip through our fingers and we will continue with that vacant gnawing in our soul.

I can’t help but think of the old song that Amy Grant made popular in the 90’s, House of Love.

Sometimes life is funny

You think you’re in your darkest hour

When the lights are comin’ up in the house of love.

Wishing you the surprises of joy and love as this glorious Summer inches it’s way into Fall.

Perilous Peaks of Awkwardness

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Not too long ago I had the inexpressable joy of attending a party and running into a former romantic interest … together with his new fiance. Ah! What have I done, and whom have I angered in order to gain such an opportunity?

As this Unrequited Love made his way around my friend’s home, glad-handing old friends and schmoozing strangers, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had once been so enamored with him, so enthralled by his charm. Not that he was unclean, but he reminded me of Pigpen, the Charles Schulz cartoon character as he wandered around, leaving a billowing trail of unresolved conflicts and unfinished conversations in his wake. As I headed into the kitchen, it certainly felt like I was the one with a terrible headcold and a dearth of dateable men. It certainly felt like I was acutely alone, and not quite able to hide the extra ten pounds of fluff that has accompanied me this past year. I poured myself some lemonade and snarled at the yummy looking treats on the dessert table…certainly they’d been my companions far too often during the cold winter evenings. When another acquaintance walked up and asked the inevitable question, I clutched with disbelief. “So, are you seeing anyone?”, she asked. So this is how it feels! Thus far I’d only read about these perilous peaks of awkwardness. Since she wanted to tell about her own dating life more than she really wanted to know about mine, I listened meekly and later, excused myself and headed for home.

One of my favorite authors, Ann Kiemel, said this many years ago, “We all have a place of stretch in our lives. It’s what makes us strong. Rich people have troubled children, and poor people have healthy marriages and brilliant kids. It’s what makes us long for God with our whole being.”

And so I’ve given you a glimpse of one such place in my life but I would add this to Ann’s comment…we often do not realize that we are the ones who are rich. The truth is that we all suffer a private battle of some sort. Our failing is not that we are faced with situations that cut us to the quick. Rather it’s in believing that we are somehow poverty-stricken, and unable to do anything about them. Each one of us has so much in our lives that is rich and good and beautiful, things to make us laugh and love and hope.

“Don’t let your longing slay your appetite for living.” — Elizabeth Elliot

Your Furry Underbelly is Showing…

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One of my absolute favorite movies is Sliding Doors (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow and yummy John Hannah. It’s an interesting movie, if you’ve never seen it. The plot splits, and two separate plots develop based upon Paltrow’s decision to force her way onto a departing train or to let it go and wait for the next one. The viewer is able to follow the separate storylines because in one Paltrow cuts her hair short and in the other her hair is long. The two stories weave together at the very end and you are left wondering, even having to decide for yourself, which was her reality.

The main premise of the movie is that our destiny is not driven so much by the big decisions but our everyday choices. To catch this train or wait for the next. To put ourselves out there, once again, and suggest we meet over coffee. [Segue…] I’m often told that I will meet my husband if only I would get out more, take ballroom dance classes or date online, etc. etc. Really? Do you think that we have to put forth that much effort to meet our lifelong companion, lover and best friend? I don’t. When we give ourselves over to our Father’s purposes He works it out. It’s while we’re on our own everyday journey, pursuing the interests and dreams that He’s placed in our hearts, that He brings us into contact with our lifelong relationships, those people to whom we’ll show our furry underbelly …forever.

Early in the movie, Gwyneth Paltrow drops an earring in a crowded elevator and John Hannah picks it up and hands it to her. For him, it’s a cha-ching! moment. He notices her, and tries repeatedly to strike up conversation. Later on they encounter one another and John Hannah again tries to connect with Gwyneth. On all occasions, she is completely oblivious to his attention. She had just lost her job, and her current man friend, John Lynch, is an all-around cad. He plays the part convincingly. Gwyneth goes through some dark waters before she’s thinking clearly again but since John Hannah persists at being becoming her friend through several seasons, they eventually connect.

I remember deciding to visit a church on the other side of town on the night of a blizzard. Before I began the 15 mile drive, I wanted to bail but decided to go anyway. Having newly relocated from the southeast, I hadn’t driven in snow, let alone a blizzard in ten years! Yet, that evening I wound up talking with a gal who has since become one of my dearest friends. Some of life’s wildest rides have been with my friend Kim, and we’ve howled with laughter until we couldn’t breathe. Good stuff. Would I have connected with her on another occasion? Quite likely. But there are some people who you know as soon as you meet them that they will be in your life forever. Kim is one of those people for me.

Whether a husband, wife or gal/guy pal, lifelong friends are worth waiting for. They are worth fighting for. Our friendship was nearly lost to us through a series of misunderstandings and mistakes Kim and I both regret deeply. For a year we both tried to justify our silence. Authentic sorrow, repentance and forgiveness had to come from the heart, for both of us. We learned so much about ourselves, our natural inclination toward selfishness. It’s a friendship that has been severely tested and tried but it’s stronger as a result. We’re both thoughtful about the way we value one another after all this. It reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice for us. He layed down His life for us, and that’s the gold standard for a friendship, “Greater love has no man than he that lays down his life for a friend.” (John 15:13)

Who are your lifelong friends? Do they know?