Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Saltless Oatmeal and Salty Christians

I took a bite of the oatmeal, and nearly choked.

With limited options to jump-start your body for the day, breakfast can be a challenge to enjoy. Sometimes, this is why I head for a salad, cold pizza, or simply down a green kale smoothie as quickly as possible.

When you take a mouthful of smooth, creamy oats, there should be subtle hints of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and last but not least, salt. Oats cooked without salt don't even deserve the name oatmeal. The pot is worth tossing before serving, and the oats worth choking on instead of swallowing.

I stared at the large pot of oats served to me that morning many years back, and I wanted the salt shaker desperately. Was it rude to ask for? The large pot of saltless oats sat in the center of ten hungry bodies, and I was convinced was sure cause for a doomed day.

A splash of salt could add so much flavor to my bowl. Without it, I finally choked down those oats.

Jesus says His disciples are the salt of the earth. A large earth full of human people doing all their own things is like a large pot full of oats with no flavor. Jesus wants His children to bring a splash of the good and real into the mush pot. Instead, we try to fit right in with the flavorless world as if we weren't supposed to be salt at all.

Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

You might want to toss out that saltless oatmeal and forget that the world often wishes it could toss out saltless Christians as well. A religious hypocrite is often worse to be around than a non-believer, but a disciple of Christ full of His Spirit brings life and light to all those around him.

Just as salt changes the flavor of the breakfast pot, so a Christian is to change the atmosphere around him. If we're not changing the atmosphere around us, we are not the salt of the earth. Truth is, whatever we are most engaged and in love with is what we will bring into the atmosphere wherever we go. 

Salt changes things. Salt makes one go from spitting out the oats, to appreciating each wholesome bite. A small amount of salt flavors large amounts of food, and a little sprinkle goes a long way.

A jar of tasteless salt takes up space in the cupboard and ends up a useless, annoying commodity. At first taste, we wish to toss the thing.

Christians void of Spirit inspired life are the same. They make noise but give no life. Jesus wants us to scatter life, joy, and His Presence everywhere we go; these are the marks of a true Christian. Anything less, and the world will turn up its nose and wish to avoid us.

When people spend time with you, surround them with flavor. Be the salt of the earth, and change your atmosphere with Spirit Presence! 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Broken is Better Than Brittle

In my mind's eye, I see the earth baked hard and brown for the vast expanse of it. If rain were to fall, it would cause rivulets of water to stream unchecked right over the brittle surface, falling down and away in a crystal stream over the edge.

Brittle can't absorb water like broken can. Break that earth, and it will absorb the water, softening its depths into soil made rich for seeds to grow.

Life broke me for awhile. I rather know what it's like to want to bash my head into the wall to relieve the pain and pressure. I kinda know that feeling of wondering what it would be like if that semi headed my way on the highway just crashed into my car. Of asking God, “Why is she dying of cancer, and not me?”

I know how to conjure every possible way to avoid and eliminate the things causing pain. I know how to spend endless hours of tension trying to tell my heart everything's OK—when I'm not OK.

Sometimes life brings the unexpected. The phone call comes, and your brother's disappeared into eighty feet of foreign water. You think he'll surely come walking along the bank, but he doesn't, and after three days they pull his limp body out.

You bury him on the mountain side, and stare at his coffin. It refuses to open, forever. His phone rings and your mother needs to answer it and tell one more person that her son is gone—and he's not coming back. The mountain side is wet, dark, and smelly, a blur of people until you climb into that long bus, head to a house you don't know, hit the pillow, and ask for sleep.

Broken is what we were. Here, there was no place for avoidance, no way to pressure the heart into being OK. We accepted it.

Flying through the clouds toward US soil, I realized that my heart felt as soft as they appeared. No need to bash my head against the wall or spend nights trying to find a mental way out. I was no longer afraid of being broken. I just was.

Here, I learned that broken is OK. Broken is better than brittle. Broken means love gets to pour in and grace holds my hand. Broken means truth over takes denial, and truth always, always sets us free—even if the truth is that we're so broken we don't know a way out, or around, or over.

The broken end is the first and only way to a whole new beginning. This is why, my friends, we need never, ever be afraid of broken things. Saving grace delivers us not only from sin, but from those places we avoid, skirt around, or deny. 

Saving grace helps us acknowledge the pain, then release the pain.

Your worst nightmare, though you don't know how to walk through it, may well become your greatest avenue to wholeness. Embrace your broken places—Jesus will meet you there with the truth about your pain, and then, with the truth of your deliverance. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

One Small Way........Helping Others Want to Live

I pulled the car out hastily.

It was loaded with recycle garbage, and the day was nearly over. I hoped the waste center would still be open, and I'd be able to unload a few months worth of plastic and tin into the large green bins before it was time for our guests to arrive.

Usually, people don't look too thrilled as they pull out smelly cans from their cars and sort them into the appropriate bins. But this time, I noticed a mother and her son working together in peace and obvious harmony.

The boy was near eleven years old, like my son at home who had loaded up my car for an attitude discipline. I commended him for helping his mother, to which he responded little.

A few moments later, I noticed the mother walking towards me. “My son would like to help you with your garbage,” she said with a smile.

This world doesn't boast of many helpful people now a days, so watching two people pull smelly garbage from my old mini van was a sight to behold. I felt nearly embarrassed, but they did it with such obvious joy.

I knew the mother had taught her son much before this day. Somehow she had taught him that giving is blessed. Somehow, she had integrated service into his daily life—or he'd never be serving a stranger by dealing with her smelliest job.

They pulled the last bag out of the car, and I thanked him sincerely. “You're a fine young man,” I told him. “Keep up this attitude and you will go far in life.”

He walked away shyly, while his mother gave a bright smile. And I pulled away thoughtfully.

If I hadn't blessed him with encouraging words, he most likely would never have wanted to help me out. Somehow, the words I spoke in the beginning, those few simple words of admiration for helping his mother had kindled something deep within his heart.

He wanted to help more when he was encouraged in what he was already doing.

Words bring out the best in people, or the worst. Today, let's watch for small ways to bless a heart. Let's keep our criticisms to ourselves—but more than leave the critics behind, we must join the life-givers.

We may be surprised at how much better the world goes round when we begin to speak words of encouragement purposefully. Proverbs 25: 11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” [ESV]

Women are meant to be life-givers. Bringing beauty into the world is one of the greatest things we do. Too often, we allow our emotions to take us into the ugly rather than the lovely.

Today, we don't need to hit the mall for a new wall hanging of gold and silver tones. A word well spoken brings beauty into our homes more than any amount of home d├ęcor will do.

A few days ago, I noticed a troubled looking teen walking out of the store. She looked wasted, as if her night had been troubling and she had little hope for the day. I paused, then spoke these words to her, “God has a beautiful purpose for your life. When you were created in the womb, the plan for you was good—and it will always be good.”

The blood shot eyes looked at me, and she thanked me before pulling away. I'd been hearing of one suicide after another, and asking the why's of it all. How can someone be so discouraged about life while the rest of us remain clueless—until we find the bodies hanging from the ceiling?

I remember feeling so alone and desperate that I wanted to bash my head open to release the pressure of it all. I'd see that semi barreling toward me on the highway, and wonder at the relief I'd feel if it all ended for me. I'd visit a friend with cancer and ask God why she's dying and I'm still alive.

People don't always appear full of despair when, in fact, they are. This is why bringing life to everyone around us should be our greatest prerogative—we may never know how much it's needed.

Someone should never feel alone and desperate when there are multitudes of God's people on this planet. It's just that we've gotten silent, absorbed in our own worlds, and sometimes even our own worlds aren't much more encouraging than theirs because we haven't tapped into the wonder of grace.

A few days ago I spoke sharp words to someone who had tried me to my limits. I apologized in tears, and later, I admired her work and told her I'd love to watch for awhile. She put in time and effort to move her tools and display her expertise—because it meant so much to her that someone saw her worth.

Get this—she needed my encouragement more than she needed me to fix her. Enough encouragement may lighten her steps so much that she just might walk lightly into the very things she needs [with no criticism at all].

The people who encourage me most are not those who love telling me what I do wrong. They are not those who quickly point out what I could do better. Those who bring a smile to my face and lightness to my steps are those who speak out life more than they point out death.

Are we focused on what others are doing wrong, or on the lovely already displayed in their lives? If you focus on the lovely, you will bring out even more good. On the contrary, if you focus on the bad, you may cause another to be so discouraged that they show even more ugliness.

I pull away from the waste center, and I ponder it all. I'm grateful for those few who've taught me that loving others best means you pull out the best in them. It means you speak out words on purpose. It means you engage them in what means most to them. You love the good in them more than you show disapproval of the needs they have.

People have given to me, and now I get to give to others. What if, on the parking lot or at the waste center, I get to help someone want to live fully, right where they are?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

How to be Your Child's Best Friend

I dropped her off in Seattle at 5:00 a.m., and whispered loud, “God, thank you for a mother like her.”

She had hugged me long before walking away. And when she walked away, somehow she stayed with me. Because no matter how many changes come, somehow her heart syncs with Christ's, and I'm in awe of her grace and presence of love.

My mother left a legacy of love behind her. She has more patience and grace for ten children than most have for two, and I'm watching her after thirty seven years so I can learn more of the Christ in her.

My mother cares little for earthly things, but much for heavenly. After, and even during raising her own ten kids, she'd bring in other kids who needed a home. She'd bring out the math books for those kids as well as her own, and she'd hold and nurture them at night just as she held her own.

Now that her ten are grown and most of us have left home, she has four girls in her home from three different families. Girls who need her love and care because they've been through more than girls should have to walk through at their ages.

She's reading books and learning all she can about helping others—and all the while she's serving her own family. 

My mother knew how to turn ancient old houses into cozy homes, how to serve her family without resenting it or thinking she'd be better with a career. She took what money she had, and multiplied it with her contentment. And no matter what, she always loved, laughed, and shared her heart with our own.

A child cannot make her mother her best friend. Only a mother can make herself worthy of that name. My mother did, even through those years many call turbulent teens. Somehow she knew how to require obedience while still holding the heart.

All ten of us knew beyond doubt that mama loved our hearts no matter how icky they were, and that, when our lives were blessed, she was happy enough to soar through the sky with joy. And when we were tots, all of us knew she was in charge and had the final say.

We didn't get to boss mama around because mama knew that kids in charge of their own lives bear too much weight on their shoulders—weight meant only for adults to carry. She led us to good places because we weren't wise enough to do so on our own.

We learned that mama meant what she said—and it was all said in love. And I asked her the other day, “Mom, how would you train your eleven year old son to clean his room as I've asked him to?”

“Consequences—I just wouldn't put up with it,” she replied.

I run upstairs and follow through. I know by her example that grace and love doesn't mean permissive disobedience. It's a bit like Christ, Whose love washes away sin.

Contrary to what some teach, Christ's love, when fully realized, removes sin from our lives rather than condones it. No one can know Love without being changed by that Love.

My mother knew that true love in her would guide is to Love Jesus truly—because isn't that what the heart was created for most of all? She knew that requiring obedience in love would ultimately enable us to know what Christ's gift of love really meant.

When we're not changed by Love, we don't truly know love.

If Love didn't change lives, it wouldn't be Love at all. 

Perhaps, rather than expecting Love to accept all things, we need to accept that Love changes all things. 

Love is what love is—and when you know Love, you do what love does.

What amazes me most about my mama is her lack of pride. She really doesn't care about any kind of persona—she's just her, and just being her means her heart is open wide to live and love with no agenda.

Her heart, it's kinda like an open book. You get to read it, and you also get to have your own heart read. Nothing's threatening because when love is, there's only growth to be found and love to be shared in the best days or worst. I think this is why Christ in her is so alive—because hasn't He said He's with the lowly, but abases the proud?

Kinda like all being human together rather than some of us trying to be super-human when we're not.

A week before mama came, I attended the funeral of my dear friend's mother. As I watched the family share, I observed a girl go up to the microphone who was not immediate family. Many years ago, she had been invited to my friend's home, and there she found love, belonging, and blessing enough to cause her to return many times over—and cry hardest at the beloved mother's funeral.

Another mother who left a legacy of love.

Today, what will you leave behind you? What are your priorities? What drives you most? What satisfies you?

Will you leave the world as barren of love as when you came, or will it be a better, richer, fuller place because of you?

Bring hearts to your own. Whether you have ten kids or two, love on them extravagantly—and then, dare to love even more.

Will your legacy be worthy of bringing you fruit, and will it praise you in the gates long after you're gone? [Proverbs 31:31] 

I drove home from Seattle with the sun rising above the mountains, and my thoughts twirling with life-giving truth. Early risers took to the four-lane freeway with me, and I'm impressed with how much can be accomplished so soon in a day.

It's a bit like life. What we choose to accomplish, we will. Because where our treasures are, there our hearts will be.

May our treasure be changeless love so we can bring love to a changing world. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to Find Life in a Thousand Ways

The sun's shining hot today, and I'm pushing the hoe into broken soil, furrowing rows long and deep.

Placing tiny seeds into soil and covering them up is a task for the trust filled. No one knows how, but those seeds actually bring forth life in the dark earth. Who knew that death for a seed could mean life for a family?

The kids run wild on the dusty farm that's being renovated for our friends. This massive place is a gift to our summers, as well as the people who own it. Eight kids learn gardening together, hoeing down rows of weeds in summer sun. They dip in the creek and run wild, chasing chickens and cuddling furry bunnies.

We all soak up heat from bon fires while spring peepers end their nightly song and the world goes silent under a dark sky.

Even the cows cease munching when the moon comes out. And here, we sit, thoughtful and quiet in the wake of another night.

The body needs rest just as the soul does.

Lately, we've all needed soul rest because we've gotten another call with dread news. They don't seem to end. This time, it's one of my dearest friends who's lost her mother in the blink of an eye before she could get there.

My heart breaks, tears apart a little. Losing a mother is no small thing. And on Easter, when we were all smiling and hunting eggs and I had looked into her face while we spoke of Christ rising in victory above all things in our lives—right about then, her mother rose to meet Jesus.

We didn't know it until later. And when she got the call that her mother died, it was hard to feel that she risen, instead.

It's more like news pounds us and hits so hard we go into shock. We're devastated beyond words. When it happened to me, I couldn't believe a person could go numb quite like I did.

Now, it's her.

I sit at my kitchen table the same day with my another friend who's just lost her mother. And I watched little ones a few weeks ago who had lost their mother a few years ago, when the boy was just a baby. Other friends have lost their brother, and it doesn't seem to stop, this saying good-bye thing.

Sometimes, we don't even get to say good-bye. They just slip away—we call it death.

My bare feet dig into soft, black soil, as I sacrifice clean feet for the feel of earth on my skin. My friend prays aloud over the seeds she's planting, and then places even rows of labeled markers at the end of each row.

That night I'm showering the day's dirt off my body, and He asks me if I'm willing to give up my fondest dream. I say it loud in my heart, a great big yes. I'm willing to die this death because my God is One of Life, and when He asks me to die to something, He always replaces it with life lessons I'd never learn if I hung on to what I wanted—or even thought I needed.

I know in my heart that if I were to die a thousand deaths, He would allow me to live a thousand blessings to replace them. This is why I hesitate less and less to let go of things I've held on to so tightly my knuckles became white.

God never, ever asks us to give something up without replacing it with something better. And when we hang on to what we want, we lose the peace we need most of all. We may run aside of God's will for us, but lose out more even when we think we've gained.

Because what the soul needs most of all is to die to itself so that new life can come. When the heart breaks wide open, rather than close it up tightly, we need to leave it open and broken so that Love can pour itself all the way into the deepest cracks.

When you cover up, close up, and curl into a tight ball of avoidance, Love doesn't get to seep inside.

It's OK to be broken. Christ came to make us whole, and He can't make us whole if we're not broken first of all.

It's OK to feel like you've lost it all. It's Ok to let go, to release the very thing you thought your life depended on. Because when you let go, you get to hang on even better. Hanging onto God Himself, means you're safe—from all of it.

I pick up the phone to call my friend who's lost her mother . She doesn't answer. I know the feeling of having the life drained right out of you so hard you can't even answer your phone.

My heart breaks for her. It's going to be a long road through grief. Walking into your mother's empty craft room the months before Christmas, alone, when you've always created gifts together wouldn't be easy.

But how could our loved ones meet Jesus if they stayed here, clothed in their earthly bodies? How could they know their greatest joy if their spirits hadn't let go of mortality? How can immortality be known without the death of mortal bodies?

Do we know, right in our tears, that letting go means abundant life? That when we get the call, and our hearts go down, our loved ones are rising high?

And us still alive on this planet, when we die a thousand deaths, when we release the things God is asking us to give up, we can know beyond doubt that following through means we get to live a thousand blessings.

Because God never asks you to die without promising you life. He only asks you to die temporarily so you can live eternally. 

I push the seeds into black earth, and I smile.

No one but God could bring life out of death. And I trust Him fiercely.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Flax Seed Brownies

Flax Seed Brownies

Take note, sisters, there's a brownie recipe so nutritious you could eat it for breakfast--but it's still delicious!  My man loves them as well, which is a huge success! [Most men, we know, wrinkle noses at the mere thought of flax seed in brownies ;)]

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 & 1/2 cups golden flax meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar or 3/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips, divided

Mix all ingredients together except 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Pour into greased 8x8 pan, sprinkle 1/2 cup chips on top, and bake @ 350* for 15 minutes.

 Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Obsessed with a Promise

I gazed out the window into the heavens, the expanse gloriously splashed with vibrant hues of pinks, oranges, and blues. My eyes were dazzled.

But then, I squinted. Before me on the window was a small speck, and I rubbed at it vigorously. I had just washed the windows, but somehow missed this one. It was small, almost microscopic, but I wanted it gone. And I forgot about the brilliant sky for a minute.

I clean with vinegar and essential oils, but for a moment I wondered if it was worth it. Natural cleaners don't always work as well as those chemicals we all wish wouldn't exist in our world.

With a jolt, I realized I was missing the sun dipping beneath the horizon over the water. Obsessed with a small speck of dust while missing this beauty? 

Isn't this what we do when we allow people and things to rob us of joy and peace? Didn't God know this when He called it “peace that passes understanding”? Somehow He wanted us to know that when there was no earthly reason to have peace, it would still be available, and we were promised it.

In scripture, there are at least 3000 promises from God's heart to ours [some sources cite as many as 7000]. Not a soul can disarm you when you claim them for yourself. That's a lot of promises!

These promises are the banner over our souls; the deciding factor of whether or not there is good in store for us.

Feeling dry? Broken? Barren?

When we release difficulty or pain, we align ourselves with the truth that God is, after all, greater than mankind and He has the last say. He promises that we will draw water from the wells of salvation with joy. I picture the heavens full of promise for me, while I allow one person or circumstance to render them useless in my life. I picture placing that thing right in place of God and ignoring the expanse of glory He offers me while I focus on the microscopic rather than the Omniscient.

Allowing others to take our peace or “ruin” our lives is like ignoring a brilliant sunset because there's a speck on the window. Focusing on the speck robs us of beauty and brings the speck into focus rather than grand beauty splashed across the heavens for the expanse of many miles.

He promises that we will draw water from the wells of salvation with joy. Water always brings life; joy does away with depression and sadness.

He promises both, but see this—we must draw it, and draw it from a certain well. Most wells hold little water, but this well of salvation holds ample supplies of crystal water that can quench any thirst. But we must draw it; that is, reach for it, receive it, and gaze into it more than at the speck on the window.

In your need, in your bewilderment of what to do, in your despair over this or that, pursue Christ, the Gift-Giver who has thousands of promises wrapped up just for you. Draw from them with joy.

Hand your cares over, and trust Him. Nothing that robs you of promised joy is worth keeping you from the gift most people only long for, but never receive. Here, it is offered to you. Surrender your will to His, follow hard, and release all odds to His control.

The perfection of Christ will never be fully realized through imperfect people. If we base our experience of an Infinite Creator on a finite creation, we will be disappointed and in danger of never fully experiencing grace.

We need Perfect Love more than we need perfect people.

Embrace your journey. Accept another's imperfection. They are in need, just like you. There are reasons for their behavior, just as there are reasons for your own. And only a good God Who invites us to draw from the well of salvation is able to heal and save us all.

Know that God is all He says He is, and so much more. Refuse to allow fallen nature to diminish a Risen Savior.

Expect others to fail you; then, you will be surprised when they don't rather than devastated when they do. Never expect perfection from imperfect people—perfection is embodied in God.

See this—we are dependent not on people, places, spouses, or family, but on God. He never fails, never leaves, never dies, and never sins against us. He only heals, saves, loves, and brings joy.

Keep releasing your circumstances today, tomorrow, and the next. If you do, you will find yourself enjoying the brilliance splashed across the heavens in varying hues, and you will know your gift of joy, drawn from the well of salvation.

Because you've been saved from anything fallen that would keep you from rising.

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.
With joy you will draw water from the well of salvation.” [Isaiah 12: 2&3, ESV]

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