Time after time

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If you’re an 80s child like I am, then it’s a veritable impossibility that the name “Cyndi Lauper” means nothing to you. Her orange hair and multilayered skirts are an iconic testament to the rowdiness (and fun) of that decade. Yes, I donned the side-swept bouffant and neon-speckled clothes a couple of times while lip-synching “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun“. One of my favorite songs of hers, though, has always been “Time After Time” (Eva Cassidy’s version is, in my opinion, FAR superior. The woman had serious pipes. Listen to it. A-MAzing.)

In this middle of the song, Cyndi penned a tender moment of what I like to think of  as a person’s decision to walk with Christ:

Sometimes you picture me –
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said –
Then you say – go slow –
I fall behind –
The second hand unwinds

I often think about my pre-Christian life, when I made my own path and listened to the world. I know He was calling me, but I couldn’t hear Him over the swell of the world’s enticing sin-buffet. I was deaf, blind, and lame in my sin.

He kept calling. Time after time.

Then one day, I stopped, turned around, and heard Him. He healed me. He opened my ears, eyes, and taught me how to walk in His way.

Many times since I have fallen in line behind Him on the path, He has whispered, “Go slow. Seize this moment, don’t waste it.”

Time is one of those intangible, relative things that is just out of my reach. I wonder:

  • How much time do I have left?
  • How well am I using the time I do have?
  • How can Jesus unwind the second hand on my previous sin-filled life and tell me, “All is forgiven, Heather. It is finished. Your debt is paid.”

Then I think about about how God’s timing, something I can’t imagine or understand, saves me when I least expect it.

Yesterday morning, I was stopped at the entrance of my subdivision, bracing myself for work and traffic and life. A brick-red truck was down the road a bit. He wasn’t speeding and I could have pulled out in front of him. But I heard God whisper, “Go slow.” So I waited. The truck passed and I eased in behind it. Less than half a mile up the road is a traffic light. Yesterday, it switched to Go-green a breath of a second before the truck and I neared the intersection. He signaled a left blinker and began his turn when a speeding car collided into him. The driver didn’t apply brakes. Didn’t slow or swerve. Simply plowed into the truck, totaling both vehicles.

After the dust settled and the adrenaline waned, I thanked God for not giving up on me.  I thanked Him for calling out to me time after time. I thanked Him for His whispers of:

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you; I’ll be waiting
Time after time

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Writer in training

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My good friend, Mike, over at A ‘Mike’ for Christ revealed his writing process in the post, “The Most Persnickety Writer You Might Know” . He asked me to discuss my own writing process.

Let me start by telling you I don’t really have a process. I’m what they call in the writing world, a “pantser”. That means, I write by the seat of my pants. No plan. No outline. Just go-with-the-flow writing. This doesn’t always work well when it comes to production. That’s obvious from how infrequently I post. Probably why I never finished those thriller novels I started, either…

I have noticed though, that as my relationship with my Father grows, He is developing a process of sorts in me. He is showing me how He works in my life, how He encourages the unleashing of my creative tiger, that voice of authenticity that sounds its “Yawp” from the rooftops.

Of  Seeds and Happy Dances

God plants a seed. It usually takes a few times before I realize I need to pay attention. Sometimes I can almost hear Him happy-dancing His way across Heaven, calling out, “She finally got it!”

Before proceeding, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I love words. OK, OK, it’s not a secret. But words are to a writer what art supplies are to a painter. I love stuffing myself on all-you-can-read buffets. I read incessantly. My hubby says I have a sickness and should seek help (is there a Book Lovers Anonymous?) because I salivate when I see a bookstore. He’s joking. Kinda… I think he just doesn’t want to have to build me any more bookcases.

I have notebooks overflowing with new words and their definitions or words used in unique ways (Don’t get me started on my notebooks! I also salivate in office supply stores. Sigh.). Pages and pages of word pairings from a game I force, er, urge friends and family to play (Adjective/Noun game…oh how I miss you!) fill random spirals and restaurant napkins. Not to mention the thousands of pages stuffed with thoughts, ideas, journal entries, Bible studies, and the random things that pop into my head. Perhaps I am a word scavenger, subsisting on consonants and vowels. God created me that way, after all.

God plants His word-seeds through:

  • a whisper
  • an advertisement
  • a blog post
  • a book
  • a conversation
  • a song
  • an article
  • the nooks and crannies where words linger

It’s About Time!

My “process” for blogging is quite different than my process for writing my novel. So for now, I’ll focus on blogging.

Once God plants the word-seed, and I feel it nestled in the soil of my heart, I start the feeding. I spend time reading, researching, praying, and having a lot of conversations. I love talking out my thoughts with Lady Di and Cori over a cuppa coffee and an open Bible in our booth.

I don’t like to write the word-seed right away because I need time to work out the kinks. Not the word’s kinks. MY kinks. I still consider myself a “new” Christian. So I want to make sure I “get” what God is sharing with me before I share it with my readers. I want to be true to Him, true to His Word, and true to who He created me to be.

All Systems Are Go

It can take days of feeding the seed before I post. Sometimes weeks or months will pass before I am ready. I know that God’s timing is not my timing. His plans are bigger and better than mine. So I wait. I remain. I still the chaos around me or the excited kid inside me. I listen. I hope.

And then, I feel God tap me on the shoulder, and badda-bing, badda-boast out pops a post.

Sometimes I look back over my posts and I can’t remember writing them. Those are the ones that I know I followed God’s process and not my own. Because when I try it my way, I force the words, I fret over the smallest details, I try too hard.

But I’m learning to listen to Him. I learning to wait for the tap.

Thanks,  Mike, for inviting me to share my process.

It began at a tree

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IMG_1719I often wonder what pre-sin freedom felt like. The complete and total peace of love, community with God, and the joy of simply being. The not worrying about waking up with bed hair or bad breath or crusty eyes because self-consciousness didn’t exist. Swaying to the twisting, twirling dance of truth. Knowing and accepting and saying, “It’s enough. You, God, are enough.”

Did Eve wake up that morning—you know the one where it began—fully rested and meander, naked and unashamed, through Eden’s canopy-lined pathways to discover Adam had prepared a breakfast feast? Did she laugh as Adam juggled figs? Did she put a daisy behind her ear and hum a God-kissed melody? Did she bask in the warmth of the young sun? Were the colors Crayola bright and the sounds Dolby clear?

I wonder how often she passed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Was it shrouded in darkness? Did she even notice it? Or did she so completely and totally trust God that the tree meant nothing and just living with Him, for Him meant everything?

As she pushed her way through the garden of life-giving branches and ran her fingers through their vibrant leaves, did she see the slithering serpent or hear him? Did he frighten her or was she merely curious about him? As he spoke to her, planting sinister seeds of doubt, did he grin?

Did the sin-seed sprout inside her, causing her to see the tree in the middle of the garden differently? Or did her lack of faith and trust transform the way she saw the tree?

Her once harmonious, stable life was thrown off kilter by an inharmonious tree.

Genesis 3 tells us that, to Eve, the tree’s fruit looked delicious. Fruit she had seen every day with no desire to taste. Because God was enough.

But the wild and shrewd serpent whispered poison into her ears and Eve suddenly had a craving for the fruit’s wisdom.

Sin disguised as delicious, wisdom-giving fruit.

Sin began in the middle of a garden. Sin began at a tree.

The tree that meant nothing changed everything.

Years later, God sent us a Savior, One who survived the serpent’s venomous promises and Whose eyes remained focused on a tree. A tree in the shape of a cross. A tree where sin—Eve’s, Adam’s, yours, mine—would be pierced, crushed, beaten, and whipped into Jesus. A tree where He, carrying the full weight of our transgressions, would be hanged, suffer and die. For sin. All sin. Sin that began at a tree.

The reconciliation had to happen where it all began.

You look just like Him

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My nephew is precious. Every day, he grows, morphs. Sometimes several days will lapse before I see him again, and I am amazed at how much he has changed. Whether it’s a mannerism or a look or even his height.

Could he be any cuter?

Could he be any cuter?

My sister and I are planning his first birthday party. Truthfully, the party is a celebration of survival. The adoption journey has been a tough one for the whole family, but especially for my sister and brother-in-law. You’d never know it, though, by looking into their eyes. They have nothing but love and tenderness for their son. He is a joy and has given them joy.

Any time people see him, they can’t help but smile.

How could you NOT smile when seeing such a beautiful baby?

How could you NOT smile when seeing such a beautiful baby?

People also say how much he looks like my brother-in-law. And he does. Except for the nose. He has my sister’s nose.

I started thinking about how, as Christians, we are adopted, too. Into God’s family.

  • God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:5
  • See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
  • So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.  And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Romans 8:15-17

He chose us. He sacrificed for us. And he looks in our eyes and pours out His love, mercy, tenderness, and grace upon us.

My hope is that when people see me in public, they smile and tell me how much I look like my Father. Actually, I hope they don’t see me. I hope they see Him in me. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

 

The lost one

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Tornadoes touched down Sunday in a small town a little over an hour north of where I live in Oklahoma. Initially, news reports speculated two people had died in the storm. This morning, however, reports indicate one confirmed death. I didn’t know the person. I’m not even sure his/her name has been released to the public. But somebody out there is experiencing loss today. Not just the loss of a loved one but the loss of tornadic devastation.

I saw another news report about sixteen people who died in the same storm in Little Rock, AR.

I thought about how that number—16—seems so much bigger than one. I thought about how easily the one in Oklahoma can be lost among the sixteen in Arkansas.

That made me think of another time where numbers were significant.

Jesus and His disciples docked their boat and trekked up the hill to a small village in the Decapolis. It was a Gentile village, so Jesus was showing His disciples how He wanted to expand His ministry to the “unclean”. As the small group approached the outskirts of town, a wild beast of a man accosted them on the hillside. Naked and wild-eyed, the man bore little resemblance to a human anymore. He resided among the dead in the tombs. The townspeople had failed to contain him, so they left him to his misery. Broken chains hung from his wrists like iron reminders of his imprisonment. Blood dripped from the self-inflicted gashes in his skin. Filth spewed from his pores and his mouth. “What do you want from me?” he asked Jesus.

In the same breath, he begged Jesus not to torture him. A tortured soul asking not to be tortured? Can you even fathom that level of darkness?

Jesus recognized the evil within him and commanded the impure spirit to leave the man.

In a nearby field, some men were tending to several herds of pigs totaling two-thousand. They tended to pigs, but not to the man. I wonder if they had stopped seeing him.

Jesus saw him. Not the demon-crazed, tomb-bound man. He saw the man within. The human being crying out day and night, begging for mercy.

The demon called himself Legion. I always wondered if that name had some sort of evil meaning, but I read somewhere that was the largest unit of the Roman army, containing three-to-six-thousand soldiers.

Did the man have a legion of demons in him? A whole army of evil battling against his very soul? Perhaps, because “Legion” asked, nay begged, Jesus to grant permission (demons don’t TELL Jesus anything! They must bow to His power!) to enter the pigs.

Jesus agreed and the man was freed.

Immediately the herd of pigs rushed to the cliff and plummeted to the water below.

The people of the town were furious. How dare Jesus allow two-thousand innocent pigs to die all for one man! They vomited their disdain at Him and deigned to tell Him to never return to their village.

They got caught up in the numbers. Two-thousand pigs versus one man. (Mark 5:1-20)

But Jesus saw him, He had compassion on him, and He saved him. And to Jesus, one IS important: “There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away” (Luke 15:7).

This story of the demon-possessed man can be quite haunting, but I find it comforting to know that even though I am just one person, I am an important one to Him.

May we pray for the families of the sixteen in Arkansas, the one in Oklahoma, and the other one, the lost one, the one that matters, always, to Him.

Stormy weather

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Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley (five minutes north of the border of Mexico) meant we had two seasons: Summer and My-Sunglasses-Melted-In-The-Car-So-Can-We-Please-Get-Back-to-Summer Summer. When temperatures dipped into the mid-60s for all of five minutes, people donned parkas and Uggs. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the non-scorching summer months. God blessed us with the rustling of palm fronds from Gulf of Mexico breezes. The occasional hurricane saturated the soil but foretold that God would kiss the air with the decadent aroma of orange blossoms and grace the trees with lemons, grapefruits, and navel oranges. After I left home to attend college and attempt adulthood, I lived in the Hill Country, Austin, and eventually settled northeast of Dallas. The further north I journeyed, the more seasons I enjoyed. I even experienced snow a couple of times! We had a saying in Texas: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute…”

In the Valley, that saying didn’t apply because temperatures vacillated between tolerable, hot, and ghost-pepper hot. But in the Dallas area, the saying made sense.

Than I moved to Oklahoma. And I am pretty sure the “Texas” saying finds its origins here, in the Sooner state.

Exhibit A:

Cerulean sky

Cerulean sky

A couple of weekends ago, God smiled on us with this picture-perfect sky. The clouds danced, regally, elegantly amidst the cerulean canvas. I grabbed my camera, snapped a few shots then went back inside.

I placed my camera back in its case, sat in my chair, picked up my book and the door opened with my hubby beckoning me outdoors to take in the magnificent sky.

“Saw it,” I said. “Even have the pictures to prove it.” (I’m an indoorsy person, so I have to take pictures to prove I’ve actually ventured outside…)

“Not that sky. The new one,” my hubby said.

New sky? Seriously?

“And bring your camera,” he said, closing the front door behind him.

Book down, camera in hand, I headed outside. Again.

Exhibit B (or what I saw…):

Something's a brewing

Something’s a brewing

Maybe three minutes had elapsed between the first and second pictures.

Three short minutes turned dancing clouds into rumbling, boiling, churning clouds. My brilliant blue sky lie buried beneath an angry black and grey bruise.

Seeing such a rapid transformation made me realize just how quickly our personal sky can change.

A car accident, a prayed-for pregnancy, cancer test results, a marriage proposal. From one minute (or second) to the next, our world is different.

The disciples experienced this in a very literal as well as metaphorical way when they were on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. One minute, everything was blue skies and peace. The next minute, the storm rolled in and knocked around their boat and their faith.

They panicked and woke the sleeping Messiah. Rather than address their obvious lack of faith in Him, He commanded the storm, “Silence! Be still!” (Mark 4:39a). One commentary I read said that “Be still” in the Greek meant to not only calm down, but to remain calm.

That is interesting to me. Remain calm. Though He was speaking directly to the storm, He was also speaking to His disciples…and to us. No matter the weather, we need to remain calm.

Once the wind and waves obeyed His charge, He turned to His disciples and asked why they were so afraid. “Do you still have no faith?” He asked. After all they had witnessed, all Christ had said and done, they still wavered, doubted.

It’s easy to get caught up in the stormy moments of life and let the diagnosis, the test result, the breakup, the accident dictate our actions and reactions. But we need to remember that underneath the black and grey sky waits a sky of peace and light. If only we could remain calm.

If only we could never lose faith, and remember that, though Christ may be sleeping, He will still the storm.

Getting to the root of the Word

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When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. Not because I skipped class or sassed my teachers or caused problems, but because I was a bit of a non-conformist. One thing you should know about me is that I love hats and there’s nothing better than a hat on a bad hair day. Trust me when I say that, in the 80s, I had LOTS of bad hair days. I had that whole lion-mane-mall-bangs look. Plus I lived in Texas, and as the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas, especially the hair. So yeah, I donned many a hat. And wearing hats was against “the rules”…unless you were a guy. Can anyone say “double standard”? I pretty much loathe double standards. Always have.

So I “voiced” my annoyance at the seemingly bogus rule by wearing hats to school. Each time I did, my first period teacher would send me to the principal’s office where we’d have chats about everything from rules to politics to the future of education. That poor man listened patiently while I unloaded my frustrations about the world and sports. Yes, sports. It was Texas. Sports were/are king, queen, AND the royal court. I was a theater geek. We were the foppish jesters, rogues and vagabonds, begging for funding. I digress…

I look back on that time and think of how much easier things could have been for me had I just conformed to the rules. The hat rule wasn’t the only one I broke. There were a couple of others that involved discrimination. More double standards. Nicknames preceded and followed me down halls and into classrooms. More than I can remember, or more than I want to remember. They weren’t all bad, mind you, but they weren’t my name.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was sitting in my booth with my friends, Cori and Lady Di, I read a verse that God had put on my heart: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Cori, who was struggling with some things, honed in on the “testing” portion of the scripture. Lady Di focused on understanding the perfect will of God. I, on the other hand, zeroed in on two words: conform and transform.

The root of both words, obviously, is “form”.

In the beginning, Genesis tells us, the earth was “formless”. Nothing was here. God brought form and He formed us: “Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person” (Genesis 2:7). Such a beautiful picture of God, the artist, creating man with nothing but dust and a breath.

I explored the two words and looked first at the prefix “con” in relation to “form”. Con means several things:

  • deception trickery
  • in opposition to, against
  • slang for a convict

Paul tells us not to be conformed to this world. I believe understanding the “con” helps us see why:

  • The world deceives us, and tricks us.
  • The world is in opposition to what God has formed.
  • The world wants to live outside the law. The world wants to lock us in its prison so the devil can throw away the key.

Next, I dug into the prefix “trans”. It means:

  • across or through
  • complete change

So I can conform or BE transformed. I own the conforming. God owns the transforming.

  • I can live in the lie of the world’s deception, or I can allow God to transform me with His truth.
  • I can be in opposition to God, or I can let the Holy Spirit run across me and through me.
  • I can be a prisoner, a convict, or I can be set free.

The word “trans” doesn’t just mean changed. It means complete change. Why?

On the cross, Jesus “was in the form of God” and He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus completed it. He uttered “It is finished!” upon His death. It was, as Oswald Chambers tells us, “the final word in the redemption of humankind.”

Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians, “you also are complete through your union with Christ” (2:10). He completed it and in Him I am complete. Total transformation.

Looking back on my days as a non-conformist, I realize I was preparing myself for a Christian walk that doesn’t conform to the ways of this world but allows God to transform me. Praise Him.