Friday, December 14, 2012

Take a Hike

Writing is a lot like hiking. The first time you go down a trail, you stop and investigate the different aspects of nature that call to you. A glittering rock, a crooked tree, a gentle stream, and which each new feature you stop and gaze at its unique beauty. 

The further you go, the more you realize that you are going beyond what is familiar or even perhaps comfortable in your mind. If you’re experiencing something sensitive to you, you might feel a bit uncomfortable with these unknown surroundings in this forest, but you continue because you are anxious to see what is around the next corner.  

When you stop to breath, you stare at the steep mountain in your way and consider turning back because the journey looks daunting. Some hikers keep going with the desire to appreciate the glimmering lake at the end of the trail. But some turn back short of making the full journey, realizing it’s either too difficult or not what they expected. 

Lots of writers take some time to reflect on their “hiking” experience and decide to take it again. As they go down that trail again, they search out the rocks, trees and other landmarks they treasured the first time. Sometimes they find that rock and gaze on its glory on and remember why it was so beautiful the first time. Perhaps they find it more intriguing than this time. Sometimes they can’t find that rock at all and realize that it wasn’t worth seeking out again. Sometimes it’s been removed and they are forced to move on without experiencing it again. 

Some writers keep going, wanting to reach that lake either for the first time or to glimpse the glory of seeing it again. 

The more that writer goes down that trail, the more that writer discovers something about themselves. That glittering rock represents the hard places in their lives that hurt or that provided the cornerstone for them to keep going. Now they see the crooked tree and recognize the remnants of a broken heart or the emotional bypass that saved their lives.

Every step becomes a milestone in a journey that can’t be forgotten. The gentle stream was the lifeline that kept them calm during the rough terrain of life. The mountain that looked so high the first time wasn’t as hard to climb the second time or the fortieth time. 

Every time you take that trail, you become more and more familiar and it becomes easier. That stone you stubbed your foot on before is no problem now.

The lake at the end of the trail signifies something different each time as well. The first time you arrive, you gaze at the beauty of the shimmering lake in awe that you got there. You sit and relish in the moment, taking in as much of the spoils of the hard work it took to get there. 

The second time you get to the lake, you want to experience more than your first trip. You take the time to explore the exploding nature around the lake, taking in a more intricate beauty and therefore discovering something different than you saw before. But it is clear that you will return to the lake again. Why? Because your writing has taken on a new meaning. 

Finally and definitely you arrive at a place in authentic writing where you must decide if you have the determination or the will to finish the hike. Every writer has to determine is the following:  is it the treasure of the lake you desire or is it the journey you seek?

While I have been speaking about writers, it occurs to me I have many friends right now going through difficult times. Some struggle with their writing craft, some with their appearance, some with self worth, some with housing, some with tough teens, and some with the loss of someone dear to them. 

This hike is a journey. Or maybe I should say, this journey is a hike! 

But we are never alone. I’ve always loved the “Footprints” story that you see on cards and bookmarks.  (Jesus is ALWAYS the answer and he always accompanies us whether we recognize it or not.) But I think the background pictures on these cards always stink. I have YET to meet the person whose life has been a walk on a beach, but I know plenty of people who’ve “hiked it out.” 

And honestly, that is what I wish for you. There is little to be learned from an easy walk, but there is an eternity to be gained from a journey in which you discover your innermost talents, dreams and failings. That trail yields a never-ending reward.

Post Script: A very dear friend of mine, Robbie Iobst has penned a book entitled, Joy Dance: 52 Joy-votions That Free Your Heart to Growin Jesus, which I highly recommend. Dancing can be as much fun as hiking.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Come Home Safe

“Come home safe,” were my words to my daughter this morning as she left for her sophomore retreat.

As parents, isn’t that our biggest fear? That something will happen to our children. And so it is with our Father in heaven. What does that mean?

I know that I did not fathom God’s love for me before I was a mother. I’d hear the words, “God loves you” and say yes as one of those bobble head figures. Sure. God loves me. But those words didn’t take root, they skimmed the surface.

Once I became a mother, I realized there was nothing, NOTHING, that I wouldn’t do for my children. Nothing. Call it the mother bear syndrome if you like, but at that moment of transfiguration from woman to mother, everything in my being changed. I wanted to protect this new life with my very life.

I know my husband had the very same feelings when each of our children were born. There was great joy and great responsibility.  He will do anything for his children. ANYTHING.

So if I  love my children with everything I have, how does that change the saying, “God loves you?”

God is my Father. He said so. It started in the Old Testament, when Abraham called God, “Father”, Abba. Jesus continued to proclaim many times how much the Father in heaven loves us:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  –Matthew 6:26 

 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”  –Matthew 18:12-14 
Matthew 5:48 reveals Jesus saying, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” That seems hard if not impossible. Perhaps we misinterpret the Father’s love?

There are many paths that we take in this life. Wandering, sometimes lost, sometimes on the straight and narrow road. We take detours, thinking there’s a shorter path to happiness. We make decisions we later regret. In those moments of darkness and regret, it is when we must,  “Be Still and Know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10 

It is then we need to interpret Matthew 5:48 as Jesus saying, “Come home safe.”

What gets us Home? Trying to do the right thing. To live in the promise that God knows what’s best for us. In that hope we learn to trust Him. 

Revelations 14:4 says that those reach heaven, “follow the Lamb where ever he goes.” 

That is perfection. To follow Jesus always and in everything.

As humans we will stumble, perfection escapes us. But it is the fact that we get up and try again, that’s where perfection comes in. That road leads us Home safe. 

I don’t often use song here on my blog, but I love this song by The Fray, Be Still.

Take a moment and listen and know the “I AM.”

God wants you home safe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

When the Interference Gets in the Way

I am not a geek. I am not. Don’t go there with me, don’t bring it up, don’t you dare!

Now that we have that cleared up, stick with me for the next couple sentences. And remember…I am NOT a geek.

So did you know that on some new cars there is a wireless tire monitor system that tells the car computer if one of the tires has low/high pressure and gives the statistics on the tire wear? 

Well, I didn’t and if it weren’t for my car’s wackiness, I still wouldn’t. 

But last week…

One evil, dark overcast morning, our car remotes (that lock and unlock the car wirelessly) and our garage door stopped working. After getting the scoop from websites and experts, we decided we had an RF (radio frequency) problem. 

To make a long story short, a friend brought over a little black box that he used to pinpoint where the rf interference originated. Every time he walked by my car, the thing went berserk. With a raised eyebrow, I thanked him, gave him his pay (a plate of brownies) and he left. Feeling I had been robbed of those brownies, I looked up more interference sites desperate to find an answer. 

Later, a warning light on the dashboard came up with, “Service Tire Monitor System.”  Sure enough, when I looked it up, it described what explained above about tire pressure, etc.

Really? Could it be that simple?

I thought about his little black box. When I pushed the garage door, you could hear that signal being sent. However, because of the car interference (which was louder), the signal was blocked. The same thing happened with the car remotes. You could hear the signal being sent, but it never reached its destination.
It reminded me of something else. Sensory Integration kids have a hard time focusing on their task when others around them make distracting noises. 

Then it reminded me of…me. I have interference too. There are days when I can’t focus on what needs to be done as well as usual, something gets in the way. 

But it’s interesting. When I start my day with the Lord, when I take that extra time to be WITH the Lord, talk to Him, share with Him, read something about Him, after that, everything runs smoothly. Some days that’s easy, some days that’s hard. When I am bothered by my own failings, my own sin, I don’t communicate well with God. Sometimes, I avoid Him altogether, believing the insidious lie that I’m not good enough for Him. 

In those times, I create my own interference, GT interference. My God Time is interrupted, and God can’t give me the love and support I desire because I let other things interfere with our time. 

How often do we allow sin and the Enemy’s lie of our unworthiness to create interference between our heart and our God? And what can we do about it?

Well, for my car, I took it to the shop for repairs. For sensory kids, there is a great new class that allows them to overcome their distractions. It’s called Brain Highways. I cannot recommend it enough as it has changed our family completely.

But for the GT interference, I recommend something different. Purge the sin. Purge the lies. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 12:6-7.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (NIV)

Start there. Remember your worth.  Then talk to God about your sin and the lies to you tell yourself. Give those to Him. Let Him take them on. Because remember, Jesus already has. Every single one of our sins and lies was his burden on the cross. And he died for you. That death removed those from you if you but ask for forgiveness. 

It’s amazing how well our garage door and key remotes work when there’s no interference.

Now find how amazing it is to talk to our sweet Lord without our burdens. You won’t regret that repair.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

There’s Really Only One Genre

As a writer, we talk about genres quite often. There’s Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action, Thriller, etc. Each genre has its own attraction. 

But after reading St. Augustine’s book The Trinity, I’m beginning to think there is just one. Everything is a Love Story.

I remember listening to the commentary from the screenwriters of the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. They described the basis for the characters and story. One of the screenwriters mentioned that, in fact, the genre of the story was not Action, but a Love Story. He pointed out that the story moved along based on the character Elizabeth, her choices and Will’s choices based on hers. Her decisions drove all the action and movements of all the characters.

I shared that with my husband at the time and since then he comments on EVERY movie, “Ah…it’s a love story.” (Even if it’s blood and guts.)

I’m beginning to realize he is right! (I hope he’s reading this.) 

Case in point, I recently watched Cowboys and Aliens. I was curious to see how the writers combined those two identities. And yet, guess what? Though cowboys and Native Americans on horses were fighting aliens in spaceships, the true genre, what drove the story was love. I KNOW! Right?

Spoiler Alert!!! (The humans were eager to get their abducted loved ones back and fought to do that.) 

What does this have to do with science and faith?

St. Augustine in Book IX of The Trinity, pg 272, concludes, “…love is not love unless it is loving someone else.”

He goes on to say that, “so then there are three, the lover, and what is being loved, and love. But supposing I only love myself, are there now not two merely, what I love and love (itself)? For love is not loved unless it is already loving something, because where nothing is being loved there is no love.”

(I had to read it several times too.)

The undercurrent of that statement is the following: Love is what drives life—whether we understand that or not. There is an innate, unspoken drive to love. And when that is missing, things go horribly wrong. 

Augustine’s comment is that when we love ourselves there is that which we love (ourselves) and the love itself, produces two, but not three.

But to be Trinitarian—to be complete—we must love someone else. When that happens, what is created, formed and magnetized is a precious bond, spoken or unspoken, to which we respond. Just like Elizabeth and Will in Pirates of the Caribbean all our actions are driven by love. 

And it doesn’t have to be a romantic love by any stretch of the imagination. Mother Teresa loved the poorest of the poor, she saw Jesus in every soul she touched. John Paul II loved so much he forgave the man who shot him. He saw Jesus in the man’s eyes. Saint Maria Goretti, on her deathbed, forgave her attacker and wished that he be in heaven with her. 

Of course the ultimate love is God the Son dying on the cross to redeem us once and for all. There is no greater love.

Where does such love come from? God. The Trinity. The ineffable, unexplainable, indefinable, love that God has for each of us.  

If that’s the faith love, how does science fit in? How do you define love in scientific terms? 

Science uses reason and facts. Typically scientists say they need to SEE the evidence in order to describe it. However, I don’t believe we have the complete evidence to say the Big Bang Theory happened, nor are we able to reason (without the THEORY not proven idea of evolution) why humans have a conscience. 

Scientists make assumptions too!

Ask a scientist the same question as we asked before. Where does such love comes from? 

Listen carefully to the answer.

Responses will vary, but typically—if they can reply—scientists postulate that love is a type of hormone that our bodies desire to feel good.

Then ask the next questions every good scientist worth his salt asks: Why is that hormone there? What is the purpose?

Once you get past the answer that we need it to procreate and carry on the human species, then ask if spiders or alligators feel the emotion of love. They seem to do just great without the complexity of giving oneself completely to another. (I haven’t heard too many love sonnets by alligators …except for his next meal.)

 And so the discussion ends unanswered on the science side...

However, we know the truth, it remains in our soul, our being, that piece of us that reasons and feels from the heart. 

The true answer is that love is innate and not definable by any means we have. It is eternal. It goes on forever. It is Trinitarian in nature, and drives us all to do things outside our comfort zone, outside ourselves. It can’t be explained by science, philosophy or any other discipline.

And when the love for another person is experienced, we encounter the nature of the Trinity in an indefinable way.  It is where humanity meets God. It provides a glimpse of what awaits us past this life.

And that is why there is only one Genre…the Genre of Love.