Jesus: I’m Back! Did You Miss Me?

I think it’s fair to say that this Easter will be like no other, and I would like to think of that as a good thing – eventually – hopefully. God has stripped away all the non-essentials: new outfits, haircuts, a review of proper behavioral expectations for the kids at church, and “how to stay awake” for adults. Making up tiny sins suitable to hide the deeper embarrassing stuff for the annual confession – not needed.

Oh yeah, and the relatives you can’t stand that your mother always guilted you into including on the Easter dinner invites – not necessary, either. You’ll be dining alone (and you might want to work on that hate issue of yours).

You take a deep breath and realize what’s left. Ready? Jesus and you. AWKWARD! It’s okay. He doesn’t bite. No matter what your third-grade teacher told you.

So, how about we take a new look with fresh eyes at the events of this Easter week? It was a week that revealed humanity at its best and worst. What might that mean for us today?

We begin with Palm Sunday. Those crowds were lovin’ on Jesus the Prophet on his way to becoming their anticipated King who would finally save them. Christ was celebrated as the One who would bring his people out of captivity. They were enthralled with him. The cheering was almost deafening, sorta like opening day at Busch Stadium. But, remember, these were his faithful followers, and it was all palms and rose petals.

Then it all went sideways as he went to Jerusalem to encounter a not-so-supportive crowd. What a different picture, huh? Here he’s among the political elite, the leaders of the temple, who know enough about him by now to hate him.

Now he is stirring up more anger than a crowd rush for toilet paper on the opening day of coronavirus mania! So, the chief priests and elders meet to plot against him. They know they have to get him away from his faithful followers first. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26: 3-5).

And how about those disciples who vowed never to leave him at the height of his ministry? We know James and John made it clear they wanted to have an honored place next to him when he came into his glory (Mark 10:35-37). Perhaps the rest thought they already had that favored position all sewn up. But then they all scattered and ran for cover when he was taken away to be crucified. “This is not what we signed up for!”

In very short order, He was convicted and dragged before an angry crowd who screamed for his crucifixion, and they probably didn’t even know why. How many do you suppose just got caught up in the moment and didn’t realize until afterward what they had participated in – the torture and murder of an innocent man they would later discover was PRETTY SPECIAL?

Then at the Cross on Good Friday, we watch horrified as Jesus suffers an unspeakable death, and his mother suffers in silence.

On Saturday, the waiting begins as we are called to silently contemplate what has happened. But we already know that his glorious resurrection is coming, and peace on earth will prevail. At least, we used to believe that. But that truth seems to have been morphed by fear and the unknown this year. So, maybe this day will be spent like all the rest these past few weeks trying to numb ourselves to what we imagine is coming: watch TV (which only fuels that fear), take a nap, eat, drink, wash hands – repeat.

Where’s the peace in all that? We usually only have the capacity to think our hearts are at peace when everything is perfect: our relationships are perfect, our kids are perfect, and the mother-in-law moved away (oops, not nice). But even, or especially in these times when fear will try to overwhelm you, don’t let that happen! God is ready to prove to you that you are stronger, braver, and more resilient than you ever imagined! (Which will come in handy when your mother-in-law has to move back in with you).

As Alan Cohen tells us in his book, A Course in Miracles Made Easy, “No person, group, situation, or condition has the power to take away your happiness. NO ONE. NO THING. NEVER. The experience of joy is your God-given right. People can try to remove your happiness, but they cannot remove your peace unless you give them that power.”

So, there you go. Unlike the disciples, we don’t need to hide or be anxious about the future. Surely, they all sat with regret knowing they did the unthinkable by abandoning Jesus and running away. Aside from Peter and Judas, we don’t know what was going through their heads. Did they wish they could have a do-over? I would think they must have. That’s the beauty of second chances. After Jesus invited them to a fish fry, they were all on fire to serve the God they now knew as unfailing love and mercy, especially Peter, the hater, turned lover of Jesus, turned coward, turned forgiven, turned martyr for his now unshakable love of Christ. Whew!

I think I read somewhere that at that fish fry, Jesus recalled to them the Last Supper, “Hey guys remember the great time we had then?” – since they all seemed to have forgotten. “Remember how I washed your nasty feet?” Then he reiterated his call to them to love one another (John 13:34). “And just so we’re clear…that was not a suggestion.” I wonder if any of them choked on their food at that point.

Now, what about us? Here we are, kind of like the disciples, in the midst of what is surely one of the most uncertain times of our lives. And, funny thing, God is still here, still loving and merciful and compassionate. But where are we? Big question.

How many of us have been running from him all our lives? Oh sure, we have been going through the motions of being a “Christian,” mostly to impress others. But what have we done as Christ’s followers? How have we been Christ to others?

Today, maybe more than ever, we need to let the light of the Risen Christ shine in and through us for those who are lost and alone, not just in their homes but in the very depth of their hearts. That is God’s hope and greatest longing. “Look,” He says on Easter morning, “I never left you, and I never will. So, stop trying to hide from me. Let’s sit together and get to know each other. What else do you have to do? You’ve cleaned your house and straightened your sock drawer so many times you’ve lost count. Just sayin’.”

Galway Kinnell says, “Sometimes it’s necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.” I think that’s what God is trying to do with us, so we can pass it on to others who have become frozen with fear. Living into the truth of our loveliness will allow others to do the same. Just imagine what beauty, joy, and peace would be created for this world’s future?!

THIS IS OUR TIME. THIS IS OUR CALL TO LOVE! AND WHO KNOWS BUT THAT WE WERE CREATED FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS (Esther 4:14).

AMEN AND HALLELUJAH!

THIS IS GONNA BE EPIC!!

HAVE A BLESSED AND JOYOUS EASTER, EVERYONE!

Suck it up Buttercup!

(Originally posted 1/22/16)

I have not posted since August. Not because I got bored with writing or died. (I hope you’re happy I didn’t die!) On August 18th, I was on the receiving end of a vaccination shot gone terribly wrong! That shot was the cause of four months of constant pain, an emergency room visit, failed treatments, and rotator cuff surgery.

For the first few weeks after surgery, my husband had to do almost everything for me. God bless him he’s a trooper. My neighbor has come over several times to fix my hair when I actually cared about what I looked like.

I know I have been more miserable than necessary because I cannot take pain medications. They make me feel physically and mentally whacked. I have experienced more pain than ever in my life, including childbirth! Seriously. Besides, that pain is short-lived, and there’s a blessed little prize at the end – until they’re two, anyway!

But I am getting better. I am able to do more for myself. Occasionally I will muster up the energy to cook a meal and clean the house. But it takes everything I have to do it. My husband never complains, which I am eternally grateful for.

To be perfectly honest, sometimes I catch myself actually enjoying the sympathy from friends and family and even strangers. Of course, no one is going to feel sorry for me if I don’t complain, right? When someone asks how I’m doing, I jump feet first into my pit of misery and do my best to pull them in with me! I might begin by saying, “Oh, you’re probably tired of hearing about it it’s been going on for so long!” But then I don’t give them a chance to respond before, choking back tears, I give an update on my ongoing misery. Poor, poor pitiful me!

Then, one day,  “Holy lesson-in-the-making Batman.” I received another of God’s proverbial admonishments. It’s never audible. It just hangs around me like a shroud until I acknowledge its presence, “Okay, Lord, there’s a lesson here I just know it! You’re not going to let me get away with this, are you?”

This was actually a lesson in process since December when I was thinking about the silly New Year’s Resolutions I usually end before they even begin. I’m going to lose weight right after this super-sized hot fudge sundae, or maybe the next, or maybe not at all. I don’t know. I’m not feelin’ it.

So, this time, in order to grow deeper in faith, I chose to focus on a virtue instead of giving up something. Nightly, I would meditate and journal on all I thought, said, and did that day (while eating my hot fudge sundae). Then, out from under that shroud, “Or, Linda, how about gratitude?” Hum. Gratitude. Okay, that’s a good one! At the end of each day, I could write in a Gratitude Journal all the things I was grateful for that day: a beautiful sunrise, the song of birds outside my window…

That’s lovely, Linda, and safe. But let’s go deeper. You are thankful for your good health, but how about the help you received from others while you recovered from your injury? You are grateful for friends who are low-maintenance, but what about the relationships that are difficult?  You are grateful for all the things you have, but what about the things others have that you don’t, that you covet?”

When we consider gratitude, if we consider it at all, we often stay within the realm of the warm squishy stuff. I remember the times at my son’s house when the kids were small. They would each take turns thanking God, mostly for “things” – a doll, a stuffed animal, a birthday present envied by their siblings. Unfortunately, as adults, we are still prone to thankfulness for adult “things” that make us happy.

Being grateful for our struggles in life just doesn’t make sense. It’s easier for us to see a beautiful sunrise, attribute it to God and thank him for it than to thank him for adversity. Are you old enough to remember this commercial?

(Sorry, I just had to throw that in!)

I suppose we are in one of two camps when dealing with suffering: we either believe (a) God doesn’t cause suffering, but he allows it, think of Job, or (b) God is behind everything that happens to us. I’m going with (a). Either way, we are probably going to complain, and complain loudly! If we believe it’s the former, we cry out, “Lord, why don’t you stop this?” or the latter, “Lord, how could you do this to me?!” Either way, God is to blame for our suffering.

Philippians 2:14 tells us to “Do all things without grumbling or questioning.” But we just can’t, can we? Whining is in our nature, apparently. Look at the Israelites, for heaven’s sake. I can see why Moses tried to get out of God’s call on that fateful day! But he acquiesced and was drug into the Israelite’s unrelenting pity parties. He went to God and begged him to make it stop! I suppose the Israelites got it in their heads that because they were God’s chosen people (Exodus 6:7) life would be grand. Their suffering was over. Not so much.

When things don’t go as planned in my life, it’s usually a wake-up call. After all, when did I win the perfect life lottery? When was I promised immunity from suffering and pain? We can’t seem to watch the news or talk to a neighbor any day of the week and not hear of someone’s tragedy: A death, an illness, a cancer diagnosis, a divorce, a lost job. But when that’s my story, I scream NOT FAIR! I pout and complain and solicit sympathy from anyone who will listen, especially God – I think he plugged his ears long ago.

Major New Year’s Resolution Fail – AGAIN!

(originally posted 1/13/2019)

This was going to be the year I would recreate myself! Maybe I’ll try to be the first great-grandmother on The Titan Games! YEAH! That’s the ticket! I missed the opportunity to be the oldest great-grandmother bodybuilder in the Guinness Book of World Records. That coveted title went to Ernestine Shepherd, who recently celebrated her eightieth birthday! Okay. But I can still impress the masses with my stellar fitness! It will be epic!

I was off to a great start on January 1st! I got out my planner, dusted off my scale, bought some adorable running pants, ordered some new microgreen seeds & potting soil, found that meditation DVD I bought last year, and revamped my workout routine. BAM! Ready to go.

But NO!  Two weeks into the new year, and I haven’t committed to anything! Statistically, I only have a few more weeks before I give up. According to U.S. News, “approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.” so the odds are against me. But it’s not ALL my fault!

I am currently working with the homeless for St. Vincent DePaul. Since I am the only one in my parish doing it, I receive all the phone calls for assistance. (I have not given any personal information or used anyone’s real name here. I should have given myself an alias, as this is another embarrassing “tell on Linda” post.)

Monday morning:

The phone rang—a message on our helpline. A homeless woman was at a motel. Could I call her?

Betty just completed her fourth chemo treatment for colon cancer and has COPD. In our conversation, she told me how she loved the nuns at St. Mary’s Academy, where she went to high school “a long time ago”. Smiling through broken and missing teeth, she wondered if any of the nuns that taught her were still there and could she visit them?

How did her life go so wrong? She and her husband had been homeless for years. Her husband could never seem to provide for them. They never owned a home. She never had her own gym in her basement (ahem). Her “workout routine” consisted of wrestling to get comfortable and stay warm in the car she and her husband slept in. And yet, this woman praised God. How is that possible?

Tuesday morning:

I have always struggled to lose weight. I know what to do. I just choose not to. But no more! In preparation for my return to healthy eating, I have gotten rid of everything that tempts me to failure and replaced it with all things fresh, green, and organic! WOOT! WOOT!

The phone rang – a message on our helpline. Could we help a homeless family trying to get home to Kentucky?

Jim and his wife, their three kids, and her mentally disabled brother lost their home in a fire in Nebraska. Friends in Louisville offered them a place to stay and jobs there. But they ran out of money and gas and had a flat tire. Mom & dad hadn’t eaten for two days to provide for the kids, but now they were out of food. So we provided them with a room for the night and gave them money for gas, tire repairs, and bags of food. All items with pop-top lids they could eat cold while they traveled. These were fill-a-void-in-the-stomach foods. NOT A SINGLE GREEN THING in those bags. And yet, Jim’s eyes fill with tears of gratitude.

He told me they felt they had lived in a good community. Their neighbor’s kids were always at their home. They called him “Uncle Jim”. But, after the fire, not one neighbor reached out to help them. He and his wife could not believe the love and support they received here from strangers.

Their hearts ached for their kids and her brother because of what they were going through. But I could see something else: Their love for God, each other, and their kids. Somehow I knew they would prevail over their struggles. Their kids were learning tough but powerful life lessons. They were actually the happiest kids I have ever seen! Can you imagine?

Cold spagettios would not be the choice of a health snob like me. After having met such a beautiful family, it made me wonder how strong my faith would be; how well I would survive in their circumstances. I’ve never been tested like that. Nor do I want to be! Truth be told, I’m probably not as strong or resilient as I would like to believe.

Wednesday morning:

Okay, this was it! It was SO COLD, but I was determined to pull on my new running pants,  jacket, and hat I bought when we went to the French Alps over the holidays – and go! I usually don’t like running in the cold, but this is the new me. Bring it on!

Then the phone rang—a message on our helpline. A young dad, his wife, and a two-year-old were staying at the motel. The manager was trying to overlook the fact that they were falling further and further behind. Could we help them?

Jason rode a bike to work from the motel to a new job ten miles away. His two-year-old son was ill and had seizures. All their income went to the motel bill. They had no family or support.

The difference between Jason and me should be obvious. He doesn’t ride his bike in the winter because he is obsessed with the benefits of exercise and loves the challenge. And I don’t have to be out in bad weather if I don’t want to. Instead, I can go back to bed or down to my basement and jump on the treadmill.

Thursday Morning:

For years, I was able to maintain a healthy weight. I ran half-marathons for seven years. In 2010 I ran two! That was the year after I had a kidney removed. Basically, I ROCKED it! Now, I beat myself up for failing to get my act together. And I don’t believe age has anything to do with it. (So, get that thought out of your head.) I’M JUST LAZY. There, I said it! But I need to get over it and realize that I am not happy where I’m at and the only one who can change that is me.

Then the phone rang—a message on our helpline. A homeless couple staying at the motel ran out of money. She was disabled, and he was out of work. Could we help them?

When I met with Rick and Amy, I held the door to the room we used to fill out intake paperwork. Rick had to help Amy walk. Every step seemed labored. She had been in a motorcycle accident and broke her back. At the time, she was a nurse. Now, she was on total disability. Her constant pain was more than I could imagine or bear to watch. They had never been homeless before. He always had a good job and worked hard to provide for his family. Then, due to circumstances involving his ex-wife, a shady lawyer, and back child support, he ended up in jail for three days, which awarded him a police record. They also took his driver’s license away, so he lost his job.

When they first became homeless, he lived in his car for two months, and she went to live with a friend. They tried to get into a shelter before calling us, but the only bed available was an upper bunk, which she couldn’t manage. Yet they expressed gratitude to God even when their lives were turned upside down. So why weren’t they shaking their fists at God?

I could go on and on with the stories of pain and struggle we encountered almost daily. But, somehow, right now, at the beginning of this new year, God has been shining a bright light on the contrast between my “personal” resolutions and his focus on my transformation. I’m sure he has no problem with my wanting to be healthy. But I’m betting he thinks I take it too far, focusing too much on myself. Our transformation is what he desires. It is what we were made for, not simply a lifestyle change.

Marcus Borg ends his most profound book, Speaking Christian, with these words, “Christianity…at its best, is about truth, goodness, and beauty. And it addresses the two great yearnings – our longing for personal transformation and our desire that the world be a better place.”

The Christian message reduced to its essentials is: love God (as known in Jesus) and love everyone.” Okay. My first and foremost resolution will hopefully endure every day I wake up until I take my last breath: Love God above all things, and find ways to touch others with that love every day. And, please God, may I have left this world a little bit better for having been here.

Sweatpants optional – with one caveat:  1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” This “temple”  is meant to be healthy as God created it, so we can physically do his work. You can decipher that however you like.

Jeff Larson cartoon

Grandma…Really! Should You be Doing That?

French photographer Sacha Goldberger’s 91-year-old grandmother, Frederika, aka Super Mamika. CREDIT: Sacha Goldberger

Cellulite and shrinking bladders.

We’ve been thinner, and we’ve been fatter.

Aches and pains; always have to pee.

Adjusting to new hips and knees.

No trophies sitting on the shelf,

Just accolades we give ourselves.

Paltry savings in the bank.

Is this God’s dirty little prank?

No. It’s merely a perception that we have the power to change.

The age of seventy-four is magical for me. I can’t contain myself when I consider all the experiences I have grown through. Fierce rejections, false truths, exquisite God-moments, giggly grandkids, and cherished relationships that have endured my messiness and painful childhood memories, all washed over by grace.

I have embraced a calling that gives meaning and purpose to it all. I can barely believe this is my life! My once insignificant story has blossomed into something holy and beautiful that makes me want to sing! If only I could sing.

Many, at this point, feel they have made an irreparable mess of their lives. Yet, it seems easier to continue the incessant navel-gazing than to allow God to gaze into their hardened hearts and change their lives.

And if we weren’t beating ourselves up enough, the world also tells us that we have outlived our usefulness. We are sucking valuable air and resources that would better serve the younger and more “productive.” We should simply lie down and die already.

But for others, grace has led us through much self-reflection, releasing a false self we so easily embraced, finally leading us to the necessary letting go. We have stopped fighting against it. With new found courage, we have sought out forgiveness from those we have hurt and offer forgiveness to our offenders.

We have no one to impress and no status to protect. Our once false reliance on all that is worldly has been exposed. It pales in comparison to the treasure of relationships, beginning with God.  As long as we are still breathing (you are still breathing, aren’t you?), we can leave a legacy of love in the hearts of those we share this journey with.

But wait. Look around you. Are you reveling in that grace-filled stage of your life alone? If so, someone is missing. If you are here and those who continue to suffer are over there, you have probably forgotten your purpose! (Mark 12:30-31). Every day brings a new opportunity for us to step onto the path of someone else’s journey to wholeness and healing. And please do it with great joy and enthusiasm!  

1 Peter 3:15 tells us, “… always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you….” News flash! No one is even going to ask if we are not living differently than the rest of the world if we spew cynicism from every pore of our wrinkled and aging bodies.

Joy is loving out loud!

I believe young people, in particular, need to hear that there really is Good News! But they don’t want to hear it from a bunch of grumpy old people.

You may ask, “With the world in such a mess, why shouldn’t we be cynical?” Well, I’ll tell you why. Cynicism is the devil’s tool for keeping non-believers away from salvation’s door. “Look,” says the non-believer, “those Christians are just as miserable as we are – maybe more so with all those thou-shalt-nots to contend with. If we’re going to be miserable, we’ll do it on our terms. Thank you very much.”

The quality that draws people to Christianity isn’t gloom and doom. Instead, it’s deep-down joy, even in the midst of trials and struggles. Joy causes the lonely and suffering to peer up from their pit of despair and ask, “Why are you so cheerful? What do you know that we don’t?” 

 Here are a couple of frightening statistics to consider: 1) seventy percent of Christian youths abandon their faith during college years and never return to it  (LifeWay Research), and 2) suicide is the third-leading cause of death among ten to twenty-four-year-olds (CDC). In both instances, we need to ask ourselves why. And more importantly, what have we done to convince these young people that Christ isn’t worth following, that joy isn’t worth seeking, that life isn’t worth living? When they look at us, what do they see?

Do they see this? I can’t imagine anyone skipping joyously into the second half of life if this was all we had to offer; aches and pains and life’s dreadful stains. Just shoot me!

Or do they see this? 

Now, this is a different story! No, that picture was not photoshopped. That was my husband, who loved being silly with the grandkids. Okay, maybe it’s a bit extreme for some folks, but I think it’s hysterical, and our grandkids LOVED it. Since his passing, they now have beautiful memories of him. I kind of wish I would have done it now. But I don’t think it would have been as funny. Anyway, my claim to fame was “the running game” and the “tickle monster” – and I participated in them with great gusto!

What this country needs are radicals who will stay that way regardless of the creeping years.”  ~John Fischer

So go find someone to love on. Maybe even a teenager. Really! From many years of being a Youth Minister, I can tell you that teens are not as scary as you might think. I decided to “retire” from that ministry because I thought I was too old. Someone younger would be better suited to the job and relate better to them.

On the contrary, I found that being able to care about teens is not determined by age; it’s determined by how much we care. That’s all they want, someone to care and offer them hope and encouragement. They long for someone to help them reach within themselves to find that child who may have been lost to society but is NEVER lost to the God who created them. I know. I’ve been there. What about you?

Here are some things I have learned about life. Some the hard way:

  1. Failure is never final, and love is never wasted.         
  2. Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you the way you have hurt me.
  3. Eat dessert first.
  4. I would look stupid in skinny jeans even if I could fit into them – which I can’t.
  5. Pride is overrated – laugh at yourself – often.
  6. That jerk in your day-to-day life is trying to teach you something – pay attention.
  7. Surrender is a daily act of courage, risk, and trust.
  8. Be silly! We don’t have enough silliness in this world.
  9. Leave your little corner of the world better than you found it.

Words of wisdom from Richard Rohr: “The Jesus way is to embrace our wounds and accept them as the price of the journey. We can choose to carry our wounds with dignity until the time comes when we forget why they were so important or debilitating, to begin with. I think we carry our wounds until the end; they do not fully go away but keep us humble, patient, and more open to trust and intimacy. The healing lies in the fact that those same wounds no longer defeat us or cause us to harm ourselves or others.”

And finally, a quote that should conjure up an “oh crap” moment for all of us: 

“Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do”  Gian Carlo Menotti

Failure Will Not Have the Last Word

Funny word, “failure”. We tend to judge everything that misses the mark according to our expectations: Anything that does not invoke praise and accolades from others is deemed a failure. The times I have whined to God in deep sorrow for my failings have grown beyond my ability to number them.

“Lord, I know this was from you – I did it – I failed at it – I am a despicable wretch! For example: remember way back in 2001, when you said, “Write a book”, and I did? I am yet to see it on the New York Times best-seller list. Your book would have been #1 on that list – forever!”

The Bible comes to mind. “No disrespect, but why didn’t you just write it yourself? I mean, really.” Countless people have written and rewritten it until the essence of your message is often blurred and confusing.

God: “Are you finished, Linda?”

“Oops (a Job moment), “Yes, sorry.”

God: “I’m not interested in how the world views your work. I am ONLY interested in how you trust and obey me. I thought your story of surrendering to me was beautiful. Okay, there were a few typos. But, that part about ‘giving birth’? I’m still laughing at that one. So, will you please quit your whining!?”

When we are obsessed with success and failure, trusting in God’s plan can become obscured by fear. Often, I read these magnificent words from Thomas Merton to remind myself of God’s call for me to trust him:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I have learned countless lessons about trusting God. Many of my attempts were wrought with uncertainty and assumptions of failure throughout eleven years of my book-writing adventure. But I knew without a doubt it was God speaking to my heart from the beginning. His words, “Write a book”, were not cloaked in ambiguity. They were clear and undeniable.

The book’s first edition (yes, there have been two) was an unbelievably daunting challenge. God made it sound simple enough. But, here’s where I began to falter: I made some very costly errors in judgment, and the book was published with several editing issues. I was angry with the publisher and myself and proceeded to complain to God.

Through tears of disappointment and self-doubt, I wanted to know why he had directed me to write a book when I understood nothing about the process that would ensue. I felt I had failed him because everything seemed to go wrong. So, here’s God, ears covered, “Blah, blah, blah, I can’t hear you. Get it published.” Fine. I attempted many times to offer it to publishers, becoming the recipient of more rejections than Charles Manson when he tried to find a date for the prom! So, I self-published. 

After the fact, I read a book about self-publishing. Wanna know what it said? “NEVER, write a book FIRST! Get your name out there with published articles, establish a following, and then write your book.” Apparently, God failed to read that book.

Anyway, I was confused about how to proceed. Did I mention that I had 2500 books delivered to my doorstep and knew nothing about marketing? Did I mention that?! Then, to my utter amazement, people actually bought the book; people not even related to me!

The next surprise? The publication, and subsequent sales, of my very imperfect book, led to speaking engagements – a notion that I found incomprehensible since I had never felt the slightest longing to stand in front of an audience and reveal my true self. All my attention-grabbing stunts during my childhood had been designed to hide the real me! The very idea of speaking to a group of people horrified the adult me. I wanted to slap myself silly for saying “yes” without consulting my more reluctant self. What a long list of grumblers I follow: Moses (Exodus 4:10-17) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4-9), just to name two we know well.

Did I mention that the book is now in its second edition (edited more professionally)? I’m still not sure why. Still no call from the New York Times. But – and here is where God has wanted me all along – it doesn’t matter if I sell even one. I am happy to give them away. God said, “Write”, – so I wrote. Everything else is fodder for Satan.

I, like Job, learned the hard way to accept being on a need-to-know basis when I feel God calling me, like Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), to get on my camel and ride. No GPS, no roadmap, no crystal ball. I now find myself enjoying the adventure, even with blindfolds on!

So the next time you find yourself making room on the shelf for your next trophy, only to stare at the empty space it should have been placed in, try sitting quietly with the lesson. It’s there. Pray and wait for it. Like when you are passed over for the job rightfully yours, stop to consider the lesson. When your plans to join a mission team in Haiti are dashed because you could not raise the funds – you got it – stop and listen to God. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

I can never give up trusting that God’s plan for me is PERFECT, even when everyone else tells me I am a pathetic loser!

What Doesn’t Kill You Will Try Again Tomorrow

(Original post-2021)

Well, I’m still here in case you were wondering – or even if you couldn’t care less (in which case, I don’t suppose you’d be reading this). Regardless, here we go…

For over a year, I went kicking and screaming into a new and uncertain reality. In the process, I have slowly, often unwillingly, been discovering who I am in the midst of loss, pain, and sorrow. The world I thought would never change – changed – without any warning.

As I packed up my former self, one box, one picture, one memory at a time, I suddenly realized the uncertainty I had been trying to suppress with superficial words and inadequate certitudes, “I’m fine. Really!”

Many “experts” encourage us to act “as if” _________(fill in the blank) until it becomes our truth. So, I did – or at least I tried. But, in pretending I was already there, I believe I also denied the necessary process of change. So, does acting “as if” my life is often a total shitstorm count? Because it is – no acting required.

Jen Hatmaker beautifully describes the inevitable change of seasons in life:

“It can be difficult to envision a new start but impossible to deny one. This is your work. No one can do it for you. Something doesn’t have to be bad to be over. That season has possibly given you everything it had to offer; it shaped and developed you, and it stretched and inspired you. We are not entirely rebranded with each new season; we simply build the next layer. Throughout transitions, we embody permanent virtues and become deeply shaped. As a testament to our design, we are capable of preserving the best of each season while rejecting the worst. The human heart is shockingly resilient. We need to get better at permission and grace.”

The pictures are packed up, leaving bare walls. It has now become clear that I have been stuck in the past. God tells us to stay out of there and move on, trusting him every step of the way. The past certainly formed my identity to this point. I am grateful for all of its lessons, but that’s not the end of my story or my journey. Hatmaker says: “You can care about new things and new beginnings and new people. Carry on, sister!”

God wants me, wants all of us to boldly step into each new day, believing each life experience, good or bad, will influence how we impact our world. Our loving God has created our most outlandishly gifted, magnificently designed selves for that very purpose.

It’s time to grab onto that desire of my heart that has been sitting too long and aching to be acknowledged, that one passion refusing to fade away no matter how much I have tried to ignore it.

Love or Hate – A Moment-by-Moment Choice

2020 – a year no one will forget!

We have been inundated for months with “facts” about the virus and the protests. The hatred that seems to be growing daily on every side, no matter what the argument is about, is deafening. That can be frightening…but…we must remember that fear is the ultimate goal of extremists. Fear can have the power to darken and obliterate the very meaning and purpose of our existence if we allow it to.

As I read and try to understand the depth of so many issues we are facing now, there is one that I feel is critical for our future, our children’s future, and America’s future, and it is so basic it should not even be in question – but it is: If I call myself a Believer (it doesn’t matter of what tradition) in the God of all creation, then loving my neighbor is not optional and there should be no place for hatred in my heart.

How about this for a reality check: 1 John 4:20 should thump us all on our hard heads, “If anyone boasts ‘I love God’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, HE IS A LIAR (emphasis mine and most likely God’s too). If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?” (The Message). If we continue to pull away from that ONE TRUTH to create our own, we will have lost our way, and, God help us, our children will suffer the consequences.

We will all be called to account for how we choose to live in this world, and it’s pretty likely that for most of us, myself included, it ain’t gonna be pretty. We are messy, selfish, demanding, unforgiving, broken humans – full of ourselves and pumped with ego, with the tiniest bit of empty space for God to squeeze into. Somehow he does. Somehow he continues to love us in spite of ourselves. And somehow, miraculously, he pats me on the head with the greatest of love, mercy, grace, and compassion and says, “Linda, you screwed up again, but I forgive you and long for you to do the same. I love you and long for you to do the same. Like Jesus, you were created to take my light into the darkness. There should be no room for hate in your heart.”

Love is more powerful than hate if we truly believe what we profess! And, that, my friends, is the TRUTH.

You don’t have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Maybe you see him as a stand-out Prophet, a great role model, or the most you can muster is a wink and a nod to “Buddy Jesus”.

Buddy Jesus

We know enough about Jesus’ life to know he didn’t stand behind a bullhorn and threaten hell and damnation for anyone who didn’t do what God expected them to. He led by example. He could have jumped on the bandwagon of the powerful leaders of his day and would probably have had a pretty cushy life, retired with a great pension, and lived into old age. But, that scenario wasn’t going to play out because his love and compassion for those who suffered guided his every thought and action, as it should ours. Are we afraid to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” when confronted with a moment that challenges our moral fortitude because, deep down, we already know the answer? Ponder that one for a while.

We may not be marched up to a hanging tree, but, we surely should speak and live as fully as we are called to, no matter the consequences. You do realize God is counting on us to do just that, right? I will leave you with these words from Archibald MacLeish’s sermon on Job.

MacLeish asks why God allowed Satan to tear Job’s life apart. He says, “Because God believes it will be demonstrated that Job loves and fears God because He is God and not because Job is prosperous…that Job will still love God and fear Him in adversity, in the worst of misfortunes, in spite of everything. God stakes His supremacy as God upon man’s fortitude and love….Where the nature of man is in question, God has need of man. Only Job can prove that Job is capable of the love of God, not as quid pro quo but for love’s sake, for God’s sake, in spite of everything – in spite even of injustice, even God’s injustice. Only man can prove that man loves God. Man depends on God for all things: God depends on man for one. Without man’s love, God does not exist as God…love is the one thing no one, not even God Himself, can command. It is a free gift, or it is nothing. And it is most itself, most free, when it is offered in spite of suffering, of injustice, and of death. It is in man’s love that God exists and triumphs, in man’s love that life is beautiful, in man’s love that the world’s injustice is resolved. To hold together in one thought those terrible opposites of good and evil which struggle in the world is to be capable of life, and only love will hold them so.”

There…NOW GO!