I'm published... finally!

A couple months ago, a dear friend said to me, "Do you think God gave you your talent? Do you think He made you to write?" Then she said the most profound thing ever: "What other justification do you need? WRITE!"

So I am. So I have been. And today my first article appears at Inside Indiana Business. The first of many, I hope... I have three faith essays that have been purchased by Kyria Digizine (one for the magazine and two for the website portion), the first of which will appear in May. And I've had an article accepted by the Upper Room devotional, and one by Internet Cafe Devotions.

Thanks to all of you who have encouraged me. It's happening :-).

Eraser


Pastor Nathan mentioned something last week that has really stuck with me. He said to look at the end of a pencil. Someone had the foresight to know we were going to make mistakes, so they put an eraser right there on the end of the pencil, nice and handy, ready to use when we mess up. God gave us an eraser, too — it's called repentance. Repent, and our sins are gone. Blotted out, erased, as if they were never there in the first place.

Leave it to God to use office supplies to speak to me.

Color-coded Christians


When I was in high school, I hated P.E. in any and all of its variations. Running? No thanks. Archery. Not my thing. Square dancing? Don’t even ask. But the worst segment of all? Swimming. What evil tyrant decided it was a good idea to put developing teens of both sexes in the same room, half-naked and dripping wet? It wasn’t an attraction issue – I don’t remember thinking anyone looked particularly good. All I remember is fretting that I looked really bad. And I’m sure I did. Insecurities run high, especially in women, and particularly in young, hormonal girls — and in any female in a swimsuit. To add insult to injury, my school provided the swimsuits. Color. Coded. By. Size. As if I didn’t feel self-conscious enough, I had to request a red suit – which meant extra large. (To be fair, one of the small sizes was also red, but there was a substantial enough difference that no one would confuse the two.) And to add insult to injury, most of the suits were outrageously stretched out from the other extra large parts most of the bigger girls had. Unfortunately, I did not, so I had to tie the straps together in back with my shoelace to keep the suit from falling off.

Some people dread coming to church as much as I dreaded swimming class, certain that everyone can spot their sins, convinced that the “churchy folk” are pointing at them saying, “She had an affair,” or “He was arrested,” or [fill in the blank]. We have trouble believing that our sins wouldn’t matter. We have trouble seeing ourselves for who we really are because we have accepted the enemy’s lies about us. We say we have faith but perhaps we don’t really believe God forgave us as He said He would. When we allow our self-identities to be defined by what we’ve done wrong, we’re essentially walking into church in color-coded suits. Adulterer? Scarlet. Addict? Green. But that’s not what church is about. As a member of God’s church, we must be careful not to “color code” those who walk in the door. It’s not our place to assign someone a category, to assume we know who they are because we know what they’ve done.

And, more important, it’s not how God functions. He says though our sins are as scarlet they will be white as snow. When we repent, when we truly understand that our behavior is preventing us from being as close to God as we could be, when we are willing to turn away from what is hindering us, then we can be confident when we approach the Lord. We can come together with God’s people, free of judgment, free of condemnation. Knowing we’re clothed in garments of righteousness, assured of our identities as children of the King, and able to stand tall and confident and without shame before Him.

Soaking in the sunlight


It seems like winter has lasted forever. I’m tired of scraping the windshield of my car every morning. I’m tired of taking off my wet shoes and then stepping, sock-footed, in a puddle of melting snow tracked in by someone else. I’m tired of not being able to tell what time of day it is because the view outside my window, all day long, is dreary and gray. And when the weather is like this, not only am I tired of it, I’m just tired.

But this week the sun has been shining, bicycles and running shoes have been dusted off, and people have gone outside. Neighbors walking past smile and wave; convertible tops and car windows are rolled down, music blaring — just because they can be. It’s still cold in the mornings, almost freezing, but by afternoon we’re stripped down to t-shirts, if not shorts and flip-flops. It’s probably really not warm enough for that, but it feels so good because we’ve suffered through months of cold and darkness. I normally don’t mind winter, but even I took advantage of the sunshine this week.

One morning as I prayed with the other women at ladies prayer group, I felt the Lord shining down upon us. I raised my face up, towards the warmth and light. And He showed me something. In the sun, we soak up vitamins and feel our health being restored. But, by basking in His light, our spiritual selves are restored. Our bodies get the nourishment they need. Our hopes are renewed, our attitudes are rejuvenated, our anger and sadness disappear. It’s even better than the way the sun feels falling on your bare, pale skin. It’s even better than getting off an airplane and heading to the beach to have the sun warm you all over. Because we don’t have to wait for the weather conditions to be just right, and we don’t have to travel to a specific tropical location. We can find this wherever we are, whenever we need it. Whether it’s sunny or gray, warm or cold, whenever you’re lonely or sad or tired or hurting, just turn your face to the Light. And let Him shine.

What a friend we have in Jesus

Good friends are hard to come by, but I’ve been blessed. I’ve had many friends, but they’ve not all been constant. Each phase of my life has brought me into contact with new people. The girls I ate lunch with and passed notes to in high school knew every detail of my life — who I liked, what I wore, who hurt my feelings. But we lived in different places after high school, and as they got married and had kids and I didn’t, we grew apart. In college, it was a new set of friends, people who had similar goals and dreams, people who also wanted to break free of the rules and constraints of the places where they’d grown up. My friends and I stayed up all night talking and studying, amazed by the things we had in common, helping each other map out our futures. When the “future” arrived, we all went our own directions and got busy. The phone calls and visits became farther and farther apart. The early years of my career were also the early years of my marriage, so I didn’t do much with anyone but my husband (and most of my friends were busy doing the same thing). After my children were born, I found myself moving in different circles, resuming contact with friends who also had kids, meeting people at preschool open houses and school music programs, bonding with women who, like me, jumped at activities that offered child care. Along the way I’ve found women who will share rides and pick up my children, women who like to read like I do (or shop or eat at the same Italian restaurant), people who attend the same church, people whose kids are involved in the same sport or band or play as mine.

In each stage I’ve met some amazing, bright, witty, vivacious, fun, caring, good people. But I’ve learned that even though the friendships were real, many times they were based on a shared experience — and once that experience ended, so did the relationship. Most of the time, good memories and feelings remained; we just didn’t have a whole lot in common anymore. We’d run out of things to say.

But there’s always something to say to the Lord. He doesn’t get bored hearing the same old things. Even if we run out of words regarding our own lives, there are never enough words to describe Him. To thank Him. To remember what He’s done. As long as we’re wanting to be friends with Him, we will have plenty of common ground. He doesn’t outgrow us or move into another phase; He walks right next to us wherever we are. He holds stubbornly onto us, no matter how much we do change. Because He never does. And if we’re walking with Him, trying to be more like Him, any changes we make will actually bring us into closer communion with Him. He is unlike any other friend we’ll ever have, and no matter what, the friendship will endure forever. He puts no limits on it, no length, no breadth, no height, no end. He offers it all.

Just keep drivin'

A couple weeks ago, it was one of those breathtakingly beautiful mornings with fog everywhere — white snow, white sky, crisp frost on the branches. I was heading to Indianapolis so I grabbed my camera to try to capture some of this beauty. Unfortunately, as I drove along 32, I could never find a good place to pull over to take pictures. Frustrated, I vowed to take the next side road I came to. It snuck up on me in the fog, and I swung onto it... and, moments too late, noticed it was a rutted, muddy dirt road. Not even gravel, just dirt. Great. My clean white car...

I hadn’t gone far before I regretted my decision, but there was no place to stop and nowhere to turn around. There was not a single house or lane to be found. At first it was just messy and bumpy, but before long, I started composing in my head the words to explain to Tim how I got stuck in the middle of nowhere and needed to be rescued. The muck was deep and sucked at my tires. My car was sliding from side to side when it wasn’t bogged down by the deep wet earth, and the tires were spinning and spewing mud up to the top of the side windows. I didn’t care how clean my car was; all I could do was pray out loud and focus on not stopping. I knew if I so much as slowed down I’d never get moving again. The sludge in the road pulled the car from side to side; my shoulders were tense from gripping the wheel, and I repeated over and over, out loud,“Lord Jesus, please. Lord Jesus, please. Lord Jesus, please!” After two miles, I came to a crossroads (thank you, Jesus!) and the road was paved (thank you, Jesus!). With a deep breath of relief, I turned onto it, feeling stupid and annoyed with myself. I headed right back to the main road, making sure at each turn that the road was solid asphalt before me, and went directly to Indy and the nearest car wash.

Sometimes we’re faced with situations we don’t want to be in — usually because of choices (or stupid decisions) we’ve made. Those are the times we need to look for a side road and turn around, or look for the earliest opportunity to get off that path.

But once in a while, we’re in circumstances that are out of our control. A relative is very sick; we lose jobs or friends or money; we’re misunderstood or unappreciated or wrongly treated. Some of these predicaments are small, but some are all-consuming and life-altering. We may think we can’t bear it. We don’t have the strength or energy or desire to patience to get through, and our hearts are broken. But more than that, we don’t know how to keep going. We’re being pulled down into a quagmire, under the sludge and muck, trapped and unable to find a way off that path. Those are the times we need to keep the pedal to the floor and just keep going, praying all the way. It may be ugly, and it may be messy, and it may even be a little bit scary. But if we can just keep moving forward, and ask God to help, we will get past the place we’re in.

Feeling especially thankful



What I sent to my clients today... but I have all of you to thank as well for the friendship and encouragement you give me. Thank you.