Sunday, April 20, 2014

Widow's Weeds

"Don't grieve that it's gone, wonder that it was. 
Laugh that you lived and dance that you dared. 
Inhale that it happened - and it was grace."
Ann Voskamp

Last week, someone told me that God wanted to bless me in so many ways, but that I was resisting receiving from Him. They challenged me to press in and ask Him to show me where my resistance was. And He did.

When I first became a Christian, God placed me into a church that was like an incubator for my weebly, newborn self. God always seemed so near back then. So obvious. And He surrounded me in people who poured into me - love, teaching, encouragement, belonging. I had never in my life experienced feeling peace or safety, yet there it was. Things were definitely not perfect, but that time was precious to me and I made many memories.

When the time came to leave and go to another church, I did not want to go. He was clear, but I white-knuckled my home church's doors for about a year. Then I straddled both churches for another year or two. Eventually He made me an offer I couldn't refuse: He told me, "If you let go and leave it all behind, I will give it all back to you...and even more." And so I took a deep breath, let go and went.

And now it is almost 3 years later and it seems I haven't seen the fulfillment of that promise. And the longer I wait, time has begun to tint those sweet, early years even more golden than perhaps they were. Just like the Israelites who were initially so eager to leave their slavery in Egypt. After a few weeks of eating manna, they started remembering the "glory" of Egypt. They had meat! They didn't have to walk all day! Life was so good!

I have always has a very nostalgic personality. When I have a good experience of any kind, I carve out a sort of hollow in my heart to make a space for it because it is precious to me and I want to keep it close. And I revisit it from time to time. But when changes come and that thing is no longer there, instead of being grateful for what was, I feel sad for what is no longer. And nothing new, even great things, seem to satisfy. They seem more a disappointment. Because I am fixated on what I feel I have "lost".

I realized I had created that hollow in my heart for What Was those early years of my life with God. And in my head, I know He can fill that space with What Is and What Will Be. But I think God showed me I have blocked off that hole in my heart with yellow caution tape that reads, "Reserved for What Was Only". I didn't want to open that space up to new things because what replaces it would be different. And my heart assumes that means not as good.

I once saw an episode of What Not To Wear, the reality show where someone nominates a person for a head to toe makeover. In this particular episode, the selected person was a young woman who had lost her husband several years before. Very beautiful, but overwhelmed by the loss, she shut down and stopped caring for herself. She had long hair, out-of-style glasses and frumpy clothes. With the help of the show's makeover team, she had picked out new outfits and gotten great makeup tips. But when it came to the haircut, she put up a fight. Increasingly frustrated, they said to her, "What is the big deal? Just let us cut your hair! If you hate it, it will grow out!" But she began to cry. As she held on to the ends of her now long hair, she said, "He was alive when this hair was at the top of my head. He ran his hands through my hair. That means, this hair right here, he touched it. If I cut it off, all the rest is new hair. Hair he hasn't touched."

I am not sure who cried more: the woman, the hosts or me. She didn't want to let go of this last crumb she had of his presence. But because she was holding on to the past, she had no free hands to grab ahold of the future. She was stuck.

I realized I have been living like a grieving widow wearing black clothing, or "Widow's Weeds" as they were called. So trapped in the memories of what I had that I wasn't open to the next thing God wanted to give me.

So, I had a funeral. Literally. I wrote down all the things I missed about my past. And then I said goodbye. I buried the list in my garden and planted a beautiful plant above it. Then I asked Him to open my eyes to see the new provisions He has coming for me.

Rob Bell did a video that speaks to this very topic and says it much better than I ever could. Here is the transcript:

"I ran into this guy recently that I knew in college. And he started telling stories about this person and that person, and 'Remember we went here?' and 'Remember that?' and 'Remember when that happened?' and he's getting more and more excited. And partway through our conversation I had this thought: 'That was years ago!' It seemed in some way as if he's still back there, like he never left. As if those were the best years of his life.

"There's this fascinating interaction in one of the accounts of Jesus' life. It's right after he's been resurrected. It's the central event in human history. It's the event at the center of the Christian faith. And Jesus has just risen from the dead and the first person He sees is Mary Magdalene. And He says to her: 'Don't hold on to me.'

"The first thing Jesus does after being resurrected is He tells someone not to hold on to him?

"Perhaps a little background would help. In the book of Luke, it says that Jesus had this group of women who travelled with Him and supported Him and that they learned from Him, and they were actually the ones who paid His bills out of their own pockets. And it's written that one of these women (her name was Mary Magdalene), that she had had seven demons but Jesus had delivered her from them. Wait, seven demons? I mean come on, this is one of those passages that I could use a little more information here! But whatever it means, it's safe to say this woman has a story.

"Her life has been drastically transformed because of this Jesus that she's met. She owes Him everything. I mean imagine spending that kind of time with someone and then watching them killed on an execution stake? No wonder she stays around after everyone else has deserted him. And then she's the one who comes to the tomb a few days later and finds out it's empty, and so she goes looking for the body. And she's the one who's in the garden looking for the body when she runs into this man who she thinks is the gardener. And then all of a sudden she realizes it's Jesus! And He's alive! And He's back! And so she goes to embrace Him and he says 'Mary, don't hold on to me.'

"I mean, wait, this is Jesus. Like, the divine embodiment of love and compassion. And Mary goes, it looks like, to hug Him and He says 'Don't.' I mean, are we missing something? Mary assumes that He's back, right? That He's back and alive and so things are going to go back to how they always were. Back in the good old days when they would all eat these big meals as a group. When they would travel and tell stories and laugh. But Jesus hasn't returned to make things how they were. Things have changed, Mary. Things aren't gonna be how they were.

"My friend has a daughter, she's in junior high and we were all at a party recently and she started talking about the boys at her school and my friend is saying, 'I don't want to know this! Please don't tell me this!' and she's laughing and he's laughing and we're all laughing. But there was something else going on there, because my friend's little daughter isn't a little girl. She's turning into a woman right before his eyes and for a Dad that isn't easy. So, he does the 'Don't tell me this! I don't want to know that you're noticing boys or that boys are noticing you!' so it's funny and we all laugh, but the truth is it's's painful. Because life isn't static, is it? It ebbs and it flows and people grow up and move away and graduate and lose their jobs and people that you love die and some people get married and others don't and some get divorced and some get cancer, and things aren't how they were.

"Now, after Jesus talks with Mary Magdelene, He goes and appears to His other disciples (the ones who deserted Him) and He tells them that it's time for them to take His message to the ends of the earth. He tells them it's a whole new day, everything's changed and God's gonna give them everything they need. He essentially tells them they are going to receive a new spirit (one for today), and He promises them that they're going to have everything they need for their new life.

"Think about the couple who have been married for years and they speak with longing about the early days when they were just starting out. And after a while you begin to wonder, would they go back there if they could? Or the person who is the star athlete 20 years ago and they're still talking about it. And there's this kind of faraway look in their eyes and there's a longing in their voice. And you begin to wonder, do they believe that their best years are behind them? Or maybe you've been part of a group where there is this impulse to long for how it used to know back when we were starting out, back when it was the first time, back when everything was new. But it's not. Everything isn't new. We aren't who we were and things aren't how they were. I mean, how much energy do people spend wishing things were how they were?

"If you need to celebrate how good it was, then celebrate. If you need to remember how great it was when they were alive, then remember that. And if you need to grieve, grieve. If you need to apologize or make amends or you need to do something to make peace with how it was, then do it. But then, move on. I mean there is a certain kind of despair that sets in when we believe that things were better back then. You know...when we're stuck back there and when we're not fully present. When we're still holding on to how "things were" our arms aren't free to embrace today.

"As it's written in the book of James, you don't even have a guarantee about tomorrow. I mean, we can't change how it was and we have no guarantees about tomorrow. All we have is today. I mean, if you live in the fantasy that you'll get around to it tomorrow, that you'll get around to them tomorrow, you will wake up and it will not be tomorrow. It will be yesterday and you will have missed it. You will have missed them. And if you're a parent, a Mom or a Dad, the answer isn't to freeze your kids in time so that they don't grow up, you know, and try and keep them younger than they are. The answer is to be so fully present here and now that you don't miss a thing in THIS day. And then you can let them go and you can let them be who they are because you don't have any regrets. Because you were there the whole way.

"Jesus, when He was talking with Mary Magdalene after the 'Do not hold on to me' part, you know what He tells her to do? He says, 'Now go, and tell everybody else what's happening.' He gives her a part to play. There's a role for her now. Is Jesus saying that to you right now about anything? About anybody? About any time? 'Let go, and receive a new spirit'?

"So, may you accept the path for what it is. May you celebrate what needs to be celebrated and grieve what needs to be grieved. And then may you receive from God a new spirit, one for"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Belly Up

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:1, 2 NIV)

My pup was an orphan. 13 years ago, she was found wandering in the woods in the mountains of North Carolina. No one knows how long she had been out there, but when they found her, her dark brown/almost black fur was orange, bleached from sun exposure. She was too thin, a few pounds shy of her healthy 11 pounds.

She was brought to a shelter and cleaned up, and was quickly adopted by my brother's mother-in-law, Dale, who was looking for a tiny dog with a big personality. That is exactly what she got. Dale took her home but soon realized Suki's time in the wild had made her quite scrappy. All on her own, she had learned she must fight for what she wanted. She began to tell all of Dale's other dogs what to do. They, being 5 times her size, were not ok with that and they attacked her. Dale realized that this arrangement was not going to work and began looking for someone to adopt her adopted.

I agreed to take her on a trial basis. I loved dogs but had never had my very own before. And I had never considered myself a "tiny dog person", but as this fluffy girl arrived on my doorstep, one look in those big, brown eyes and I was in love. I named her Suki.

One week in, I found out she had intervertebral disk disease after she jumped off my bed and was unable to use her back legs. The vet gave her high doses of steroids that helped reverse the paralysis but the condition plagued her again and again. Her first few years with me consisted of many painful vet visits and eventually invasive and gory spinal cord surgery, followed by months of living in a crate to recover. 

I am not sure if it was trauma from her first family, the time in the woods, the time at the pound, the time at Dale's or all the pain from medical issues she had when I first got her, but I do know she had trust issues. She would always lie down in the corner opposite where I was sitting, her feet right underneath her (so she could rise at a moment's notice). For a long time, she would barely sleep. And when she did, any noise or movement would cause her eyes to fly open and she would jump to her feet, startled. Many times she seemed to sleep with one eye open, always keeping watch, keeping watch, keeping watch for impending danger.

After many years together, I was sitting on the couch watching TV. Suki was dozing off on the living room floor. At one point, she took a deep breath and opened one eye to look at me. I smiled and coo'd at her, then noticed something amazing which took my breath away: She rolled over on her side, closed her eyes and fell asleep.

I burst into tears.

Dogs don't sleep on their sides unless they feel safe. She finally felt safe. She finally trusted me. I loved her so much from the second I got her, but now she finally believed it. My sweet girl.

It is hard to learn to trust when your life has been rough, when people have hurt you, when you've spent your whole life fighting to get your needs met. I've spent most of my life like that. My position of "rest" has never been a place where I could let go and surrender. It has been a fitful rest, sleeping with one eye open, keeping watch for oncoming danger. So exhausting.

From the second I was a thought in God's mind, He loved me. But when we first met, I didn't believe that. I have spent years watching Him from across the room, cringing with fear at his incoming hand. And sometimes I still do.

But slowly things are changing. There are moments. Moments where I surrender. Moments where I go belly up.

And because of my Suki, I know a bit of the joy He feels when I choose to believe that He is trustworthy and safe.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Detour Through the Desert: Hinds' Feet

To the horror of Much-Afraid her two guides prepared to take the steep path downward.

She stopped dead and said to them, "We mustn't go down there. The Shepherd has called me to the High Places. We must find some path which goes up, but certainly not down there." But they made signs to her that she was to follow them down the steep pathway to the desert below.

Much-Afraid looked to the left and right, but though it seemed incredible, there was no way possible by which they could continue to climb upward. The hill they were on ended abruptly at this precipice, and the rocky cliffs towered above them in every direction straight as walls with no possible foothold.

"I can't go down there," panted Much-Afraid, sick with shock and fear. "He can never mean that--never! He called me up to the High Places, and this is an absolute contradiction of all that he promised." She then lifted up her voice and called desperately, "Shepherd, come to me. Oh, I need you. Come and help me."

In a moment he was there, standing beside her.

"Shepherd," she said despairingly, "I can't understand this. The guides you gave me say that we must go down there into the desert, turning right away from the High Places altogether. You don't mean that, do you? You can't contradict yourself. Tell them we are not to go there, and show us another way. Make a way for us, Shepherd, as you promised."

He looked at her and answered very gently, "That is the path, Much-Afraid, and you are to go down there."

"Oh, no," she cried. "You can't mean it. You said if I would trust you, you would bring me to the High Places, and that path leads right away from them. It contradicts all that you promised."

"No," said the Shepherd, "it is not contradiction, only postponement for the best to become possible."

Much-Afraid felt as though he had stabbed her to the heart. "You mean," she said incredulously, "you really mean that I am to follow that path down and down into that wilderness and then over that desert, away from the mountains indefinitely? Why (and there was a sob of anguish in her voice) it may be months, even years, before that path leads back to the mountains again. O Shepherd, do you mean it is indefinite postponement?"

He bowed his head silently, and Much-Afraid sank on her knees at his feet, almost overwhelmed. He was leading her away from her heart's desire altogether and gave no promise at all as to when he would bring her back. As she looked out over what seemed an endless desert, the only path she could see led farther and farther away from the High Places, and it was all desert.

Then he answered very quietly, "Much-Afraid, do you love me enough to accept the postponement and the apparent contradiction of the promise, and to go down there with me into the desert?"

She was still crouching at his feet, sobbing as if her heart would break, but now she looked up through her tears, caught his hand in hers, and said, trembling, "I do love you, you know that I love you. Oh, forgive me because I can't help my tears. I will go down with you into the wilderness, right away from the promise, if you really wish it. Even if you cannot tell me why it has to be, I will go with you, for you know I do love you, and you have the right to choose for me anything that you please."

It was very early morning, and high above them, hanging in the sky over the silent expanse of desert, was a young crescent moon and the morning star shining like a brilliant jewel close beside it. There Much-Afraid built her first altar on the mountains, a little pile of broken rocks, and then, with the Shepherd standing close beside her, she laid down on the altar her trembling, rebelling will.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Story-time, excellent!

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 73:28

So I am still struggling with writer's block. I am on vacation currently, sitting in a screened-in porch in the cool mountains, sipping coffee and trying to feel inspired.

Years ago, I used to write endless streams of stories about God. Now, I often feel I don't have many stories to tell. But I realized something today: For me personally, I need to be continuously writing to feel near to God.

One of my biggest desires in life is inclusion. Being included is the easiest way to make me feel loved, while being excluded is the fastest way to make me cry. I once took a test measuring our need for certain aspects of life. On the section for "inclusion", I scored a 12 on a scale of 1-10. The person giving the test told me, "You have such a high need for inclusion you will never feel included enough in this life. Only in heaven will you ever have all that you want." How is that for motivating a longing for heaven?

One of the ways I feel most included is when people share things with me, especially "insider information" - hopes, dreams, details, feelings, stories. I think it is the same with God. Way back when, I used to feel He shared so much with me. I felt like I was a part of His inner circle. And when God told me stories, I couldn't help but tell the story to someone else.

When my writing winded down, the stories seemed to taper off. I'm not sure if God stopped sharing because I stopped forwarding them, or He's still sharing and I'm not noticing. This is probable, since I often have my eyes and ears more open to stories when I am looking for my next story to tell.

Either way, I need to write. Because no matter the reason, writing stimulates the occurance of God's stories in my life, and God stories make me feel included, which makes me feel loved by God, with makes me feel near to God, which makes life "work". As for me, it is good to be near God.

The question now is how to start to write when I haven't yet got a story to tell. Hm...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Power of Three

He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." (Luke 11:28)

So, in elementary school language arts class, we spent our days learning new words, their definitions and how to spell them. In order to fully absorb this information instead of just temporary memorization and rote recall, for homework, my teacher asked us to write at least three sentence using each vocabulary word. We quickly began scribbling sentences such as, "The girl walked _____ down the street" for every term, but she was on to us and quickly put a stop to such shortcuts. She asked us to truly think about each word, what they meant, and what situations we might select that specific term. Our teacher knew several things about our brains that we did not yet understand: 1.) The average person needs to see something THREE times before they remember it, and 2). Information going in one ear will quickly pour out the other ear if it doesn't stop off for a bit to work in the brain.

Luke reports a conversation Jesus had with a crowd of people whom had gathered around Him:

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (Luke 6:47-49).

God teaches me new things every day. Information is not the problem. Remembering and applying that information is the problem. That requires some extra activity on my part.

I find that every time I learn a new lesson, God gives me a rapid fire set of opportunities to put that tidbit of information into play. Because He knows, like my teacher, that applying a lesson helps to permanently sear it into my brain, creating some sort of "muscle memory" that aids in more spontaneous, godly reactions in the future. In many cases, I don't have my eyes open to see that lesson coming. For instance, recently my pastor was talking about patience as one of the fruits of the Spirit. During his talk, a congregant behind me was kicking the back of my chair, while one to the right of me was clicking her retractable pen over and over until my skin began to crawl. It was all I could do to not stand up and scream, "Oh my gosh, would you all just stop being so annoying so I can fricken learn about patience here!"

So, I am committing to writing down each lesson learned on a notecard. I am going to place this notecard in a high traffic area in my home, work or car. It purpose will be to keep in the forefront of my mind what lesson I've just learned, so I'm more likely to recognize an opportunity from God to practice it in my life. I am only going to retire the card when I've had THREE chances to live it out, so I am more apt to retain the benefits of true learning. I hope in this way, to become a "doer" of the Word and not just a "hearer" of the Word.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writers Block

A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God. Sidney Sheldon

So, I have writers block. More accurately, I've HAD writers block for awhile now as evidenced by the gaping maw of time between my last blog and this one. Friends have tried to encourage me to write (thanks Sarah and Carla!) but I just haven’t felt inspired in the slightest.

Someone once said "If you wait for inspiration, you're not a writer, but a waiter." Perhaps that anonymous person chose to remain nameless for fear of being tarred and feathered by an angry mob of frustrated writers. A braver Jack London seems to agree when he says, "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." J.B. Priestly breaks it down a bit more: "If all feels hopeless, if that famous 'inspiration' will not come, write. Go to your desk no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge of the paper - write." And finally, Louis L'Amour sums things up: "If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow."

With those wise words swirling round my noggin, I'm recommitting to cease waiting for inspiration and simply start typing. Please forgive in advance the first few pumps of "stagnant water" about to flow...

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Naughty Chair

Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. Deuteronomy 8:5

Have you ever watch the show Super Nanny? A British nanny named Jo, who quite resembles Mary Poppins, comes to rescue families with very disobedient children. The kids are horrid, but the show is more for the parents than the children. The parents have fallen into enabling their kids and tend to want to befriend their kids rather than discipline them.

One of the typical routines Jo does to help the parent establish control is to create a Naughty Chair (or as she says in her thick British accent - the "noo-tee cheh"). Whenever the child misbehaves, they are told to sit in the chair until they are released. However, because the kids aren't used to discipline, they never stay in The Naughty Chair for long. A moment after Jo sits them down, they bounce right up again, chasing her back into the other room. The strung out parents look unnerved, thinking, "Well what now?" but Jo patiently walks the kid back to the chair and sits them down again. This routine repeats over and over until a miracle happens - the child realizes she is serious, and they give up and sit down in The Naughty Chair.

So, I have had a strange epiphany: my recent prayer times are like an episode of Super Nanny. As I try to focus on God during prayer, my undisciplined thoughts jump around like hyperactive kids and wander to other things, such as shopping lists and waiting laundry. I have to intentionally walk them back to God and make them sit down and behave. But they quickly rebell and soon are bouncing around the room. Often, like the worn down parents on reality TV, I think "This is pointless! They will never stay put!" But after 50 or so trips back and forth, they realize I am serious. And they often give up, and give in, and finally become still.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Crazy Love

I love books. I love the smell of them. I love the covers. One of my most recent loves is Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, by Francis Chan

An excerpt that makes me laugh:
"Suppose you are an extra in an upcoming movie. You will probably scrutinize that one scene where hundreds of people are milling around, just waiting for that two-fifths of a second when you can see the back of your head. Maybe your mom and your closest friend get excited about that two-fifths of a second with you...maybe. But no one else will even realize it is you. Even if you tell them, they won't care.
"Let's take it a step further. What if you rent out the theater on opening night and invite all your friends and family to come see the new movie about you? People will say, 'You're an idiot! How could you think this movie is about you?'

"Many Christians are even more delusional than the person I've been describing. So many of us think and live like the movie of life is all about us. Frankly, you need to get over yourself. The point of your life is to point to Him." should read this book. :)

Friday, August 8, 2008


How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1

I saw a friend at church whose wife and kids had left town to visit family for the week. I asked if he was missing them all terribly. He told me, "April, its crazy. The way love is. It's like, when I just THINK about any of them for too long? My HEART starts to hurt!"

I want to know love like that. But from my limited view, being single and childless, I don't think I'm able to truly comprehend that kind of love. And I guess I doubt I'm the sort of person who could ever induce a similarly sweet ache in someone else's heart. But God says we are His children and that He loves us like a father loves a child. And it makes me joyful to explore the possibility that sometimes God just THINKS of me, and his heart starts to hurt because of the way He loves me.

I looove LOVE like that. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Job 22:21

As a child, I was utterly petrified of shots. If I had a doctors appointment, my mom would tell me we were going to the store to get some candy. Then, after I selected my precious JuJubees, she would slyly zip off to the doctors office. As we nearer the dreaded location, she would try to gently break it to me that a shot was on the horizon. I would cry and cry, but knowing I couldn't avoid it, I would follow her into the office, tears streaming down my face, snot pouring out my nose. When the doctor came in with the loaded syringe, I would squeeze my eyes shut, set my jaw and whimper til it was over.

My brother, on the other hand, would not submit as easily. He would fight like a cat backed into a corner. When it was his turn to get a vaccine, he would try to run away, flailing his arms and legs about, a crazed look on his face. It often required 3 nurses strongarming the 50lb stringbean while my mother held him in a headlock. Only then could the doctor be ensured his needle would make contact with the target.

Today in Sunday school, our pastor was talking about how God uses His chisel to form and transform us - and how often this process hurts. He said can accept it as it comes, or we can take advantage of our free will and run from it. I know God's plans for me will eventally come to pass. It just a matter of how long it takes. I don't want to fight it and extend the suffering. I'd rather buckle down and submit to my destiny. (Unless the needle is REALLY REALLY long!)

Friday, July 4, 2008


Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phillipians 4:6

I was going through a pretty anxious time last year. Friends advised me to "give it to God". But few people who offer that trite advice can actually tell you how. So I took them literally. I spent time in prayer envisioning literally handing things I cared about the most, and therefore worried about the most, over to God.

One of the subjects of stress was my dog, Suki. Since I adopted her years ago, she has dealt with major medical issues, the worst of which is intervertebral disk disease. If she overworks her back, her spinal chord gets inflammed and causes temporary (and if untreated, permanent) paralysis. After several bouts of medical treatment, and finally a very expensive spinal surgery, I am near the end of my financial abilities with her medical bills.
The vets have suggested no jumping or using stairs and have shown me a very specific way to carry her when I pick her up. Holding her in this position allows her back to remain straight and keeps her stabilized up against my side - kind of like a runningback gripping a football in one arm as he heads for the endzone.

One morning during this particularly anxious time, Suki started walking a little oddly. I immediately feared the worst and began to worry her back was going out again. In my prayer time, I tried to imagine giving her to Jesus, asking him to care for her and help shoulder my stress as well. As I was handing Suki over in my mind, I quickly yanked her back, thinking, "But...but you don't know how to hold her right!"

Then this flashed through my mind. And I realized: actually, he does! :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-3

I used to think Brad Pitt was hot. Then I went to grad school. I had to take anatomy classes where I learned about all the muscles, tendons and bones from the torso up. The next time I saw a movie with a shirtless Brad Pitt, my mind responded differently. Instead of a deep sigh and a dreamy swoon, I thought, "Wow, he has well defined external intercostal muscles," snorted and pushed my glasses back up my nose.

The cost of intellectualism is high - a loss of romance, the absence of mystery, a sterile form of beauty.

Sometimes I feel like I do this to God. I am an analytical person. I like data. I am always asking, "Why?" I research what I don't understand. I construct formulas for the way He works. I make legends for what certain feelings mean. I write down how He has appeared in the past to predict which way I should look for Him coming in the future. I try to figure Him out.

Now, I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to know more about God. Solomon tells us in Proverbs that blessed is the man who finds wisdom and gains understanding. But I do think that in trying to peg Him down so specifically, trying to figure out all the whys and hows and wheres and whens, I often lose some of the awe and the wonder that comes with a pure child-like faith.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Endure the Beams of Love

And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love. William Blake

I attended a nightly, weeklong prayer service last week at church. We learned each night about a different attribute of God. We focused on how big and powerful and majestic and holy He is in comparison to how small and sinful we are. We also took several days to look at His grace, mercy and love.

Now, as much as focusing on His power can make my knees shake, there is something even more offputting to me when learning about the latter facets of God. Because when I finally see myself for the miniscule mess I am, and then I begin to comprehend the awesome love of God despite my mess? Well, it hurts a bit. I feel a disconnect - my own ugly depravity juxtaposed by God's beautiful and constant love and mercy for me. I feel like I owe God for such unconditional gifts, but there is no way I can repay the debt. It can be offputting.

I think the very battle of what William Blake refers to as "learning to endure the beams of love" is what causes me so often to wander. To lessen the "pain" of His love, I can do one of two things: walk away from God to ease the feeling, or use it as motivation to become more like Him. Only a perpetual attitude of humility can allow me to draw near to such amazingly unexplainable love and rest in it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Steven James

I met Steven James at a writers conference. He is an amazing storyteller. He tells a tale in such a way that mouths hang open and people lean forward in their seats in anticipation of the next word.

In his book Story, Steven looks at Ephesians 1:4-5: "Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure."

Steven writes, "According to that verse, before God created anything, he was daydreaming about me. At the dawn of time, I was on his mind. And so were you. While darkness swirled around him, he dreamt about us and he loved us. His unchanging plan has always been to have a close relationship with us. That was God's first dream, and it gave him great pleasure."

It makes me think of friends, who as newly pregnant women looked down at their bellies already fully in love with the tiny kidney bean growing inside. They spent nine months dreaming of what it would be - a boy or a girl? Blonde or brunette? Will it have daddy's eyes or mommy's laugh? And to imagine God like this, looking down at what He would birth - looking down and imagining me! Seeing the special ways I might take after Him, what I might become, and loving me before He even knew me. Man, I can't get enough of that idea.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You Say Tomato...

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

I’m not saying these tomato plants have any special powers. I’m just saying I seem to have epiphanies when I sit on my porch swing and stare into them. Today is no exception.

As I look at them early this morning, I finally begin to feel a little faith as I notice the small green orbs growing off each yellow starred blossom. I potted these plants as mere babes several months ago. I’ve watered them at least twice a day throughout one of the hottest, driest early summers of recorded history. And they grew and they wrinkled and they leaned over and nearly died and then they grew some more. But not a single tomato. And today I am looking at these three plants I have invested so much time and effort into and FINALLY – finally I see some progress. And I realize in this moment that I am not a woman of endurance.

These tomato plants took only a few months to bear fruit and I wanted to give up on them long ago. Is it any wonder I am weak at evangelism? I am a woman of immediate gratification. When I see nothing happening, I assume nothing is happening. And I lose heart. If faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, I pray for God to help me trust in He is at work, even when I can’t see the fruit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Can I Get A Mulligan?

I was born a writer. I became a Christian in 2004. Soon after, the main subject of my writing narrowed to God. God is the epitome of a muse. Every time I saw Him work in my life, or in the life of others, I saw the story and I had to put it down on record.

There have been months when so much was happening I became breathless with inspiration at every moment. Other times, His resonance seemed less obvious. I had to actively look for God to find Him. But I looked, and I found, and I continued to write. Then I wandered into what St. John calls a "Dark Night of the Soul" - where God seemed far, and I felt lost. And my eyes failed, looking for my God. And instead of continuing to follow empty leads and writing about the sadness of the search, I gave up and slipped into the night. My focus drifted inward. And I stopped writing. And I haven't been inspired much since. That was years ago.

In an effort to get recharged, I went to the Christian Writers Conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains in May. A keynote speaker talked about the Parable of the Talents, but called it the Parable of the Story Ideas. He said that to some, God gives 5 story ideas; to some God gives 2; and to some God gives 1. In the Parable of the Talents, God was angry the last guy buried his talent in the sand and did nothing with it. God made him give his remaining talent to the guy who had 5 ideas, while he was left with nothing.

It made me realize what a poor steward I had been. I had been hiding my stories in the ground, doing nothing with them for so long. I am not sure if it was laziness or fear, or a combination of the two. Perhaps God had taken my inspiration away because I squandered it. I prayed that God would give me another chance to invest my talent and earn some interest, for Him.

I drove home from the conference and within 48 hours had the outline for a new book.

I am thankful God is a God of second chances.

Let it begin!

Friday, January 18, 2008

"I Know Kung-Fu"

I've always loved the movie The Matrix. I watched it many times before I was a Christian, but now, as a Christian, I love to watch it and see all the references that have found new meaning.

In the movie, it is 200 years in the future in a time when machines have taken over the world. At first, men tried to disable them, but the machines became too smart and adapted to using the sun as an energy source. Humans then tried to render them powerless by destroying the sun to remove their "battery". But then the machines took over and began harvesting the energy found in the human body.. They created human farms, growing humans with the sole purpose of extracting energy. To subdue them for this task, they plugged each mind into a digital program, a fake world, called The Matrix, which was designed by machines to become a virtual reality that humans believed to be the real world - a world where what they see, taste, hear, touch and smell, is actually electrical signals programmed into their brains, a control mechanism that rendered them unaware of their true surroundings and easily subdued for energy extraction.

In this movie, there is an underground resistance to the artificial intelligence. This resistance is called the Children of Zion. These are people who have become "unplugged," literally and figuratively, to this fake world. They are lying in wait for fulfillment of the oracle's prophecy - that there is one who is being sent to save them, to release them from this bondage by helping them destroy the machines and take back control of the world.

Morpheus, one of the leaders of the resistance, comes to believe that he has found the man who will set them free. His name is Neo. Morpheus says to Neo: "You are here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life – that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me."

Then Morpheus tells Neo what exactly the Matrix is: "The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth – that you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch – a prison for your mind."

Then he gives Neo a choice: "Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. After this, there is no turning back. You take this blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. Or, you take this red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Neo, hesitates just a second, and then swallows the red pill.

Instantly Neo is unplugged from his machine and truly born again, so to speak, from the pod he was hooked up to in the machine's human transformer farm. He is weak for days and has to be cared for intensely. In one conscious moment, he opens his eyes and reels from the pain. "Why are my eyes so sore?" he asks. "You've never used them before," is the reply.

I feel this movie can be a parable of the Christian faith. In the same way, we are all born into bondage. We all know there is something wrong, but we don't know what it is. And we begin to seek. Some of us earlier than others. Some of us never follow through. Others of us get to the point where one day we find ourselves sitting across from someone who is offering us a choice – the blue pill of ignorance, or the red pill of truth? Some choose the blue pill. Romans 1:25 says, "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." Sometimes it is easier to take the path of ignorance. It requires less work and responsibility. Others choose the red pill, get a set of new eyes and are shown the truth.

Morpheus soon brings Neo to the underground, to the other Children of Zion, and he begins to understand the true state of the world "out there", underneath the mask of the program. They are on a ship that Morpheus leads, a ship called the Nebuchadnezer, where they spend their days learning and training, and eating gruel and trying to remember what the sun looked like. Neo wakes up one day and walks to the control center where he runs into a worker named Cypher. Cypher turns to Neo and says, "I know what you're thinking, cause I've been thinking the same thing since I got here – why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill? I know that world isn't real, but you know what? Ignorance is bliss!"

The enemy notices the discouragement in Cypher and eventually, they break down the worn out man. They want him to hand over Morpheus to them so they can obliterate the resistance completely. In exchange, they agree to wipe Cypher's memory clean and return him back into The Matrix to live the rest of his life in blissful ignorance. Cypher agrees. As he is killing off different members on his way to reaching Morpheus, one of the characters asks him why he would do such a thing. (Lu)Cypher answers: "I'm so tired. I'm tired of this world. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of this ship, of being cold, of eating the same goop every day! Morpheus tricked us! If he would have told us the truth, we would have told him to shove that red pill right up his @$$. You call this free? All I do is what he tells me to do. If I gotta choose between that and The Matrix, I choose The Matrix."

Part of me can understand how Cypher feels. Trying to hang on to hope of some future rescue while facing day after day of stark reality. Psalm 33:20 says, "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield," and Romans 5:5 says, "Hope does not disappoint us." But Proverbs 13:12 echos the feelings that Cypher seems to be trying to express, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." Deferred hope, hope that is promised but seems so far away, begins to look more like hopelessness the longer the wait. And that discouragement breeds heart sickness. Tommy Tenney describes this holding pattern: "So many of us are living in a space between the Already Promised and the Not Yet Delivered. We don't like living in the tension between our first cry and God's final response." Amen, brother.

I feel as if I am living between the Promise and the Delivered. God promises that if I seek him and follow him, that he will give me my hearts desire, that he has a plan to prosper me, that I will have an abundant, fulfilling life, that I will receive the things I ask for, that I will be blessed and prosperous and that my suffering will be for only a little while. Yes, I know that he didn't promise me a perfect world. He said that in this world, there will be troubles. But sometimes I want to scream as the psalmist often did "How long, Lord!?" Especially when I look around and see so many people, others Christians and especially so many non-Christians, getting all they could hope to ask for. And I find myself starting to think like heart sick Cypher, thinking back to the "Good ol' Days" when ignorance was bliss.

After Neo realizes the magnitude of the truth that he has been shown, he asks one of the others, "I can't go back, can I?" She answers, "No, but if you could, would you really want to?"

Sometimes I want to ask the same question that Neo did, although I know there is no way I can really go back. Because even if I tried, I know the truth. And unlike Cypher's deal, that truth can't be erased from my mind. I could never go back to the things I used to do. Ignorance is bliss, but unfortunately not a round trip ticket. So now, here I am, with two unappealing new choices: the pill that keeps me waiting and hoping, choking down the same boring gruel most days and trying to remember what the sun looked like, or the pill that sends me back, with now opened eyes, to an ignorant world that I would no longer fit in with either. Granted, one has the promise of hope and the other does not, which makes it a pretty clear choice. Unfortunately, in either, I am left heart sick. This is my quandary.

It's frustrating days like this that I am tempted to wonder if I should have taken the blue pill.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The God of Aprilham

Once upon a time, I felt God calling me to a relatively terrifying task, one so completely outside my comfort zone I nearly cried. I was biting my nails while talking with a friend about it:

"Oh Aprilham
,” he quipped, “Great will your descendants be.”

In the book of Genesis, God tells Abraham to leave everything comfortable and go where he is called. God assures Abraham protection, provision and blessing for his obedience. And descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. In faith, Abraham believed God.

I want to have a great faith in the plans and promises of God. However, being called to a Promise Land 'flowing with milk and honey' isn't without some struggle when you have a family history of diabetes and lactose intolerance (*).

But God whispers, April, I am your shield, your very great reward. And just as God gave Abram a new identity, and in turn a new destiny, I am trying to walk in the direction of my new name.

This blog is about the God I'm getting to know – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…and even lil' ol' me.