Friday, February 22, 2013


I made the mistake of letting Jude paint her fingernails the other day…..all by herself.  Actually, she did a pretty good job for a 3 year old.  She stayed inside the lines surprisingly well.  I bragged on her then gave her the speech of, “You did so good….but, don’t open the polish without asking, ok? Always check with mommy first.  Ok??”  Of course she gives me one of her sweet, compliant, disarming replies, “Ok, mommy….I will.” 

Well, yesterday we dropped off the boys at school and headed to Target.  On the way, she panicked a little and said, “Oh no! The paint came off my thumb!”  I told her it was ok and we’d fix it in a little while.  She whined and moaned for a couple of minutes and then said, “Mommy, I want to go home!” 

I’m thinking, “What?! She doesn’t want to go to TARGET???” (It’s sad….but it’s one of our favorite places.  Don’t judge…..they have $2 popcorn/icee deals!)  So, I asked her why on earth she wanted to go home and she said, “Cause……my nail looks funny!”

It just struck me right then, that….Wow….this starts SOOO young.  She didn’t want to go do one of her favorite things because she was afraid someone would see something was not quite right about her.  3 years old!! Just turned 3, 3 months ago!  I assured her that she was so pretty that no one would be looking at her fingers and that even if they did, everyone’s nail polish gets messed up sometimes.  (Of course, this is precisely the reason I only polish my toes and never ever my finger nails.)  Anyway… really hit me how common it is among girls of all ages to want to appear so well put together and to want that acceptance on such a profound level.  Really…..3 yrs old?!  I had visions and anxieties of her middle and high school years just grip me all the sudden.  As this little scene unfolded in the car, I had one of my playlists on my iPhone going and Wonderful, Merciful Savior by Selah was playing.  “You give the healing and grace our hearts always hunger for….oh our hearts always hunger for.”  Thank you, Lord!! That anxiety left me as soon as it came. 

Not Jude, though.  I’ve never had this child tell me she didn’t want to go to Target.  It bothered her so much that she rode in the basket and continually asked me if I was done and if we could go home.  She only gave it a brief rest when we were picking her out a new little dress, because, well…..she’s a girly girl and LOVES dresses right now.  As soon as it was in the basket with her, she was ready to pay and go home.  Though, after I hurried along and got ready to walk out the door she said, “Wait! My Icee!”   On the ride home, she enjoyed her Icee and Reese’s and nothing more was said about the fingernail.  The fine art of distraction…..or so it would seem.   When we got home she wanted to put on her dress and of course, I let her.  Then she went off to play and I started putting things away.  A few minutes later, she came to me holding up her nails saying, “It’ll dry really fast.”  

Oh yes.  She had gotten the polish out without asking….to fix that blasted thumbnail.  Not only that, but she was in such a hurry that she didn’t stay inside the lines well at all and had it on her arms and legs…..and her new dress. 

When I started this blog late last year, I discussed how this “roots” thing came to be; how I feel like we all have some common roots that bear digging up.  This, my friends is a prime example.  Here’s what I saw going on underneath it all in a nutshell:

Jude was not comfortable going out and doing what she loved with what she felt was an obvious defect that would make people look at her funny, even though in reality….it’s not likely anyone saw it and if they did, wouldn’t have cared because they’ve been there and because she’s THREE!!  So, she didn’t really enjoy the trip at all (expect for the Icee).  Then, she rushed home and made a bee-line for a bad choice.  She HAD to fix that nail.  So, she disobeyed by getting the polish out and almost ruined her brand new dress in the process. 

Do you know where she’s coming from? I do.  How many times have you let your own awareness of your imperfections keep you from enjoying something? How many times have you avoided situations due to fear?  Particularly….Fear of how others would look at you?  How many times have you compromised or made out right bad decisions in order to feel acceptable to others? How many times have you almost ruined something you loved as a result?

Those are feelings and anxieties we deal with all of our lives.  But, because I had boys and they are wired differently, I didn’t realize just how young it all starts until my girl came along.  Honestly, not many boys are perceptive enough at 3 to even wonder what others think of their appearance.  If they were perceptive enough, they still probably wouldn’t care!  What I do know from my own personal experience, though not a girly girl, is that those feelings and anxieties come early and stay late for the majority of girls.  I have known VERY few people who totally and visibly identified themselves as followers of Christ in their teen years.  Not that they were perfect or free from those tendencies but, comparatively speaking, they had a much more confident air and made far fewer compromises that the majority of their peers. 

The wedding I mentioned attending in my last post was that of 2 such young people.  They were two, unashamed high-schoolers with a quiet, confident air.  Now both approaching their mid 20’s, they were able to include in their ceremony the removal of a “true love waits” ring, replacing it with a wedding band.  I have to say, the Lord loves a wedding celebration.  He talks an awful lot about them in scripture.  So, when two people unashamedly committed to Him joined together in marriage…..I doubt “approved” covers what He felt toward them.  I doubt “pleased” would even describe His delight in them that day.  I don’t have to tell you how rare it is that a bride can proudly wear her white dress as a symbol of purity.  Believe me, those are not judgmental words.  They are full of empathy because I think at the root of it all, it's the incessant need common to most girls to gain the approval of others that fill our teen years with compromise and plagues many for a lifetime.

Though I didn't come to this conclusion until I was already grown and married myself, this I know for certain from personal experience:  There is no one else’s approval we need other than that of our Heavenly Father.  There is no other safe place to seek approval.  Not even family.  It is only by the power and grace of God that we master those tendencies toward fear and anxiety and their resulting bad choices.  There is no support group or self-help book out there can adequately arm us to fight and win when it comes to spiritual warfare and that is exactly what's going on.  Satan is not omnipotent but he is very observant and finds his delight in capitalizing on our insecurities and weaknesses.   Christ alone is the only one that can provide that quiet confidence in the dark, deceptive world around us and His Word is the lamp He wants to use to light our way and arm us for battle.  This is my prayer for Jude AND my boys: That they would delight themselves in Him from a young age and find their confidence, not even in me….but, in Him alone. 

Psalms 1:2-3
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Psalms 119:66-72
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.
The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

The link below will re-direct you to YouTube with a sweet video of "Wonderful, Merciful Savior"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Created Equal: Equally weird.

Never fails. For someone who writes, whether it be a book, a blog, or a personal journal....a trip home never fails to offer boo-coodles of new material! (To my home folks - don't worry, no deep dark secrets revealed here!) I guess this isn't really "new material" to me. It was just made fresh for me this weekend and well, I often need those reminders. I went home to Tennessee for my younger cousin's wedding. I have to say that it was extra special to me because I taught her College and Careers Sunday School class for the last 4-5 years before we moved to California. It's always been very special when one of these young men or women gets married because I've had the privilege of being in the position to work with some of them when some of their young love things turned more complicated than they'd anticipated. It was also special just watching them literally become men and women before my eyes...turning from amateurs in the dating field to making lifelong commitments before the Lord. It was still funny to me, though, because when they moved up from youth to our class and a lesson would include me saying something like, "someday when you are married......", every one of them at some point would say, "I ain't gettin' married!" or "I'm waiting until I'm 30!", etc etc. So, Ashley's wedding was not only special because she's family, she's also my sister in Christ.

That's precisely what struck me this weekend.....When we add Christ to a relationship of any kind, it takes on a deeper dimension. We look at people differently and can relate to people we wouldn't ordinarily or on a level that normally wouldn't be broached. Whatever the difference may be.... age, race, career, economic status, marital status, etc., we have lots more to discuss than the weather or that one thing we may have in common.

I've come to the conclusion that we were all created equal. Equally weird. But in our own special ways! What I'm trying to say is that I've learned the blessing of forging friendships with people who are not like me. For example, I have a friend born and raised here in California that is really into all natural, homeopathic living, eating, etc. It's very much a part of who she is and, on the surface, it would seem we have little in common. She is literally the fastest friend I believe I've ever made since the first time I met her was when I hopped in her car to drive to Long Beach for a Beth Moore conference. Little did I know she was a new found sister in Christ. We actually appreciate our differences so much that we can poke fun at them.

The same is true for a Tennessee friend whose family's favorite past time is car races. I don't know if past-time is an adequate word. They don't just go to races, they own and race the cars. It's something they love that's a part of who they are and I know absolutely nothing about it. But, the spiritual common ground opens up many conversations that otherwise would never take place. We can make fun of each other as well as set each other straight.

Really, we all benefit from those types of relationships. When our relationships are solely based on having kids the same age, similar career paths, the same hobbies or passions, the same hang-ups or flaws, or even the same family, they tend to remain at superficial levels. I'm not saying that we can't love someone or have real relationships with people who are not believers, but those relationships will never be all they could be. When you add Christ to the mix, you can discuss anything from the weather to marriage; from potty training to societal woes; fashion trends to eternal life...... and be a help to each other, not just a sounding board. These relationships were meant to be a blessing and a help to us this side of heaven and they can only be realized among fellow believers.

We will find these relational opportunities exist in our family, our workplace, and most importantly in the setting of our home churches. It's not to say that we can expect to handle everything perfectly, but through serving one another or alongside each other with the love He commands us to have for one another, we inevitably realize a common bond that far exceeds any high school click, college sorority, sports team, work colleagues, or any other group in which we have identified ourselves. We can have different interests, passions, careers, family status, etc., and still have a sense of commonality on many levels simply because we have the same Spirit at work in us, even if we are on different levels of our spiritual walk. We can even have various struggles along that walk....addictions, insecurities, family problems, financial troubles, etc. Yet, we still have common ground and hope for one another because Christ is THE Healer....of all things, for all people. When we intentionally put Christ at the center of our relationships, we find a new capacity for compassion, forgiveness, boldness, and encouragement. That's when we surprisingly find ourselves growing into wiser, more loving, joyous, content people. This is not by happenstance. It is by design.

Ephesians 2:18-22
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

PDA Alert

Flowers, chocolates, dinner dates…..ah yes….It's know what that means!  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  This is the day we have marked on our calendars to deliberately and demonstrably show love to our loved ones.  Be on the lookout for all manner of PDA’s (public displays of affection!)  

Now, “public display of affection”, have gotten a bad rap in my opinion.  I mean, really our response often depends on whether we're the witness or the participant.  Right? J  After all, I do believe Solomon, wrought with wisdom, told us in Ecclesiastes that there's a time and a place for everything. Did he not? (Boy do we ever work that one to our own interpretations and advantage sometimes.)  Well, this is the Solomon in Song of Solomon. So…..  Nope, not going there with this today! (Not likely any other day, either). Really, though, I think there should be some sort of tier system with which we grade PDA’s.  

Tier 3:  neutral – there is little if any PDA.  Maybe hold a door open, carry something for them, or give them a pat every once in a while.

Tier 2: admirable – an appropriate or inspiring amount of PDA.  As in, "Aww, look how sweet they look at each other"; "that'll be us holding hands in 20 years”; a short, sweet kiss or a warm embrace, etc.

Tier 1: offensive – too much PDA!!  As in, "Do you mind...this is a family place?!"; really bordering on indecent exposure.

Really, Solomon was right.  Even PDA’s have their time and place. The bad rap comes from those horrid scenes etched in our minds involving people who apparently haven’t read Ecclesiastes. We’ve probably been on both sides of the coin at some point in our lives. We’ve either had the boyfriend who smothered us with public affection or one that only offered affection if no one was around. For that matter, we’ve probably had friends who operated on the same principal. We’ve had that true friend who stood with us even when we weren’t making them look good at the time and then we’ve had the friend who was only a good friend in certain circles.

See, public displays of affection, in my book, encapsulate a lot of things. That’s why I wonder about the validity of any affection shown on one particular day, if the next day, we go right back to distant and self-serving. I mean, let’s not be unappreciative….it’s nice to not have to cook dinner that night and to have fresh flowers decorating your table. It’s especially nice, though, when you don’t have to end the day thinking, “wow….I could get use to this”, because your loved ones are demonstrative to you on a daily basis.

So, while the tier system is handy in gaging the PDA’s of those at the mall, we should take a look at what all PDA’s really encompass in the day to day.  I’m going to list some things that come to mind and we’ll see if we can look at them a little differently. PDA’s typically bring images of kissing, hugging, holding hands, sending flowers, etc.  With my husband and I, they also include things less noticeable: warm smiles (our “song” is Ronan Keating’s version of Keith Whitley’s ‘When You Say Nothing at All’); fixing him coffee at a gathering or making sure he has some ready in the morning when he leaves at the crack of dawn; him leaving at the crack of dawn to provide for us is a display of affection; him insisting on carrying the heavy stuff or warming up the car; etc. Still, the least talked about and most important public display of affection, though, often comes when we’re not even together.  Let me explain.

See, my sweet thang is very demonstrative.  He has never quite broached the “offensive” tier with his PDA’s but he has rarely assumed a spot on the neutral tier, either. But, really, what means more to me than his showering of affection is that he has never been one to hide his love for me, even when I’m not around. Co-workers of his that I’ve met over the years seem to have an understanding of his devotion to his wife and kids.  His affection toward me is not hidden…ever.  Also, his demeanor toward me doesn’t change because our environment changes or we’re among a different group of people.  Unashamed love. Now, to me, that’s hot. You can keep the flowers and I don’t need the chocolate anyway. 

I wish that were the standard in all relationships in regards to demonstrating affection.  But, I realize that because Valentine’s Day is such a lovey dovey holiday, it leaves many people feeling unloved because they either don’t have that someone to shower with love or because the one that is suppose to take up that cause doesn’t come through.  Can I just say to those people, at the risk of sounding cliché…..and I REALLY don’t like to use cliché’s … Cliché’s oversimplify and trivialize things sometimes.  And this is not simple or trivial…but truth.  Just let me remind you that there is a PDA in a tier of it’s own, directed toward all of us and was meant to keep us all from feeling unloved….ever.

The Ultimate Display of Affection
1 John 4:8-10
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In THIS is love…. not that we have loved God but that HE loved US…..and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

If we study the affections that Jesus offered during His earthly ministry and put on magnificent display at the end of it, we could grasp a whole new concept not just of displaying our affections, but also a deeper sense of what love really is.

-          He wasn’t concerned with how pouring His love out on those around Him made Him look to certain groups of people. He never hesitated to demonstrate His great love. (Luke 5:27-32).

-          He didn’t insist that His love be merited.  It was so much a part of Him, it just oozed out of Him (Matthew 14:13-21; Luke 8:40-56; Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 23:32-43).

-          He wasn’t deterred from pouring out that love even when it was unreturned (Luke 17:11-19).

There are so many examples of God demonstrating His unmerited love throughout scriptures and the cross was His ultimate display. So, when we are feeling unloved or unlovable….He bids us to remember just how untrue that is.  Furthermore, because we are the recipients of such unmerited love, maybe we could resolve to demonstrate our love for those around us…even on days they aren’t “meriting” our favor, either. Let’s learn from the Master, not to be concerned with our appearance before others or the return on our investment. If we love someone, we should take every opportunity to let the world know.  That’s certainly what He did.  Some days it may just ooze out of us, other days it may have to be a choice to love demonstratively that day.  But, if we could walk in His ways, we might be surprised at the wonders he would work in our relationships…..Especially in our relationship with Him.

We often find it difficult to offer a single PDA for the One who loves us so much.  Some circles of people may never hear us utter His name, much less shout His praises. What’s baffling is that is the case even among many bodies of professing believers.  I’m not saying you have to dance in the aisles at church, but worship Him whole heartedly, being careful to not quench His Spirit at work in us. He deserves far more. Outside of church are countless opportunities to display our affections toward Him on a daily basis.  We may not feel like it some days. Things aren’t always rose colored.  I don’t imagine Paul felt much like singing in prison after the beating he took, but he did….and boy were some wonders worked that night….I’m talking chains coming loose!  

So I’ve compiled us a new little list here of some basic PDA’s to offer Him that we can display for the world to see: Obedience; unashamed praise; faith in hardship; joy in trials; thankfulness in need; loving others even when they’re not being lovable; serving others without expecting reciprocation; and serving Him both in His House and in our daily encounters.

For those of us who are professing believers, we need to make sure our PDA’s support the claim that our church membership holds….that we are believers in Christ and in a relationship with Him….all in.  Much like my sweet thang’s consistent displays of affection toward me display what his wedding ring alone can’t….his love for and devotion to me, the cross of Christ displayed his love for and devotion to us all. We simply need to make sure any love we claim we have for Christ or for anyone else for that matter, is visible. Unashamed love.

So, in all of our relationships, whether or not love is in the air this month, maybe it’s a good time to review and update our personal policies on public displays of affection. J Just a couple of tips as you begin your review….With the Lord, my tier system wouldn’t work. He’s all about some all-in, crazy love. Remember David dancing naked down the street when bringing back the Ark of the Covenant? For our earthly relationships, though, all-in, crazy love is a good thing….just keep it G-rated please! I don’t want to start the wrong trend here.  Even in crazy love, there’s a time and a place for everything! J

It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
Try as I may I can never explain
What I hear when you don't say a thing
The smile on your face let's me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me wherever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all
All day long I can hear people talking out loud
But when you hold me near, you drown out the crowd
Try as they may they can never define
What's being said between your heart and mine
The smile on your face let's me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me wherever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all