Monday, December 12, 2011

A Character Challenge

There's not much that can get me upset and I'm pretty easy going, for the most part. I have the common factor of most females, but aside from the monthly emotional stuff, I'm very passive. Maybe to a fault. I can be too much of a people pleaser and for the sake of keeping peace, I often sacrifice my need for being heard or defending myself.  It's not important to me because I know who I am.  I have passions and principles like most, although they may be different. I realize that my passion for living a life fully pleasing to the Lord may not be the same as someone else, but it is what sets my gauge for my principles. I aim to please God, not people. But being a people pleaser, I often miss my target.  I have suffered the consequences from worrying too much about what other people think or trying too hard to please someone other than God.  People expect way too much anyway, because in general, we are a selfish generation and good character is hard to come by.

Character is made, not born. It is established over time and tested much. We don't always meet someone and know their character right away. Sometimes it's obvious, but most of the time we learn their character as we form a relationship with them and base our opinions from our history and experience with them. The longer we know someone, the better our judgement becomes. I've been guilty of misjudging people, mostly because I didn't take the necessary time or effort to listen.  I found myself questioning their motive and intentions. I couldn't trust them. On the other hand, once I made the effort, I found it easier to decipher those who could be trusted and those who couldn't. But it takes time and once you know that you can trust them, questioning their motive becomes obsolete. Like my husband, for instance. We will inevitably have our disagreements, but because I know him well enough to know his character, I can overlook his human error enough to see the good intentions of his heart. I trust him and he trusts me. 

But have you ever been misjudged? Have you ever had your character challenged? It's not a big deal if it's challenged by someone that doesn't know you very well, because you know they just don't know you. But, there's nothing worse than having your character challenged by someone who does know you and knows you well. It can feel like you have to prove yourself all over again. Do they not know you?  If they did, they wouldn't question your intentions, right? 

Nobody is perfect, I get that. I recognize this in myself and in others and I try to extend a great deal of grace before I assume or accuse.  And trusting people is not as easy as it once was, even when they are deserving of it.  I'm human and I know I fail, especially if I resort only on my own human effort. Human effort leads to human error every time, but human error leads to recognizing my need for Christ daily.  Why? Because Christ is perfect. And oddly enough, in all of His perfection, it was His character that was challenged most unfairly by men. I can vaguely comprehend how Christ must have felt when he was judged so unfairly, yet he did not defend Himself at all.  Instead, He kept his eyes on pleasing His Father in Heaven and not men, even unto death. Those who judged Him were those who never really knew Him or His character at all. 

There is still an element of challenging God's character, even today, when we ask "Why would God….?" or "How could He…?" or "Does He even care?".  Instead of knowing His character so well that we trust Him in all circumstances, we question His actions and assume He's trying to hurt us or that He doesn't really care. That's absurd!  I'm sure it doesn't bother God much when people, who don't really know Him, judge Him..that's why He can say with compassion, "Father, forgive them…for they know not what they do". But, how it must hurt Him when those who call Him Father, challenge His character with questions and accusations. Does He really need to prove Himself to us all over again? Do we really think He does not hear us when we call out to Him? Or that He doesn't have our best interest in mind? Or that He doesn't care?  If we know Him…we don't ask, because we know the answers. 

If we are misjudged by someone, we know we can follow His example and keep our eyes on God and not on man. But if we are misjudging God, maybe it's because we don't really know Him. If we know Him, we know we can trust Him and the longer we know Him, the better our judgment becomes and the less we question Him. 
If we don't know Him, He's patiently waiting to know you and be known by you. (And it's the greatest relationship you will ever have).

Merry Christmas…May we REALLY know the reason for the season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Seasoned Life

Autumn is a beautiful time of year.  It is when I begin to see the obvious change of season from summer. Although last week we enjoyed unusual warm temperatures and sunshine here in Southern California. No complaints from me. 

For me, Autumn begins a season of joyful celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The weather starts to cool down just enough to pull out the sweaters and boots without the overwhelming layers of winter. And the beautiful colors…I love autumn colors. Those who know me, know I love all shades of orange. Autumn is also the time when I begin to reflect on the year behind me, reminiscing the good times, putting away any difficult ones, then looking ahead at a new year and new beginnings.  The month of November is especially important to me, now since Aaron and I were married last year on Thanksgiving day, but also because it prepares my heart and mind for Christmas and the gifts God has given by reminding me to be grateful and focus on what I have and not what I don't have. To embrace today and not worry about tomorrow.

Every season has it's blessings and it's curses. But all for good reason and only for a season. They all have something to give us. But nothing that money could buy. It's the little things that matter, like the rain that washes & replenishes, the sun that dries & warms, the leaves that fall and make room for new growth and the cold air that purifies & tests. These little things don't seem like much, but they matter a whole lot  in the cycle of life and they should matter to us, too. 

I was at Jimbo's the week before Thanksgiving with my youngest daughter, Emma. We walked up to a counter with a  big picture of a real turkey and I began filling out an order form. She asked what I was doing and I told her I needed to order a turkey. Her response was "why are we ordering a Turkey, we don't even have a yard?" I looked down at her serious little face and couldn't help but laugh out loud. I just hugged her and told her how cute she was. These are the sweet moments that make me stop and give thanks. This is a season of watching my beautiful girls grow from children to teenagers…and all I can do is try to prepare them for all of life's seasons as they come. They grow up so fast and just as the seasons change quickly, so do they. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was holding them in my arms. Now, they are 10 and almost 12 and they already act like they are teenagers. I can only pray I'm ready for the seasons ahead of me. 

This has become one of my many prayers that I pray for them:

"Lord, I pray that my children will blossom like the springtime flowers, shine like the summer sun, warm the hearts of those around them, touch as many lives as there are autumn leaves and be prepared for life's cold winters as they put their faith in you & know that with you, they can get through the frost and it will pass like the melting snow. But most of all, that they would know you as their creator and live a purpose-filled life, storing up for themselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy."

I suppose this could be a prayer for all of us. We are all God's children and no matter what season of life we are in, He is with us.

Monday, October 31, 2011


This old cliche is so often heard throughout our lives, from childhood to adulthood. From learning to walk, riding a bike, running a race or any other endeavor that we consider worthy of a prize in the end. We aim and fire with astounding determination to achieve that prize. 

But what about the pain that is inflicted upon us that we don't chose to bear and know of no gain? We've all been there. Hurt, rejected, abandoned, abused & losing a loved one. And in this declining economy, we are losing our jobs and our homes. What do we do with that kind of pain and what do we strive for to get through it?

I've been through a wide variety of hardships in my lifetime and they've had many degrees of pain, from "ouch" to "awful", even "unbearable". But I've never gone through anything that didn't result in something valuable. Things like wisdom, success, freedom, gratefulness, my children and true love. I can honestly say that I'm so grateful for all the things that have caused me pain, for I've gained much from them.

How can we ever become wise without first making painful mistakes? 
How can we become successful without going through many failures? 
How can become free if we have never been in bondage? 
And how can we find love, without experiencing apathy? 
How can we be appreciative, if we've never gone without?
How can we define value, without knowing the cost?  

We are certain to face something. I can guarantee we will face hardships with no visual prize in sight. But just because we can't see it, doesn't mean we should lose faith in its existence. That's where faith comes in. Faith in the promise that God restores. God blesses those who put their trust in Him. Pain leads us to our need for restoration and if we let it, it will lead us to the Healer. Without it, we may never see our need for God. 

So, what do we do with our pain? We can become grateful for it and let it change us. We can persevere and let it build our character.  We can turn to God and let Him give us hope. I can't imagine who I'd be today without ever having gone through hardships. I would have never realized my need for God and I would have missed out on so many blessings. I might never have had my beautiful children or my amazing husband. I have gained so much.

James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance finish its work in you so that you may be mature and complete".

Friday, September 30, 2011

Worms or Pasta?

Perception is defined as the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. I find it Interesting that it says “through the senses”. I’ve never heard that before. But then I thought about it more and found this to be true.

First there’s the perception of what we hear & speak. It can often change with emotion or how we feel, even though circumstances remain the same. I once heard someone say there are 3 windows of perception: what I say; what you hear; and what I think you heard. (Though I also believe there’s ‘what I meant’, because most of us are not super skilled in the art of communication).
Then there’s the perception of how we see things. Whether they are issues or circumstances, our perception is how we look at them. These can also change with emotion or feelings.
Have you ever seen this picture? 

I remember the first time I saw this, I was fascinated. One minute I saw a beautiful young woman and the next minute, an old lady. My perception would change as I changed my focus.
Then there’s the perception of what we feel or touch. I once saw on a TV show, kids being  blindfolded and told to put their hand in a bowl full of wet noodles. They were told it was worms, and as soon as the thought was planted, it grew into belief and eventually screaming kids.
We’ve heard that we can look at a glass "half full or half empty". The focus seems to be on optimism or pessimism?; what we are or are not? Could it also be our perception and what we focus our eyes and thoughts on?
I’ve been through a lot of trials in the last 3 years, but my perception has gone from one end of the scale to the other. Recently someone asked me how I was doing and I responded that I was happier than I’d ever been. My response led to the assumption that my difficult circumstances had changed. No...but my perception did. There it epiphany!
I realized without knowing, that as I took my eyes off my circumstances and focused on God, I saw good. And as I took my thoughts captive and under the obedience of Christ, I knew truth. I could no longer allow my negative thoughts to grow into a belief system of worry and doubt. I changed my focus and no longer believed that I had a handful of worms. Instead, I held in my hand truth instead of lies; faith instead of fear; hope instead of despair and joy instead of sorrow.
Where is your focus? Do you have a handful of worms or pasta?  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scratch & Sniff Relationships

I just recently read a great book about a family who sold everything they owned to travel the states in an RV with their 4 children. Their mission? In a nutshell, to love God first, love others, and inspire people to discover their passion and serve others. It is an intimate look into their lives and their hearts. Not only did it inspire me, but it also challenged me to take a deeper look at all my existing relationships, both past & present, and evaluate my role in each one of them. 

Let me explain. First, this family are friends of mine, Jay & Beth Loecken. I met Beth 21 years ago and we instantly became friends. I believe it was a divine appointment by God because she has been an inspiration to me ever since. We spent 2 years growing as friends, before she met & married her husband Jay and moved away. I moved too. But we kept in touch.
In their book, Beth shares intimate details of her life and after reading them I was brought to my knees. I never saw past the surface. But God is using her story to ignite in me a deeper desire to see & know people more intimately; To dig past the surface, past myself and past all my superficial problems, so I can care less about monetary things and more about people and eternity; So I can see deeper into the lives of others and have real relationships...the kind we were made to have...with others and with God. 
How many of us say to each other, “How are you?” and don’t really listen to the response? Or when we’re asked, we don’t really answer honestly?  So many of us have relationships that we call intimate or close, but are they? We get together with friends, share coffee, go for walks, concerts or “a drink” together, package it up, tie it with a pretty ribbon and call it a relationship. How many people have we done this to? How many have done this to us? Do we really know them?  Do they really know us? Are we really listening? Are they really listening? Do we really see into their lives? Do they really see into ours? How deep and honest are we willing to be with each other? Are we digging or just scratching? 
Haven’t we also done this very thing with God? We go to church, read the Bible and pray. Hmmm...scratch, sniff...voila! Relationship. Nope, that’s called religion. “I’m a good person”. Nope, that’s not a relationship, either (and we’re not all that good). Just as much as we want real relationships with people, God wants a real relationship with us. If we are going to achieve this with either or both, we have to dig deeper; ask more questions; listen more; talk less; give more; take less; others more; self-less...we’ll only get as close as we are willing to be; with each other and with God.
Recently, a client in my chair asked me “how do you pray? Is there a certain prayer you have to say?” I replied, “do you have children?” She said, “yes”. I asked, “would you want your children coming to you everyday with a memorized script of words and that was all they spoke to you?” Her reply was obviously “no”. I think my point was made. 

"Many will say to me, on that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast our demons in Your name and done many works in Your name?' And I will say to them, 'depart from me, for I never KNEW you..." Matthew 7:22,23

Scratch & Sniff and you’ll only smell...
or “Taste and see that the Lord is Good.” Psalm 34:8 
P.S. Order the book, it is very inspiring! Here’s the link:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

God Doesn't Text!

I have a cell phone. Who doesn't? It’s the one thing I never leave home without and if I do, I will go back home to get it even if it means being late to whatever. But it isn’t just a’s my complete, personal & professional file cabinet, housing my entire life and all it’s moving parts, as well as the conduit that keeps me as efficient as possible in everything I do: work, communication, kids, calendars, etc. It used to be that phones were just phones...right? A handy little device that allowed us to stay in touch with people; to communicate with our children, husbands, wives, etc. It’s ironic that instead of inspiring connection, it's rapidly becoming the source of isolation and distraction. 
We text INSTEAD of talk. 
We text while in the same room together;  We check Facebook and Twitter to catch up with each other. Most of us would just rather not talk or we don’t have time to talk, so a quick one-liner is more convenient. And not only that, but acronyms are now the popular craze because we don’t even have time to spell it out. LOL! I’m guilty, I do it. I text all the time and I even tell my clients to text me, instead of voicemail, because I don’t always have time to listen to them. Some people have said, “I don’t’s so impersonal”. 
We text AND talk. 
Have you ever done it? Or has someone done it to you? Talking to someone while they are texting on their phone is like talking to a wall. But we still do it. It’s becoming more and more socially acceptable even though I think we’d all agree that it’s just down-right rude. We’re not giving either person our undivided attention, whether it’s the person I’m texting or the person I’m talking to. Some people have the gift of juggling multiple tasks, but no matter how good you are, it’s still rude.
Relationship. Connection. Communication. 
It’s what we all want. It’s what the phone was invented to do and what the cell phone was suppose to promote, right? Yet, is it? Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone, but I’m just observing the possibility of it’s misuse. And as I find myself annoyed with this misuse (my own included), I am inwardly nudged by my Heavenly Father. It’s as if He momentarily allows me trade places with Him and see what He sees:
He created us to have a relationship with Him. He doesn’t want to text, He wants to talk. He wants a relationship with us; He wants to connect with us through His Holy Spirit and communicate with us through His word. What do we do? We replace relationship with religion, His Holy Spirit with “positive thinking & good behavior theories” and then we replace His word with our own will. In a nutshell, we think we can connect with God, because we go to church, think good thoughts, do good things and read the Bible without ever having a relationship or applying His word to our lives. It’s like we’re texting instead of talking or texting while He’s talking. We are so distracted that we miss God's purpose. That’s misuse of Christianity at its best. God wants a relationship. He doesn’t text. He waits for us to call on Him and then He will answer (Jeremiah 33:3).
I have a quote from Mike MacIntosh, (pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship, San Diego) written in the front of my Bible that reads, "If the life of Christ is not your pattern, then the death of Christ cannot be your pardon". As I look at the life of Christ, I see the relationships He formed with people, the attention He gave to the sick and hurting and the communication He continually had with His Heavenly Father and I have to ask myself, “is this my pattern?”

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Entitlement OR Gratitude?"

Definition of Entitlement: “Having a right to something”; “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges."
Definition of a Gift: "A thing freely & willingly given without payment in return."
As Americans we commonly hear about freedom and rights. We speak of them loosely, and I assume we’re all grateful for them. But, as I really listen to people talk about these freedoms and rights, I begin to hear a common attitude of entitlement and I find it enlightening that our rights often contradict our freedom and trap us.

Here’s a few examples:
Freedom of speech, yet the right to remain silent. 
Freedom of life, yet the right to end the life of an unborn child. 
Freedom to marry whomever we want, yet the right to divorce. 
Freedom to pursue dreams, yet the right to reject anothers. 
Freedom to listen, yet the right to ignore.
Freedom to love, yet the right to fight. 
There’s a back door in our “freedom’s”, with “RIGHTS” as our EXIT sign. I get it, though. It really just depends on which side we sit on. If we want to speak, then we claim freedom. If we want silence, then we claim rights. But it’s a trap if you’re not on the right side. If, for example, you are the one who wants to talk, yet someone else wants silence, how ever will there be freedom?
Being an American, I live the logic of this everyday and even take part in it.
But being a Christian, I am handed a different set of lenses, in which to see, and I am held responsible to respond as a child of God. 
Here’s the difference....
I have the freedom to speak, but are my words edifying? 
I have the right to silence, but am I being honest? 
I have the freedom to live, but am I living for me or God? 
I have the right to choose, but whose life is it?
I have the freedom to marry who I want, but is it who God wants for me? 
I have the right to divorce, but is it biblically justifiable?
I have the freedom to pursue my dreams, but is it rooted in selfish ambition? 
I have the right to reject others dreams, but am I being prideful or envious?
I have freedom to listen, but am I really caring about what I hear? 
I have the right to ignore, but am I hurting someone else by doing so?
I have the freedom to love, but am I trying to be loved first? 
I have the right to fight, but am I fighting for what’s right?
I guess what it boils down to is our sense of entitlement or our gratitude. Most of us believe we are entitled or deserving of something. But do we really have the right to say what our rights are or what we deserve or don’t deserve?  
As a child of God, I’ve chosen to surrender my life (rights & all) and let God be my Lord and Savior. I believe that He can do a much better job with my life than I ever could (Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”). Because of this, I handed over my rights to Him...with no backdoor. He is in the driver’s seat and I trust Him, completely. Everything I am and have is because of God’s love, mercy and grace, (John 15:5 “apart from Him I can do nothing”). 

The real freedom that only He offers, is truly a GIFT, in which I am eternally grateful. Dare I say I deserve it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Stop Asking So Many Questions!"

As a mother of 2 little girls, 9 & 11, I find myself answering many questions about so many things. “What? When? Why? How?” It can be exhausting. I’ll plan out a day, a week or an occasion, such as a trip or vacation and give them a general idea of what it is and then it will happen....all the questions. They want all the details up front. I just want to say to them.. “stop asking so many questions, you don’t need to know everything!”

Sometimes, I will give them the details. But more often than not, I don’t. I may want to surprise them or maybe I want them to just trust me with the details. Sometimes I simply need to omit the details because they wouldn’t understand them and an explanation is tiresome and unnecessary.

We all probably did this as children, because that’s what kids do, right? We were just innocently curious and we thought we needed to know everything. But it didn’t stop at childhood. We still do it as adults. Just recently my wonderful husband, Aaron shared with me some information about a simple decision he made and I started asking him a bunch of questions. He didn’t like the interrogation and expressed how my questions made a statement of distrust. I didn’t think it did, I just thought I was being “innocently curious”. But it sunk in. Why did I need more information? I trust my husband so much, but that wasn’t the message I was sending him. I held my tongue and began to process this in my own head. Then, it hit me and I got it. God spoke to me in that ever-so-gentle & quiet, Fatherly way. “My child, stop asking so many questions, you don’t need to know everything”.

That was a moment of deep personal inventory. All too often, I want to know the “why’s, when’s or how’s” in the details of my life’s circumstances, whether simple or complex, painful or exciting. But my heavenly Father already has His plan for me and maybe He omits some of the details, because He knows I won’t understand them and He just wants me to trust Him. He sees what I can’t. He puts the pieces together with the finished picture in mind and all I can see are the individual pieces and they don’t make any sense all by themselves.

The “need to know” is a “need for control”. Do I want control of my life or do I want God to have control? Sometimes He will reveal to us some of the details. But more often than not, He doesn’t. And just like I want my children to trust me, even more so God wants me, His daughter, to trust Him. If I’m asking too many questions, then I’m not trusting, am I?

So, “stop asking so many questions, you don’t need to know everything!”

Job 38:4 And God said “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”

Friday, April 15, 2011

What's So Amazing About Grace?

It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was a kid in church half-heartedly paying attention to the sermons. My sister and I would restlessly entertain ourselves in the pews while everyone else sat seriously still. I remember one time, during communion, we started playing with the crackers and giggling under our breath, feeling no shame for that holy moment. It was my sister that was the instigator of most of our mischief. I would hop on board, with her as captain, and then I’d instantly start worrying about getting into trouble, while she blissfully enjoyed the ride of rebellion. 
I would test the boundaries, like all children do, but I always felt a heavy sense of conviction afterwards. I just had more moments of seriousness, than whimsical freedom. I wanted a deeper understanding of spiritual things and of God. I liked church. I enjoyed the worship songs and listening to my mom & dad sing favorites like “Amazing Grace” and “That Old Rugged Cross”. But I never paid much attention to the words, as much as how it made me feel.  I would often wonder, “what’s so amazing about grace?”
As I got older, my intent to make good decisions increased, but so did the resistance. I found myself making more mistakes than I want to admit. Each time I’d tell myself “I’ll never do that again”, circumstances would inevitably lead me to another opportunity to recover, but not without the risk of failure and knowing that I couldn’t do it on my own. That’s when I discovered the meaning of that beautiful hymn. “Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, and Grace , my fears relieved. How precious did that Grace appear, the hour I first believed”. 
Grace happened when I stopped thinking I could do it all by myself. When I was too tired to take another step on my own and I let God pick me up and carry me. When I finally acknowledged that I am nothing without Him. I couldn’t earn it and I would never know how amazing it was until I humbled myself, asked and received.
I know I will still make mistakes, because I am human. I must daily deny myself (Luke 9:23) But it is grace that makes beauty from my ashes. It erases the slate so I don’t have to look back at my failure, but instead I can look forward at redemption and the hope of one day being made perfect. 
Grace IS Amazing! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stepping Out

The calling of the Lord has never been a loud shout in my life. It's always been a gentle and quiet whisper that requires me to muffle all the loud moving parts inside my own head in order to hear Him speak. Even when I'm still long enough to listen for His voice, I find myself straining, "Is that you, Lord? Please, would you speak just a little bit louder, so I can be clear that it is you and what you are saying?"
I was in my 20's when I discovered I had a genetic hearing loss and quickly found myself in and out of the operating room trying correct this rapid loss. With the help of today's wonderful technology and the hands of a surgeon at the House Clinic, I was able to hear much better & prevent any further loss. However, I still had to rely on hearing aids at the early age of 25 to help with clarity from irreparable nerve damage and throw out any insecurities I had about wearing them.
I am almost 43 now and quite used to them. But for the last 20 years, I still find myself studying the lips of people talking so I won't miss anything with my imperfect ears. I often ask those around me "Can you please speak a little louder or clearer?" There are also times I feel like not listening at all, because it can be somewhat tiresome. But those who know me and love me have a great deal of patience and acceptance (my wonderful husband, Aaron and my beautiful daughters) and for that, I am thankful.
Once, I was in line at Ross talking to the gal at the register and I missed something she said and my daughter, Elle speaks out uninhibitedly, "my mom is deaf". I could tell by the gal's expression that she was unsure of the validity of Elle's remark and responded with humor, "so am I, sometimes". To that Elle quickly blurts out "no really, she's deaf... look at her ears!" Clearly, she has no shame or embarrassment. It's a simple fact about her mom that she accepts.
I have learned to feel the same way and I am not ashamed. I have also learned that it cannot be an excuse that keeps me from listening. I have to focus and look at people. I have to tune out other noises and concentrate on the speaker. I cannot say "I can't hear, therefore I won't try to listen".
I see the Lord working in my spiritual life in this same way. He desires to talk to me and all too often, I doubt my ability to discern His voice, so I say "I can't hear you, Lord" or "please speak louder". Even further, sometimes I simply give up trying to listen. Thankfully, He never gives up on me. He calls me to step towards Him, not Him towards me. For me to listen intently, not ask Him to get louder. And just like Jesus called Peter out of the boat and into the water (Matt 14:29), He's calling me. He wants me to stay focused on Him, tune out the waves of doubt and noise around me and step out in faith knowing that He will hold me up.  And to read His word in the same way that I would read lips, as to not miss a thing!
So, here I go. "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (I Sam 3:10). I'm stepping out and it is my deep desire to be used in such a way that brings glory to God, encouragement to you and a new faith to "walk on water".
May God bless you.