Beckoning

The call to shove away the endless to-do list for a few minutes and indulge my writer self has grown over the past few weeks so today I did it. I seized a moment!

Recently I listened to a podcast about what’s saving the podcaster, Emily P. Freeman’s, life. Hmmm.

It got me thinking, what’s saving my life right now? In the day to day sense, what’s bringing me small joys?

So here they are reader, my top 4…

#1: Aveda

Each morning and evening I enjoy the scent, feel, and experience of washing away the grime of the day or night with a new skincare regime. I bought the whole thing a couple weeks ago. It helped that it was on sale and they gave me other free things when I ordered it. I love a deal.

I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much! But each time I breathe in the spa like scents and spray (yes, spray!) my face with the indulgent toner, a little of the drama and struggle of the day passed or the day to come lessens. I’m transported just a little.

And that’s what I love about the small joys in life…they take me out of the mundane, the overwhelming, and engage me in a simple pleasure, a gift from God. Because isn’t that one aspect of our senses? To experience the fullness of God’s creation?

#2: Tennis with my son

Anyone who really knows me knows I am not athletic. I exercise because I want my clothes to fit or fit better. Sweating is not my jam. I’ve never been good at any sport. Wah, wah.

But lately, swinging a racquet with my youngest kid is defying some of my image of myself as a clumsy dweeb. Often I can serve the ball into the right square. So surprising! Sometimes I return a zinger right into the back corner! Nice!

A couple nights ago we weren’t experiencing such moments of transcendence. I was tired, he was off his game and frustrated. He began to hit homeruns on the tennis court…well, off the tennis court to be exact. Not in a happy way. But every one brought this joy to my heart. Look at that ball fly!

So I began to try it out. Wham! And can I tell you, the exhilaration of whacking the snot out of a little yellow ball on a too humid November night in Texas was huge. We spent the last crate of balls hitting as hard and as long as we could and it was….fun.

He loosened up as the pressure of the white lines faded and all Hades broke loose on our court.

#3: Journaling

This is no new habit of mine, journaling. My brother and I talked about it a few weekends ago and I made my wish known that any journals found upon my passing should be burned and not read. Not because there’s anything especially salacious in them, but because any comment made can have no hope of being talked over and resolved if I’m, well, dead.

So if you find any, just burn them, folks.

Ok, now on to why it’s saving my life.

Journaling is my place to spill my unformed thoughts and worries to God. All that stuff that hangs out rent free in my mind, which is pretty active, gets out and on paper. Somehow that act of thinking it, moving my fingers to put it down in time and space, and then closing the book removes some of my mental clutter.

It’s a physical way of laying some burden, distress, or joy down before God in a way that resonates with more than just my headspace.

Is it prayer? Yes, I guess it is. And probably worship too.

And those things save me in the sense that they rescue me from trying to deal with everything myself.

I also love those sweet Moleskine journals, they make journaling better.

#4: Sport Mode

Not sports like tennis but sports like sports car. A few months back we traded in my husband’s very sensible sedan for a used convertible. It’s a lovely shade of blue, it’s a manual shift, and it had half the miles of the sensible sedan so… we made our mid-life dreams come true.

And I like to drive it like it’s a sports car, because it is. I think it gets worse gas mileage than our van the way we drive it but it is mega fun. We made a pact to drive it with the top down as much as humanly possible. So far so good.

It helps that we all enjoy it. Our youngest thinks his hair looks better after riding in the Miata. Our middle kid leans back, closes his eyes and enjoys the sun and wind on his face. And I enjoy getting hugged by the seat when I accelerate which is often and aggressive as long as it is safe.

Don’t worry, we don’t speed as a habit. We just get up to speed in the funnest way possible.

It’s making most every commute fun except the ones where I end up next to a Texas-sized truck muffler.

But, on the whole, net gain and daily joy are our companions when we tool around in our Blue Bullet.


As you’ll notice, not all of these joys are overtly spiritual. Personally that’s where I think I often land in peril in matters of enjoying the gift of the life God gave me. Seeing these small joys leads me into thanks and gratitude for a God who made a beautiful multi-sensory world and delights that we experience our life here in communion with Him. Whereas a narrow view of what counts, or should count, steals a bit of the joy.

I can’t find communion with Him in many things in this world. There is so much that only seeks to divide us from His love and presence. But there’s so much that can beckon us to come to Him, all us who are weary and burdened, and find rest with Him.

So, what are your small joys that beckon you to look up and enjoy God in your everyday?

Scorching Heat

Days and days with no rain. The grass crunches under our feet and the heat keeps us shut inside until the sun slides towards the horizon. Drought sucks the ponds lower and lower with each passing day as we wait. Wait for rain or cooler temperatures or cloud cover to provide relief from the relentless heat.

And it’s all we can talk about here these days…how hot it is, whether the power grid will break, when it will be over, comparing this summer to the scorcher that was 2011 and sparked unprecedented wild fires.

As much as I don’t want my mood to be governed by the weather, I’m fighting to cultivate contentment in this environment. Not ambivalence or dissociation …but true contentment. The attitude that acknowledges the reality of the struggle while also choosing to receive what I need from God to face it without despair or anxious striving.

The Guadalupe, a serene reminder of cool refreshment.

The physical heat is the most obvious and innocuous part of life to practice cultivating contentment. A baby step, a most basic exercise, in learning to trust God. That is where I find myself learning the lessons afresh. The lesson that ripples out into all the other areas as well.

Can I entrust more than my physical comfort to God? Can I place in His hands the unknown future? The worries that wake me up at night? Will He be enough for my kids in the avenues of life they must trod? What will it take for me to lay down my anxious striving to solve problems on my own, without God?

And the heat continues, reminding me day by day to take this life day by day, entrusting myself and others to God. The crisp, brown grass and scorching seatbelts a tangible clue to my desperate need for the spring of living water.

Today, what is reminding you of your need to rely on God?

Resonance

My son plays cello. No matter that we owned two violas, he wanted to play cello. Over the summer he took lessons because I wanted him to have something to do while his older siblings scampered around to jobs, hiking trips, and places with friends in cars.

Hearing him practice is a delight.

Once, his teacher moved one lesson online and a weird thing happened. While he was playing a scale, hitting the notes just right, the teacher’s cello all the way across town began picking up the sound waves and resonating a note. Through air, wires, chips, internet lines, then back through chips and wires and air that note traveled and replicate itself in the other cello.

When you think about it, that’s pretty incredible. Sound and music is one of the ways its hard for me to get out from under believing in the existence of God.

That resonance is what got me. One note moved through the air from one object and caused movement in another object.

Today I read about Peter at the last supper and then at that fateful campfire where he denied his friend, his teacher, the One he believed was the savior of his people.

It struck me that Peter didn’t know what was in himself. He was so sure that he would be loyal, that he would never… That all others might but not him.

And then he did the thing.

And Jesus turned and looked directly at Peter in that moment. When Peter met His gaze, he remembered what Jesus said would happen, what Peter so confidently denied could ever happen.

We don’t know anything about that look Jesus gave Peter. In my humanity I see raised eyebrows with I-told-you-so vibes because that’s how it works with me. Those moments when something comes true that I warned a kid about it takes everything in me not to raise my brows and waft off a distinct vibe even while I hold back the actual words.

What’s even more interesting is the interchange a few hours before. Jesus says to Peter three astounding things:

  1. Satan asked to mess with all of the disciples to see what will shake out
  2. I (Jesus) personally prayed for Peter that your faith would not fail
  3. I predict you’ll come back

I mean, tons of questions here for me. Did all the disciples get sifted or just Peter? I assume Jesus said ok? Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail yet Peter did fail.

And! Jesus seems to know that Peter will fail or why else would Jesus tell Peter that “when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers”?

That kind of blows my circuits when I really think about it. Did one of Jesus’ prayers not get answered with a yes? Of course we know that in the end Peter did betray Jesus but he also turned back and strengthened others.

Did Peter’s response right after this affect what happened? Did Peter’s following confident assertion that he was ready to go with Jesus to prison and death reveal that Peter needed to know more about himself without which he would not be ready to strengthen others?

There’s so much we don’t know but so much to know as well.

For me, I hate that so much of ministering to people involves living out of weakness, failure and suffering. Why does it have to be this way? Why is it that to follow Him, I must see and embrace those aspects of me that feel like nothing but failure?

I believe it relates to resonance. That phenomenon where some chord strikes the chord of another.

Could Peter ever lead the way Jesus displayed to him without a colossal failure followed by repentance and then restoration?

I don’t think so. Peter’s failure led him to an experience of restoration that transformed him into the humble servant Christ taught him to be.

And I don’t believe I or anyone can connect with the soul of another without the experience of being fully known in that moment of failure and then fully accepted and forgiven there too.

Those who are forgiven much love much, right?

And so it is that embracing our weakness is the striking chord that resonates in the souls of others who also seek the truth.

The Power of A Gentle Lead

Lily is a lunger. I stopped walking her for a week because a back muscle spasm left me doubtful I possessed the strength to control her without incapacitating myself. Its embarrassing really, an indictment on our dog parenting skills, to have such an ill-behaved dog.

She seems ferocious with her heavy chain collar we bought to walk her. Don’t judge y’all.

It helped a little but didn’t keep her from pulling when she approached the big Collie she dislikes. Some dogs she likes and some she can’t stand. She can’t stand that glorious Collie. It’s hard to know how she judges or what they’re saying to her that sets her off. We just walk past, heads hung, sheepish smiles of apology on our faces as our dog barks her face off.

Our neighbors wouldn’t know she spends most of the time in our home sacked out on a couch or bed, completely docile. She behaves like an attack dog in public. I’m sure we’ve avoided a break in just due to her behavior on walks in our neighborhood.

We went to the pet store to look at lizards, my son’s absolute favorite category of the animal kingdom. We wandered into the leash aisle and browsed a bit before spotting a box with an idyllic picture of a cute dog on a walk.

What must that be like I wondered?

We agreed it was a lot to spend for a thin cord contraption but I’d seen other dog parents using it. Their dogs did what I wanted Lily to do. They walked beside their owner and generally behaved themselves. I admired their behavior and thought I’d like to walk my dog in a similar, calm fashion. My son convinced me the purchase was inevitable.

So, I bought the new lead and wondered what would happen when we put it on Lily. Could this little cord really hold back 35 pounds of dog torque? Ok, you’re laughing but it’s a lot when she she sees a deer and imagines the kill.

Here’s an example of what brings out the killer instinct in our dog…Bambi.

I was doubtful. I saved the receipt and my son and I expressed gratitude that the box wasn’t one of those contraptions that needed a box cutter to open. We opened it without losing a finger and raised our eyebrows. It was small and thin for what it claimed it could accomplish.

We finally figured out how to put it on Lily and everything changed.

Immediately.

She went wherever I led her. A new problem emerged, our leash dragged on the ground and got under her paws. Trucks went by, she hardly noticed. Bunnies jumped and she just glanced at them. We walked by the yard of her arch nemesis, Cujo we call him, and she reacted not a bit.

Lily was a new dog.

A tiny bridle-like leash brought her to submission in an instant. She’s going to get more walks now. She will make new friends. People might break into our house but at least we can show our faces in the neighborhood without folks checking to make sure she’s up to date on her rabies vaccine.

I’m going to look like a queen with my medium sized dog walking right beside me.

Being a city girl…ok, a suburb girl…I never saw the power of a bridle quite so clearly until now. And, of course, it reminds me of more than just controlling animals.

Small things can control big things. Small things can turn powerful things. Small things can do big things. James, Jesus’ brother, connected this phenomena to our personal lives. Our tongues. Our speech.

It wreaks havoc in our lives, sets things on fire. The only way out, the only way to bring it in check is to submit our whole selves to Jesus Christ’s gentle lead.

This year I can’t believe some of the things said by people I used to respect. Insults that were off limits in the past got plastered across social media. I grieved the evidence of what lay in the hearts of so many. It became evident we couldn’t control much and tongues wagged, set things on fire and burned relationships to the ground.

I can’t believe things I’ve said in my life, things I deeply regret and needed forgiven. When I begin to see the power of my words it is sobering. How can I have such power to speak words that hurt so deeply? Yet I do, we all do.

It became so common place to breathe out angry words, it was held up as being brave and honest. I think, in reality, it was just a power play, a stab at controlling…something.

Now here we are, divided, suspicious, and scared because we did not put on that bridle and submit ourselves to God who gives the power to resist those forces that tempt us to try and control what we never could control.

I know the arguments.

What if He leads us on a way we don’t want to go? What if it hurts, what He wants us to do for Him? What if we suffer? What if we’re not the winners in this world but we look more like losers.

Jesus told His follower, Peter, what to do under such circumstances…you must follow Me.

Peter, you follow Me and you will lose earthly power and reputation, you won’t even get to dress yourself or decide the next place you sleep.

And Peter submitted to Jesus but somehow I sense we forget. I know I forget.

I forget that life with Christ was never about power but about sacrifice. It was never about my way, but His Way. The call to follow Jesus was never about being in control and it was always about making disciples.

So if I submit to Him, maybe my tongues will stop lunging at other people and I’ll look like Jesus a little more. He’ll seem a little more like who He is because I display who He is a little more accurately.

At least, that’s what I hope for myself. I’m not sure I’ll ever get comfortable with the bridle this side of heaven but I know I need it…desperately…and I know I’m not alone.

Re-entry

We walked around the busy grocery store, my sister-in-law and I, carefully following our list and eager to escape back to the quiet lake house retreat. She just returned to the US after 2 years uninterrupted overseas. You know why, pandemic.

Grocery stores are among the most overwhelming re-entry experiences. The choices are different, the quantities are measured in different scales, and in America the abundance can be overwhelming. Choices become more difficult. Mentally tallying the dollar signs from the foreign currency taxes the brain. At some point, you just give up and dump it in the cart resolving to care another day.

America is the land of opportunity. The opportunity to have it your way. To customize. To choose. To never see the back of the grocery store shelf. To not have to rework your menu mid shopping trip because multiple things are unavailable. To not experience as many social restrictions or curtailed freedoms.

Except for this past year and a half.

In many ways, 13 years of life overseas prepared me well to encounter a lack of toilet paper, a reworked menu, an acceptance of social restrictions, and jumps through bureaucratic regulations. We signed up for difficulty when we made the decision to live overseas.

We painted a lot of things this last year, including our front door, a portal to a different place…like re-entry!

Life in lock down reminded me of some aspects of life overseas and I relished the time to jump off the treadmill of the busy American lifestyle so many warned us would come when we moved back to America. After 5 years of life on this side of the Pacific, we’d definitely become increasingly busy and committed. And not just us, but our kids had commitments on top of ours.

Jumping off the treadmill was a gift in many ways. I read through the Bible a couple times because I didn’t have to get anyone off to…well…anywhere. We spent a lot of time together as a family, something which I ached for as our kids got older and busier. It felt like a gift.

But we also lost friends, grieved the unfairness of life, felt guilty at times for having enough, wrestled with how to relate to others during a particularly divisive time in a country that we already struggled to fit into after 13 years living away.

Now life is picking up again. We are faced with re-entry in a wholly different form than ever before in our lives. Alongside an entire world, we are all wondering what we are entering.

Because its not really re-entry. Its entry.

I feel this push and pull about what is to come, what we are entering. I don’t want to go back to the insane schedule that challenged us trying to find time together as a family. But it’ back. The school extra curriculars are laying out time intensive schedules.

Everything is starting up and I’m feeling a little like my sister-in-law in the grocery store. Overwhelmed. Stressed. And feeling like I just need to dump some stuff in the cart of life and try to figure it out later.

But this isn’t cereal or potato chips. Its time and energy and cultivating a life in dependence to God in ever changing circumstances.

Re-entry and entry take time…mostly time to think, feel, and align ourselves with what following Jesus looks like in new seasons of life. And besides a world opening up…kind of…I also have a daughter a year away from graduating. That alone is catching my attention and heart.

Another sign that I am entering, not re-entering. My life will change drastically soon.

So maybe you can relate to me on some level with our current times or maybe not. I have a feeling that many of us may need a little more time to do things we once did so effortlessly before a global pandemic.

For those that have not experienced the grocery store scenario of the newly returned expat, let me tell you it’s ok. It’s normal. It will take time. It will make you angry, sad, confused, insecure, and probably many other things to navigate the new world with its new challenges.

But in all that unsettledness, I’ve learned that following Jesus is the surest foothold through rocky life transitions. Something that all that reading the Bible brought into focus this past year.

If you’re looking for a first step, I suggest the Gospel of John and reading about Jesus who pretty much shook up every life He encountered.

As always, thank you for reading my thoughts and musings! I’ve struggled to write this year in the midst of so much…well…just so, so much of everything. I resolved today to write and break the silence and I’m so thankful you got to this point in my ramblings!

Death by Paper Cut

Wearing a mask. Answering another Covid screening question. Missing life milestones. Not getting to chaperone that school trip. Another zoom meeting.

These are just a few of the thousand little things that are piling up right now in this season of immense change and suffering.

I hope you enjoy this post from a few years ago. It seemed relevant in this age of radical upheaval…


One of the most difficult things about life anywhere, and life lived across cultures for sure, is that often it’s no one big thing that slays me…at least not yet.

It’s all the small things that add up and threaten to take me down.

Taken alone, each cut seems relatively minor and superficial, like a paper cut, but they sting. Each and every cut stings and there’s no time to put on a Band-Aid before the next cut comes.

Talking about what hurts seems silly.  It’s just a paper cut, why am I so upset about a paper cut? I minimize and compare. I don’t want to complain. I don’t suffer like that other person who really stood up for their faith in a stressful situation of direct confrontation.

No one really hurt me, right? I’m still alive, aren’t I? I discount the cut and fail to treat it.

Again and again the cuts come. Forgetting my passport. The person who cut me off again just this morning. The man who makes me re-park my car so that the nose faces out warning me that I am breaking the law if I don’t. He doesn’t understand that at least 5 people on the road endangered my very life and parking my car in a “cultured” way is the least important thing to worry about now. The lady at the store who will not even try my credit card even though I know it works. I did not bring cash. Smog.

Here in Asia it’s called “eating bitterness” these paper cuts. It’s an old saying about the difficulties of life and just taking it. It results in kick the dog syndrome, though. People just lose it for no clear or sufficient reason.  But I know why they lose it because I lose it too.

Unseen cuts cover us all and then someone pours salt on the wound. The salt without the wound is nothing but with the cuts…it brings sudden pain and I react.

Kick the dog syndrome spreads like a contagion. A woman picks up a brick on the street to throw at a man. I’ve seen that. A family fights in the apartment above us. Furniture shakes and screams keep me awake.  I’ve heard that too.

I wish for a formula to combat the paper cut plague but it doesn’t exist. I know more now to look at the cut and say it hurts…to cry even if it seems silly to cry over a paper cut. I know that real life seems more death by paper cut than death by some brave act of martyrdom though those stories also move me to tears.  DSC_0064

Death by paper cut is not as futile as it seems when I count the Lord’s view of suffering. He calls me to die to myself as He died for me…even in the smallest things. He calls me to persevere and endure and even do it joyfully because He gives me resources I just cannot muster myself.

As I contemplate more on this concept and acknowledge the cuts, I do find more joy because I find grace and mercy. I still kick dogs some days…not real dogs but proverbial dogs. I do a lot of apologizing. It is coming easier to apologize because I get a lot of practice.

But His grace and mercy, this is the salve that allows my soul to lay down and rest.

Open Your Mouth Wide

School begins in a couple weeks…maybe. Who knows in all this uncertainty? The one thing I’m told to accept in this season is change. So. Much. Change.

I cannot think of many things that are certain besides what we will have for dinner…if the grocery store has all the ingredients, of course.

I wish this what I made for dinner but we can’t be happy ALL the time, can we?

As the pandemic continues my tolerance of change is wearing thin. I want to know things. I want to be sure of something. I want to be able to tell my kids a piece of information I’m certain will not change.

Right now, I want to do something normal. I want to buy school supplies. I want there to be a list and I want to buy everything new, neatly packaged and put it in a backpack because it feels normal.

But I don’t need all the things on the list. I don’t know if my kids will darken a school door in a historically “normal” way. But I don’t really care.

I want the order to calm the storm that is happening around us.

When I check the news or social media, it provides mostly grief. We are all trying to latch onto something certain like desperate people drowning at sea.

Maybe its a politician, a plan, an ideology, or conspiracy theory…but we want a life preserver.

And when we think it will save us, we latch on hard. So hard.

One phrase in my readings of the Bible comes to mind often when I feel so much want that I don’t know what to do with it. Where do I go with these impossible longings for a life that looks different than our current reality?

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

God wasn’t just talking about food. He is talking about total reliance on Him to fulfill our needs, wants, and desires. In the context of this verse, God’s people are going to many, many other people for stability.

It’s worth noting who they were going to:

Spiritual leaders who promised peace when God was promising captivity.

Political leaders who promised power when God’s power was with other nations.

Foreign leaders who promised alliance when God said rely on Him.

Material objects that promised fulfillment when God said only He could fulfill.

And nothing has changed, has it? I still want to go to these things and claim a place of power, of agency over my circumstances. More than many other turbulent times in my life, this era is unique in its universalism.

The whole world is scrambling.

The whole world is longing for the same things. But will we go to the One who is truly capable of providing for us?

I don’t know. I hope so. I labor towards that end.

And I open my soul mouth wide, naming all my hungers, and I wait and trust that God will feed me.

Somehow. In some way. Because He promised He would.

I don’t know how He will do it, but I am eager to see.

Exposed

Shopping is exciting these days. I’m used to empty shelves from time to time from my life overseas. Like when a rumor floated around in Asia that salt would undo effects of radiation after the Fukushima plant melted down. Then, overnight, there was no salt at the grocery store. None.

Or when I found Dr. Pepper overseas and cleared the shelf myself. I mean, why not?

Right now, shopping is a little too exciting, like a hunt. I’m not used to that in the US. I’m used to hunting food overseas, going to multiple shops, making expensive trade offs. I’m not accustomed to needing those skills in the land of plenty, America.

It’s unsettling.

Anyone buying a bidet soon?

Because it used to be that when I encountered such difficulty and lack, I knew that Asia would not always be my home. Someday I’d be back in the well stocked stores of the US. Now that I’m experiencing this here in America, I’m faced with another stripping away of the security I’ve placed in lesser things.

And the exposure of the pillars of my security is rather startling. I didn’t realize I placed such a large degree of confidence on the stock market until it started its roller coaster dips and rolls. I didn’t realize I relied so much on being able to control my schedule until my kids schools said don’t send them back to school…for who knows how long.

Early on, there was some talk that the disease spread correlated with national hygiene habits…and now America is pretty much proven unclean by that standard. And I didn’t realize how much I trusted my in my national identity as better than…until it was challenged.

All this upheaval and exposure brought about by a teeny, tiny, microscopic tenacious virus we can’t even see. Rather startling. Rather humbling that something so small has brought pretty much the entire world to its knees.

I’m still a bit stunned, wondering along with the rest of the world how this will all play out. There’s no escape hatch this time to a different land…a land of relative plenty. I’m pressed in to my circumstances and forced to look at what God exposes in me.

So, I wait, and trust, and do what I can do while I hopefully realign my heart more to depend on the Lord.

Humility: Lesson #1

Most days I pass through a 4 way stop near my house. I’m on my way to drop off a kid or pick up a kid or go to work or the store or…anywhere.

It gets busy around rush hours and becomes more of a 4 way pause instead of a 4 way stop. People honk sometimes. I could be included in the word “people”.

I usually tap the horn when someone has not appropriately observed the law. They should know, right? I’m preventing an accident. They are in a hurry, they should slow down and pay attention.

Well, a couple days ago I pulled up behind a car at the 4 way pause. A million things were floating through my mind that first full week of school and crunch time in ministry.

As I pulled through the stop, I noticed a car start to pull out even though I was in the intersection. How dare he! I thought.

I didn’t tap the horn but I gave a look. You know, the get-in-your-place look. I may not be a police officer but I wish I was at times like these.

The driver did that Texas thing where you keep your hand on the steering wheel but wave your fingers around in a way that says what’s up with you lady?

As I completed my turn I realized I was still pretty close to the car that had been in front of me.

Huh.

Why was I so close to them?

It slowly dawned on me that I had tailgated the driver in front of me through the stop! A cascade of thoughts poured out of me…

I was wrong

I deserved a ticket

I did what I hated other people doing

My behavior warranted a honk and a dirty look

I am a hypocrite!

And I was totally unaware of it.

I also wondered how many times I condemn others for something and fail to see clearly my own behavior that’s worthy of condemnation. I can name a number of times that I encountered this in my life. This incident reminds me that there must be so many more that I still do not see.

I will always need grace and mercy for ways I mess up that I have not figured out.

So will you. So will others.

That other driver I thought so arrogant now seems so merciful. He didn’t blast his horn at me and I deserved it! How many times have I taken the opportunity to come down on something I felt justified in condemning instead of letting it roll on past? Instead of showing mercy…

I really want to thank him for showing mercy! So, if you’re reading this and were driving a nice grey suburban when a lady in a grey minivan gave you a dirty look while breaking the law…thank you for showing mercy.

To me, pride seems like one of those really stubborn, kind of hopeless character flaws. I’m usually very blind to it so how can I possibly grow in humility?

And then humility! The minute you say you’re growing in humility it reveals you’re not! Catch-22.

Here’s my hope straight from Proverbs 29:

A person’s pride will humble him,

But a humble spirit will gain honor.

So, through my pride, I’ll get humbled. Fun! But, I don’t need to dread this beat down. Even more encouraging is that my pride is not a hopeless condition. The joyful paradox, though, is that by the time any honor comes I won’t even care about it anymore!

Humility is content without the honor it engenders. It has its own internal reward.

And I’d love to know what that’s all about!

White Stones and the Deep Soul

My daughter tried to get my dad’s attention by calling to him in ever louder shouts. Poppy…Poppy…Poppy! He wasn’t standing far away and he wasn’t, yet, as deaf as he got later on. So, he really had no excuse.

She kept on shouting Poppy to no avail. Then, MIKE!!!! And Poppy turned his head. We all laughed pretty hard. I think we leaked actual tears.

Ok. He deserves a break. He was less than 2 years into his career as a grandfather. We lived overseas and my brother’s kid couldn’t even talk yet so he didn’t have a lot of practice with his new name, Poppy.

And, I feel this resonate with who I am as a person too. I don’t always know my name. It’s not that I don’t know my given name, its that I don’t know who I am as a person.

So I search. I take personality tests. What kind of animal am I? What are my strengths. My MBTI. A Birkman. Am I a “D”? What number am I? What’s my wing and do I only have one? Is adaptability really a strength?

I was once called a tornado for a certain combination of “strengths.” Tornados are strong, I get that. But a tornado? I’d only find fault if it wasn’t true. It is true, so I have to own that one.

I believe all these assessments can have a place in honing in on how God made us and how we can serve Him more whole heartedly. They can help us understand where we might be blind to sin. I’ve benefitted so much in recognizing certain strengths and sin patterns and learning to honor and trust God for them.

We’re a pretty fascinating thing, we humans. Gazing into how we’re wired and how we are raised and how God made us can get pretty consuming and pretty twisty. Looking into the soul without the guiding light of God’s Word and His Spirit, is like looking into a deep well. We can’t see the bottom. We keep asking our name and keep hearing an eerie echo of our own voices coming back from the void.

When my dad was dying, he talked of the white stones in heaven that have our name on them. It’s a brief verse in Revelation but what great hope is communicated through it. We will finally know our name, know ourselves as God knows us. That separation we experience in our souls due to sin will finally be closed

Can you imagine what that will be like? To have God, our very creator, lean in and smile (I just know He’ll be smiling) and whisper a name that’s just between Him and me. And it will be true, and right, and without shame, and without want, and have nothing to do with any other ill-formed, incomplete opinion.

It will finally be known to me what God has known all along.

My soul. My name.

So, all those efforts we put into knowing ourselves? If they are not united with what He already tells us about ourselves in His Word, they are woefully incomplete. They’re not a complete waste of time but just know, they will never be able to tell you all of who you are.

Only God can do that. And He will do it.