A Love that Will Never Let Me Go

She sat at the table, a friend on either side of her. Three or four years old, she loved to color and she loved to hear about Jesus.

The Sunday school teacher read about Jesus at the front of the class. "One day, parents brought their children to Jesus so he might bless them, but the disciples tried to stop them and shoo them away." 

Oh, no! What did Jesus do? She pushed her chair away from the table so she could face the teacher. Captivated, she hung on every word.

"When Jesus saw this, he was indignant and told the disciples to let the children come to him for the kingdom of heaven was made up of such as these."

Her little heart expanded to near bursting and suddenly Jesus was in the room. He appeared kind of ghost like, hovering in the room, yet he didn't frighten her. His arms were open wide and he pinned her with his loving gaze. 

She turned to the other children at the table wondering if they could see him, too. Their heads remained bowed over their coloring pages totally oblivious, so she gave an inward shrug and turned back. All the while the teacher kept telling the story of Jesus and the children as if she, too, were completely unaware of his presence in the room. Jesus looked at her with arms open wide as the teacher said, "He took the little children in his arms and blessed them."

Awe and blessing, peace and joy flowed through her as Jesus bid her come to him. He loved her. Jesus loved her. Jesus wanted her. He took her in his arms and blessed her. It wasn't a physical hug. No. It was a spiritual sort of hug full of love... a blessing she felt in the depths of her heart and soul.

She smiled at Jesus and, with one last look, turned back to her paper and resumed coloring. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so... oh yes he does... with a love that will never let me go...

It's Okay to be Happy

He's about two feet
from the ground. ;-)
It's amazing how the guilt thing happens. There's survivors guilt.  There's "I'm sick and can't take care of my family" guilt. There's "I should have done something to stop that jerk from hurting my loved one" guilt. There's, guilt over eating a cheeseburger when you didn't have time to fix something healthier. There's guilt over wealth or lack thereof - especially in this economy. There's guilt for being angry with a loved one who died. There's guilt over being depressed or not being able to overcome PTSD. There's guilt over celebrating your birthday or anniversary on 9/11.

There is all kinds of guilt we bear and there are times when we should feel guilty. But. We need listen to God, his Word, and let him show us when its true guilt and we need to repent, or when its false guilt and we need to step out of the box. Sin makes this a difficult thing to deal with, doesn't it? 

I found myself laughing and smiling and just generally enjoying myself at church last night. The fellowship and teaching was so encouraging. What would I do without my church? They're a gift from God! 

It's been such a tough year. A tough several years, actually, and I have to admit guilt nipped at me (not for the first time) for feeling happy. The realization of this jolted me and God took that moment to whisper to my heart.

"It's okay to be happy."

I wanted to cry tears of joy, but I smiled instead. Yes. It really is okay to be happy. In fact, God delights in my smiles and laughter. So I wouldn't forget, I wrote it down - It's okay to be happy.

Have you ever felt guilty for feeling a certain way? For doing or not doing something you see in hindsight that you could have or should have done? 

What kind of guilt box have you locked yourself in? 

*Warning: This isn't to confuse happiness and sadness with depression. Depression is a separate creature. You can be depressed and still experience feelings of sadness and happiness apart from the depression. Maybe this doesn't make sense to you. Unless you've experienced depression or unless you have an understanding of what it is, you probably won't get it. But trust me. There's a difference.

Water into Wine? What's the big deal?

Here’s the formula for turning water into wine:
(John 2:1-11)

Jesus + wedding – wine + helpful mother + purification jugs + obedient servants + water + miracle = wine.

Jesus went to a wedding celebration with his mother and brothers.

They ran out of wine.

Jesus’ mother told him the groom ran out of wine for his guests.

Jesus said his time had not yet come.

Rather than respond to Jesus, Mary told the servants to obey whatever he told them to do.

Jesus instructed them to fill the water-for-purification jugs which were supposed to be used only for the ceremonial purification process.

The servants obeyed Jesus without question.

When they filled the wine glasses with the water from these jugs, the very best wine poured out.

What does this tell you? There’s some pretty amazing symbolism going on here, don’t you think?

Jesus is The Bridegroom who poured out his blood to purify those who are his. Since he is our Savior, we are to obey him rather than men or customs or any legalistic man-made rules - just as these servants did. We drink wine or grape juice (the fruit of the vine) in remembrance of him and his sacrifice for us. Someday, Jesus will return for his Bride - the Church, and we will be wed to him.

What a beautiful story of redemption in this first miracle of Jesus!

Bonus question:
Was Jesus 100% man and 100% sinless? 

Too Serious...

Is there such a thing? 

There's this wonderful community I belong to. It's my writing community. I love them all dearly! 

There's my non-fiction writers who always have good stuff to say, but being fiction writer for the most part, I don't always feel like I quite fit in. 

Then, there's my fiction writers. Many are romance writers and many are SciFi, Fantasy, Suspense, Speculative... You know. All the wonderfully weird stuff. 

My Romance friends are always light-hearted and funny. My other fiction friends are, well, they're into stuff I don't even know what a lot of it is. So, once again, I feel like I don't quite fit in. 

Why? Because I'm SO, SO serious!

I enjoy funny. I enjoy light-hearted. I enjoy the wonderfully weird. Sometimes. As long as they make me laugh or stretch my imagination. 

I, however, am a fiction writer who writes serious stuff. I can be funny. Sometimes. I can be ... weird. A little. 

The point is, I often ask myself if maybe I'm too serious. Am I? Riding the waves of life is often suspenseful. Scary. Serious. But, then, it can be fun. Blessed. Happy. God gave us laughter and I do enjoy laughing. 

I enjoy fun and imaginative things. God created us this way after his own image. Yet, he also told us to be sober-minded. So, does that make my seriousness okay?

I think. Maybe.

I still find myself fighting the urge to be free in my creativity. I do. I envy my friends whose imaginations are so vibrant they make you smile and laugh and gulp at every turn. I am working to free mine. It's hard. I always wanted to avoid any appearance of being weird...


So I hid my imagination from the world. 
I stifled it rather than nurtured it. I forced myself to eat brown pellets when I should have been eating blue. 

It's a struggle to step out of my prison cave and into the vibrant jungle, but I'm trying. 
A captive writer is not a pretty sight and my self-imprisonment needs to come to and end. It's time for this blue monkey to swing. Seriously. Just the way God made me.

P.S. Be forewarned. 
If  something I write ever shocks you... 
Well, just know it IS me. 
This little Ragged Blue is breaking free!

A Season of Grief ~ Death Stinks

Words. There are none.

A speechless writer is an overwhelmed writer.
Some things are too elusive to pen.

Not to worry. It will eventually find its way out. If there's one thing about writers its that they must bleed on the page. To keep things trapped inside is suicide.

Sunday. The day I found renewed freedom in Christ. The day Jesus's love flowed unhindered in my heart. The day I praised God from the depths of my soul. The day in which I dove into the Lord's Supper, feeding my soul and quenching my thirst with Jesus.

Sunday. The day I lost one of my best friends. The day when my heart became suspended in shock. The day my mind cried "NO! No, no, no!" to God. The day she danced in my mind - her voice, her laughter. Her smile, her sparkling eyes. Her arms holding me. The gift of her tender love comforting me. The day I changed forever.

Every person who enters your life leaves their fingerprints on your soul. Every person whose life you enter are forever marked with your fingerprints on their soul. It's how God made us. We are not islands unto ourselves. Do we think about the impact we make on others? What kind of DNA are we leaving behind? What kind are we allowing in our lives? Is it life giving or life sucking?

Michelle's DNA added life to mine. Her death threatens to suck it right out of me. That's what death does. Thank God for precious memories! They make my heart hurt and yet sing. They threaten to pull me under, yet give me buoyancy to float. I'm okay with her being in heaven, yet I hate that she's not here with me. I want to absorb her pictures one moment and throw them away the next. Sometimes I want to do both at the same time. One thing is for sure. I will forever be glad God created her and placed her in my life even if I feel my time with her was too short.

This makes me think of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. In looking toward the cross, he was looking at separation from all those he loved. His family, his disciples, and most of all his Father. No wonder he cried, "Father, let this cup pass from me." Yes. Jesus knows all about grief. And as painful as it is, I need to be able to say with Jesus, "Not my will, but thine."

Grief. It's a strange creature. How I long for God to turn my mourning into joy.

It Takes My Breath Away

I love the book of John! It's more than an eye-witness account of Jesus's life and ministry. 

It's a love letter from Jesus.

It's Jesus saying, "This is who I am, Beloved. I want you to know me - to know all about me. I want you to know where I was before the world began. I want you to know I created you. 

"I love you. I want you to know the depth of my love for you and the desire for intimacy with you. 

"I sacrificed my days and nights for you. I understand you and the trials you face and will face. I understand your heartache and pain because I've been there myself. I want you to know, not just that I pray for you, but what  and how I pray for you. I love you so much that when I leave, as I must, I'm giving you a comforter until we can be together forever. 

"I want you to know the love I have for you, so you can love me in return. I want you to know what that love looks like so you can love others as I have loved you. I want you to share my love, spread my love. I want you to know I am yours and you are mine - that nothing can ever separate us." 

I needed this reminder - to feel his love covering me. As Pastor Thomas, would say, “It takes my breath away."

What do you think? When's the last time you read John? Read it and, as you do, see it for the love letter it is and learn anew who Jesus is. Learn what real love looks like as you witness for yourself the sacrificial love of the one who loves you. Let me know what you think. Does it take your breath away?

Is Faith Like Dandelion Dust?

"Kelsey told me once that faith wasn't about trusting God when it was easy. Faith appeared when God seemed farthest away." 
~ from "The Shadow of Your Smile" by Susan May Warren

A dandelion is a noxious weed, ruining lawns all over America. Sure it's a pretty yellow wildflower that turns into this puffy white thing that kids like to blow all over the yard making the dandelion family abound.

Is this a picture of faith?

Life is good. God is good. Then trials or tragedy strikes. Our world is torn apart and our faith is blown to smithereens.

But is it?

Or is God using the trials to grow us and those around us?

Maybe. Just maybe, while our faith is shaken and scattered to the wind, he makes our roots grow deeper and he casts the seed of our faith to the world.

It's hard to look past the bald nub that used to be filled with life.

It's hard to not feel cast away - like when the child drops the nub, forgetting it in his awe of the dandelion dust.

It's hard to feel God's presence and love when we're trampled under foot.

Yet the rain comes. The sun shines. The roots sprout a new flower and the scattered dandelion multiplies - producing new life.

I wonder.

Does faith appear when God seems farthest away?

Does it multiply like dandelion dust?

An Ephiphany

Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly see the why of something? It comes to you as clear as fresh spring water and floods your soul with freedom and peace. I had one of those on Sunday.

In my last post, I talked about all the loss I've faced in the past five years. I said, "... I don't hurt for the departed. I hurt for the people I love who left behind. I stagger between soul deep pain on their behalves, and shutting my heart off. How can anyone continue in such pain?" I've been trying to work through issues of loss for years. (Not just death of loved ones, but the death of my dreams, too.)

When a friend's husband was killed in a car accident this spring, leaving her and five kids behind, I struggled with my inability to take away their pain. Not just the pain of today, but the pain of all their tomorrows. The graduations. The weddings. The grand-babies. And for the little one, the loss of memories to come. This is a hard thing!

Three families I know have lost a Godly husband and father while another family lost a Godly wife and mother  - all within the last 14 months and at a time in society when broken homes are more the norm than homes that are whole.

Why? I don't understand what God is doing. It's devastating!

At the close of service this past Sunday morning, God opened my eyes to a truth about myself. It's true I feel deeply for people. It's true I want to help heal hurts. It's true I want to comfort and encourage and strengthen others. And there's nothing wrong with those desires.

Until they usurp God. 

He gently reminded me that ultimately it's not my job to comfort hearts, to heal wounds, to give encouragement and lend strength to others. It's the Holy Spirit's job. See, I didn't want to simply give comforting hugs. I literally felt a soul deep responsibility to take away as much of their pain as I could. I wanted to pull it out of their hearts, mend the broken pieces - make their problems go away.

I wanted to do what only God should do. 

You would think this epiphany about myself would have broken me, but in truth it freed me. I can give words of comfort and encouragement. I can pray for them. I can love them, but I shouldn't feel guilty for not being able to fix things or for not always being able to be there for them.

God has a purpose for their pain and I have to trust him with it.

This is, at least in part, why he took my health and refused to let me be the wife, mother, friend, counselor -the woman I always wanted to be. I would have spent my life trying to do God's job. I'm sure I'll still struggle with letting go. For now, I'm just glad to know I don't have to be all the things I thought I should be in order for him to love me.

Are there things you're striving to attain?
Things you think will make God accept you and love you more?

Victory in Death?

Death. A word that makes most of us cringe. I've dealt with plenty of it in my lifetime. Too much, to my way of thinking. How do we get over the pain of loss? How do we move on? How is it that the rest of the world keeps revolving when ours has stopped?

"Instead of praying for pain to be taken away, pray that he would not waste the pain... that he would use it to shape and mold us. Jesus is God's grand yes to our most desperate need." ~ Nancy Guthrie

Five years ago, I lost my niece before she was born. Since then, I've lost two uncles, another niece/nephew to miscarriage, two more nieces and a nephew (triplets), a cousin, and two friends. I also watched a church family lose their beloved wife/mother. While these have not been my children or my husband or my mom, they were people dear to me. Yet, I don't hurt for the departed. I hurt for my loss. More than that, I hurt for the loss of the people I love. I stagger between soul deep pain on their behalves and shutting my heart off. How can anyone continue in such pain?

"Sometimes God delivers us out of the difficulty, but sometimes he delivers us through the difficulty." ~ Nancy Guthrie

A friend told me this kind of pure love from the heart is an encouragement. Do you agree? I often wonder if I'm more annoying than encouraging. God knows me. He knows if I could take away their pain, I would! Yet, that's not what he wants. We are to bear one another's burdens, are we not? Jesus's pain was greater than anything we could ever imagine and he uses that pain for us every moment of every day - making intercession. He knows our pain. He feels our pain. He stores our every tear in his bottle. Do you think perhaps the pain we bear on one another's behalf is a way in which we are to be like Christ?

"The Gospel has never been about fairness, but about mercy. Forgiveness (and I would add love) is choosing to absorb the pain." ~ Nancy Guthrie

"You kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" 
Psalm 56:8 (ESV)

Too easily I forget that Jesus holds me. He carries me. He is my very best friend. I suffer for lack of connection to him, but that is my fault, not his. My pastor, Dr. Derek Thomas, often says we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. Every morning we wake up, we need to remember who Jesus is, what he is done, and cling to him in every season of life. This I need to learn!

In Christ, there is hope beyond death. In Christ, there is victory. Death hurts because sin hurts. I wonder. When we lose a loved one and feel that awful separation from them, do we ever think about what it was like for Jesus to be separated from the Father in his death for us? Do we think about the Father's heart, how it must have broken when his precious, pure son took on our load of sin and he had to turn his back on him? Is the separation we feel possibly a small picture of that moment in history? Do we ever think about how permanent a separation death would be if Jesus hadn't died for us? 

"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"
I Corinthians 15:55 (ESV)

*Nancy Guthrie is the author of "Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow".