Category: Archive Blog

Back In The Saddle

A song is like a saddle: you ride it for awhile and if it’s the right kind of song, you can sing it past-present-futurefor the rest of your life. ~ Glen Hansard (Irish songwriter/actor/vocalist)

Dear Friends,

My site has been silent for awhile so, in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to, I thought I would bring you up to date.

For the past few years I’ve been writing as a contributor for Trochia, an online discipleship site. It has been an amazing challenge and time of growth as a writer and as a follower of Christ. I am so grateful to have been a part of it but, as they say, all good things must come to an end. My posts are still available to read there if you’re interested. Click on the link then type my name in the search box and my linked posts will pop up for your reading pleasure.

With still working a full-time job, managing my family, ministry and various musical endeavors, I have not had much spare time to manage my own website/blog. Toss in a rare, autoimmune diagnosis in the mix and there you have it…the coup de grace of excuses! Well no more, my friends. I am back in the proverbial saddle again so you’re about to hear more from me. I hope that’s okay.

Recently I was invited to write as a contributor for a wonderful site called, Faith Collective. Visit their site to learn more about their mission and to read stories of faith written by some amazing human beings. I am truly honored to be part of it’s beginnings.

I hope you will choose to stay tuned to my site as well since I intend to be a bit more intentional about keeping things current. Please feel free to share with others, drop me a line to say hello or just let the story of my life encourage you as I share through my writings.

Until then, may God watch over you and yours and may our paths one day cross again in unexpected ways.

Much Love!

 

God, Walmart & A Mexican Wrestler: A Modern Miracle

In the middle of Walmart in Eastern Oklahoma, a modern miracle occurred. The following is a true and honest account of an epic event.

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After a 6 year absence, I recently took a trip along with my two daughters to visit family in Eastern Oklahoma.

My desire was to reconnect with my niece and nephews who are now 17, 15 & 11. Relating to teens & pre-teens is similar to climbing a mountain with the wrong gear – not entirely impossible, but more difficult than anticipated.

The Desire

This was especially true with my 17-year-old nephew. He had changed overnight from a young boy into a 6-foot tall man-child complete with full beard. This wasn’t going to be easy, but I was determined to make a connection.

The Connection

Turns out, one of my nephew’s favorite movies is the one about the Mexican Wrestler, Nacho Libre. It also happens to be one of my daughter’s favorite movies. So, on a rare night while gathered together in the living room, a comedic showdown took place.

Like skilled wrestlers facing off in the ring they began a tag team dance back and forth until they had nearly acted out the entire movie. The most amazing part was when he disclosed to us he had only seen the movie one time and did not even own a copy of it. What?

Later that night, my daughter and I both agreed we must buy my nephew his own copy of this movie before returning home. We wanted to leave him with a lasting memory of our time spent connecting over a fictitious wrestler.

And so, God orchestrated a miracle in a way only He can do. He took us to Walmart.

The Mission

Once we arrived at the store, we headed straight for the $5 movie bin in search of Nacho Libre. Movies of every type overflowed the rim in a haphazard mound. This was certain to become a needle-in-the-haystack experience. Undaunted, we began to dig. And dig. And dig some more. We unearthed plenty of cheese, but no Nacho. It seemed hopeless and futile.

The Faith

After several frustrating minutes of digging through the pile, my daughter left to ask for help. She returned to report the store had one possible copy remaining. If it still existed, it was most likely at the bottom of the bin of chaos. My mom was ready to give up and call the match, but my daughter and I wanted to give it one last try. With renewed grit she boldly proclaimed, “I’m just going to pray God will make this movie appear.” I resounded in agreement with a hearty, “Yes!”

The Miracle

Without skipping a beat, I reached my hand into the top layer of movies and pulled out the first one I grabbed and with a victorious cry declared, “Do you mean like this?!” In my hand was the elusive copy of Nacho Libre! We were all three stunned and overjoyed in a single moment.

God performed a modern miracle in the middle of Walmart that day with only three witnesses present. What seemed impossible only moments earlier had miraculously appeared before our very eyes. It was magical, memorable and fun.

Later that evening we presented my nephew with the movie and he was pleasantly surprised. But, after we told him the miracle behind it, a glint of shock and awe came over his face. He understood the odds of probability in this story.

Of course we knew it was never really about the movie. It was about the relationship we longed to have with him, something God cares deeply about.

And our faith increased in great measure that day, all thanks to God, Walmart & a Mexican Wrestler!

When once you get a miracle, you may as well have a great one ~ C.H. Spurgeon

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lonely Bird

All great and precious things are lonely
~ John Steinbeck ~

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Have you ever felt the heavy oppressive weight of loneliness? Even in the midst of a pulsating crowd but, when you feel alone, you are never more alone than in that space.

Lonely is like a bird perched high on a roof watching the flock dissolve into a faded sky.
Part of something but not connected.
In the world but not of it.
An interrupted course.

Lonely has language. Silence.
Lonely has emotion. Sorrow.
Lonely has color. Invisible.
Lonely has position. Inverted.
Lonely has movement. Motionless.
Lonely makes a statement. Unloved.

Psalm 102 is referred to as, “a prayer of one overwhelmed by trouble, pouring out problems before the Lord.”  A poem of lament for the lonely.

My heart is sick, withered like grass,
and I have lost my appetite. (v. 4)
Consumed by ailing sadness

Because of my groaning,
I am reduced to skin and bones. (v. 5)
Weak and malnourished for peace

I am like an owl in the desert,
like a little owl in a far-off wilderness. (v. 6)
Desolate and lost in a strange place

I lie awake,
lonely as a solitary bird on the roof. (v. 7)
Isolated, abandoned and restless

If all great and precious things are lonely, could this mean we are not as alone as we are led to believe? Maybe, just maybe, we’re all much more connected than we realize. What seems like a solitary scourge of one is a global plague of all mankind.

What, then, is our message of reprieve?

Tell them the LORD looked down
from his heavenly sanctuary. (v. 18)
He looked down to earth from heaven (v. 19)
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to release those condemned to die. (v. 20)
A commuted sentence for the lonely. A holy rescue.

Rise up from your solitary perch little bird.

Flight awaits.

Call of the Barefoot Friend

 

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Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

God gives us many friends at different seasons and for different reasons. But, friends who have the greatest impact and leave deep grooves are ones who are not afraid to remove their shoes. These are our barefoot friends. I’ve had a few barefoot friends over time and each one left indelible marks on me.

So what does a barefoot friend look like?

Barefoot friends aren’t intimidated by social norms. They thrive in the gap between doing what’s acceptable and doing what’s best for you as their friend.

They don’t remove their shoes out of cultural respect or because the homeowner has some carpet-preservation rule. Rather, they remove them so they can sit more comfortably, cross-legged and engaged face-to-face.

Barefoot friends are less restricted and less distracted with their shoes off. After all, bare feet always seem more sincere, honest and intentional.

When someone willingly removes their shoes uninhibited at the entrance of another person’s dwelling, trust soon follows. The act is as if to say, “I’m not going anywhere. I am yours & you have my full attention. Even if your house catches fire, I will not run ahead of you. Instead I will run alongside you, out the front door, without stopping.”  

Barefoot friends will jump a burning threshold with you or shred open a roof with their bare hands in order to lift you to safer ground when you are too weak to do it yourself. 

They are willing to be exposed, unmasked and stripped down to flesh. They dig in deep, listen close & share with candid abandon. They surf with purpose in the tide of your life – the highs & lows, the victories & defeats *no pun intended* – all while sitting perfectly still. They are fearless, fierce and determined. They overlook heels with rough edges and are not deterred by bits of flaking flesh or unsightly nails specked with chips of paint. They know life is messy and it’s okay. 

Barefoot friends are radical. They deliver transparent openness to an otherwise dark and closed circle of fear, pain and isolation.

Everyone needs a barefoot friend in their life at various stages. Some arrive for merely a brief visit – others for a lifetime. But no matter the duration, we are always left altered by their presence.

Barefoot friends deliver love and parcel mercy during our greatest moment of need. They have the strength it takes to press grace through the door of our defenses straight into the inner sanctum of our hearts.

So let me ask you something – do you have a barefoot friend right now? If not, invite someone in and permit them to remove their shoes in the entryway of your home. Are you a barefoot friend to someone else? If not, then perhaps it’s time to plan a visit. Have enough courage to remove your shoes and sit for a while. When you do, I suspect you may never wear shoes again.

 

Begging At Gate Beautiful

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“A beggar’s wealth is seldom measured by the number of coins in the palm.”

A man was parked in a wheelchair just outside the entrance of a restaurant where I was having dinner recently. As I came out the door, he turned his chair toward me and politely said, “Excuse me. But do you happen to have any coins to spare? I’m just trying to get a little soup or something.” Like many American these days, I rarely have cash in my wallet so without even checking I quietly replied, “I’m sorry but I don’t have anything.”  As I continued toward my car, I offered him my very best sympathetic smile – my mind already contemplating the next destination on my shopping route.

Suddenly I remembered that I happened to have some spare change in my wallet so I began frantically digging. When I looked up I realized the man had starting to roll away. I tossed up a quick prayer, “Oh please, God, don’t let him leave.” His wheelchair came to a slow stop on the other side of the restaurant doorway then spun around to face the parking lot.

I approached him and offered the coins from my hand all while apologetically explaining that it wasn’t much, but it was all I could give. He looked genuinely surprised at my return and with humble gratitude, thanked me for my meager gesture.

I couldn’t help but contemplate his life. I wanted to know more about him – how he got there; what his circumstances were; where his family was; why he was begging for coins. I wondered if his life would ever change or if he would spend the rest of it at the entrance of beautiful doors, begging.

As I pondered the life of this stranger, God brought to my mind the story of a man in the book of Acts, chapter 3, who begged for coins but instead was given a life-altering gift.

Crippled from birth, this man was carried every day and left outside the temple courts at a gate called Beautiful. As people entered the gate for a time of prayer they would be  confronted with his presence. It must have been a stunning contrast for the temple goers to see this man day after day begging for mere scraps to satiate his perpetual hunger while they entered gate Beautiful for an intimate time of worship with God. Little did anyone suspect, his life was about to radically change for the better.

The disciples, Peter and John, had traveled to the temple that day for a time of afternoon prayer. The man begged them for money and even expected to get something from them. Instead, Peter spoke with all the authority given to him through his faith in God and said to the man, “…In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” With their help, the man stood on his feet for the first time in his life and not only began walking but was jumping and praising God! He thought he would get a few coins to exchange for something which would only last a moment. Instead, he received the gift of a life of freedom all because two men took the time to notice and introduce him to the life altering, healing power of Jesus.

This single act was a faith building moment for everyone around since they all knew of this man’s plight. What a sight it must have been to watch this man’s life change in an instant and so radically. But our God is a radical God after all…isn’t He?

I think often about the man I saw in front of the restaurant. How I wish I would have taken more time to have a conversation with him…to let him know how much he is loved…to connect with his humanity and not just provide him with coins to exchange for something which only lasts a moment. I wish I would have taken a brief moment to introduce him to the One who can set him on his feet again. Perhaps not in the physical sense – but where it counts the most – in the spiritual, emotional and relational sense.

I think about my own life. How many times have I sat just outside the temple courts at gate Beautiful, begging, paralyzed by this life? How often was I carried there by those who didn’t know what else to do except gently place me at the entrance and hope for the best while they entered in for a time of intimate worship with God? How often have I held out my hands for mere coins when God wants to offer me things which will bring me jumping to my feet and praising His name?

“Forgive me, Lord, for being such a beggar when life is hard. Help me to rise up on my feet and receive the gift of healing you have for me. And may I be a witness always to those who I find along the way sitting at the entrance to your gate Beautiful. ~ Amen”

No Stack Stone

The Hawaiians have a saying, “Kapu…no stack stone!”

Kapu. Forbidden. Taboo.

But it carries with it a much deeper sentiment:

Sacred. Consecrated. Holy.

The island natives believe nature should be left alone…undisturbed. The ground is sacred, holy and consecrated. If a stone falls from the mountainside, it should not be moved from the place where it lands. Sad to say this is often ignored as stacks of stone litter the paths leading to the ocean edge.

It seems we humans cannot resist altering things from their natural state. Logic begs us leave things alone, but our innate desire to rearrange stones into patterns of our own design and choosing are strong. We ignore the warning signs – forbidden…taboo. We fail to honor the sacred, consecrated and holy! As consequence we bear the marks: damaged relationships; distorted truth; poor self-worth; deep remorse; divided family structures; altered religious practices; false reality; death…just to name a few. All symbolic of an eroding landscape.

Stacking stones.

Who are we to think we know a better way – to stack the stones of life into our own pale imitation? This practice began in the garden and now flows all the way down to the jagged edge of the ocean. I examine my own life – mistakes I’ve made; bad choices I’ve promoted; sinful practices I’ve justified. All from my attempt to stack stone my way. After all, it might look better if it were arranged differently; might serve a greater purpose if it were used a different way; might work better if it were moved to a different spot. By my own design though, it still ends up being just a pile of stone and nothing more. What remain are divots of bare earth, stacks of regret and littered edges. I can never put the stones back into their original places now. The ground looks the same every direction I turn. Thankfully, I don’t need to know the full lay of the land.

God knows precisely the place where each stone fell in my life.

I can trust Him to restore every stone back to its original resting place.

I am learning to head the warning sign: Kapu…no stack stone!

Deeper Reflection: What stones have you rearranged in your own life which should have been left undisturbed?

 

Bleeding Woman

And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, but no one could heal her. ~Luke 8:43

 

Bleeding Woman.

How would you like to be immortalized forever, in print, with such a name? Can you imagine introducing yourself to a total stranger. “Hello, my name is Bleeding Woman. Very pleased to meet you. How do spell it, you ask?”

S-U-F-F-E-R-I-N-G!

It appears as though she wasn’t important enough to have her name in print. Yet this bleeding, broken woman remains historic…her story epic in nature. For 12 long years she suffered. Such was the impact of her tale that a reformed Tax Collector, young Disciple and Greek Physician all wrote about her. This woman’s life was truly of great value. Were it not so, the Healer would not have stopped.

She touched Him.

While on the way to heal a dying young girl, Jesus felt the surge go out from Him. Her touch was important to Him. It captured His attention. She stayed hidden, yet He beckoned her, come. Falling at his feet, trembling, she met compassion, mercy and grace all rolled into one…the One. He restored her to health and set her free from her suffering. Free from isolation. Free from rejection. Free from shame. Free from death. Voila!

He restored her.

In turn, He gave her a new name, “Daughter.” He gave her a promise, “Your faith has healed you.” And He gave her an eternal blessing, “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Peace = wholeness.

Your turn.

What is your condition today? Are you bleeding and broken? Are you hiding? Are you feeling isolated, rejected, abandoned and suffering from shame? Let Jesus give you a new name, set you free and restore you to wholeness. You can trust Him. Go ahead…reach out to touch Him and see.

 

Valley Hope

Therefore I am now going to allure her. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the days she came up out of Egypt. ~ Hosea 2:14-15

There is something oddly symbolic about being in a desert when it comes to sorrow. If you’re someone like me, you find the heat intolerable, the loneliness unbearable and the vastness impossible to navigate. I have never been much of a fan of that much sand and prickly plants. I would much rather be in lush, green vegetation surrounded by miles of rushing water and earthy terrain than stuck anywhere near a landscape resembling the surface of a barren planet. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme but you get my point – not a fan. That is until I found myself there, yet again, several years ago.

It was during a critical time of healing and near dissolution of my own marriage that I wandered back in. Or was it that I never really left and had only just become aware of my surroundings? I’m not sure. What I do know is this – it was a very dry heat. My pain and sorrow left me parched…dehydrated. I was sure I would never know comfort again or experience color of any variety other than shades of brown and grey. My tongue glued itself to the roof of my mouth as gritty silence forced me inward. Nothing but desolation and hunger surrounded me night and day. Even my tears were encased by grains of sand so small there seemed to be no end as they came pouring out.

When I believed all to be lost (and by “all” I mean me) I was met there in the desert by my Hope. His name is Jesus and He knows well the path of desert travel. He sat with me and began to speak loving, tender truths to my heart. He gave me water to drink which saved my life and restored me to health. He loved on me and made me a promise that if I would trust Him to, He would give it all back to me in time. He taught me that the Valley of Achor actually means the Valley of Trouble but through it, He would make a door of Hope for me to open. But first, I must learn to navigate through the desert on my way to the door. And it will be in the valley, not on the mountaintop, that I will learn to sing again as in the days of my youth – as in the days I came up out of my Egypt. It feels like a lifetime ago since I was in that desert place but I will never forget my time spent there. My vineyards are now lush and overflowing. My song of joy and praise rises up every day since passing through the door.

If you ever find yourself in the middle of the desert – look for the door. It is your passage out to the other side.

Middle Breath

 

“But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.” ~ Job 32:8

I absolutely love watching a great performance in action, particularly one that reaches in and stirs at the core of my soul. It could be a singer who emotes with such depth of feeling that every note appears to be divinely inspired. Or a dancer who posses controlled power over her body – making it leap, bend and turn in ways which defy logic.  Held rapt, I am transported in the moment with them. Immersed in wonder. Captured by beauty. A very present moment of joy!  Somehow, I feel myself breathing within breaths. How is this possible? It’s as though I have a middle breath – an invisible breath which hovers, unseen, between 2 natural breaths until something happens to ignite my awareness of its presence.

To me, this is what it is to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the Living God. When we are born, life is breathed into our mortal bodies. When we die, it leaves the natural state, supernaturally returning back to the One who gives it. Abiding in between is the middle breath. This is where we come to experience who God is as He relates to us. Who Jesus is as He relates to us. Who we are as we relate to both. Moments of spiritual growth, maturity and understanding all dwell in this long pause as we take in our destination toward eternal life. It is where we have an intimate encounter with the very breath of the Almighty – rushing in and out of us as we inhale a deeper understanding of His nature…His creation…His eternal purposes. In doing so, we gain a deeper understanding of our own nature, existence and purposes according to God’s plan. This is where we learn to breath, in sync, with the Great I Am.

God is the ultimate orchestrator and choreographer of our life. His displays of art are magnificent to observe. Held rapt, we are transported in the moment with Him. Immersed in wonder. Captured by beauty. A very present moment of joy! We are living in between breaths right now. The first has come to pass and the last is yet to be. This time is our middle breath and its rhythms are perfectly measured. After all, the thriving breath of the Almighty Himself dwells within us, unseen, between two natural breaths until something happens to finally ignite our awareness of His presence. So tell me…are you breathing?

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