Epidemic of Hate

Photo by E. Unuabona

I shared this post in June 2020. At that time, we were being introduced to the ravages of the COVID pandemic. However, we were also seeing the emergence of an old contagion – hate.

In honor of Juneteenth and all the lives that fought against the virus of hatred, I offer this abbreviated re-post and reminder.


The virus hit the country as a silent assault, masked under the cover of just another flu. But we soon learned that it carried a deadly punch.

In a few short months, it changed how we experienced the world, how we treated one another, and how we navigated our lives. Who would have thought this silent enemy was hiding in plain sight, waiting to disrupt and conquer.

And just as we were getting our arms around a pandemic – masked, hands sanitized, and socially distant – the winds swept in an epidemic. A virus of hate that has been incubating in this country for 100s of years.

The illness contaminates those with narrow minds and hardened hearts. Unfortunately, it has infected the fabric of our nation, threatening the country’s foundation. The carriers spread the poison through social media posts, community conflicts, and acts of violence toward those that look, speak, and believe differently.

But this disease also devastates the lives of those that fight to eradicate it. A history of brave souls that have fought diligently to wipe out the virus and its effects – Harriet Tubman, Dred Scott, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, and hundreds of others.

A persistent, sinister illness that takes vigilance, education, and determination to eradicate.

My husband and I are Black. We live in a small Oregon community where blacks make up less than 4% of the total population. If you’re not intentional, you will overlook us.

A few years ago, he was driving home – the same route he has taken 100s of times. He pulled through a major intersection, the light flashing yellow, the intersection clear. He headed up the hill making the right turn to our home. When behind him the red lights of a State Trooper flashed in his rearview mirror. The officer had been following him for nearly a mile. My husband pulled over and lowered his window.

The officer sat in his vehicle for a few minutes and then approached the car. As he neared the window, he belted out the standard, “Driver’s license and registration.” After a glance at both, he asked, “So how long have you had this car?” (Note: my husband drives his dream car – an older model Porche.) There were no references to driving violations or vehicle maintenance issues, just a focus on the ownership of the car. My husband responded, “I’ve had it a few years.” The officer added, “You didn’t give me enough room at the yellow light.” My husband acknowledged his comment. The officer looked around the car, handed him back his license and registration, walked casually back to his vehicle, and drove away. No warning was issued, no citations given, just a comment about intersection distance that did not correspond with my husband’s reality.

As the officer drove off, my husband sat for a few minutes gathering his thoughts, what had just happened? Was this a subtle, perhaps unconscious, judgmental action that reflects the insidious nature of the virus of racism? 

Unlike our need to rush to create a vaccine to battle COVID-19, we have an inoculation for this epidemic.

We each can play a role to combat this infection. When it comes to covert racism, injustice, ignorance, and hatred,

We are the vaccine!

We are the answer.

Gen 1:27 reminds us that,

…God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

New International Version (NIV)

The color of our skin, the languages we speak, our cultures, traditions, and food preferences all speak to the amazing creativity of our father. Yet, we all carry His image; we all are created by Him. There are no differences, no superiority, only beautiful variation.

We can work to celebrate our differences, honoring the image of God in each person. We can encourage, educate, and reflect on God’s original plan for His children. We can allow Him to work through us, we are the antidote, and God is the healer.

Image bearers, brothers, sisters, family – in His paradigm there is no room for hate, no place for racism, no space for inferiority.

BeLOVED, please join me in praying for God’s original plan to be recognized in this country and around the world. It is only through Him that we will find our healing.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,

Using A God-Shaped Filter to Shift Our Perspective

Photo by V. Mathisen (Unsplash)

Our world is growing increasingly more troubling and honestly, it feels dangerous.

When I watch the evening news, my mind is bombarded with snapshots that confirm this reality,

Another mass shooting, weather disaster, or life lost to the pandemic.

Another victim of mental illness ravaging innocent lives in a misguided attempt to ask for help.

Another stock market tumble, corporate layoff, or unprecedented price increase.

Another hero falls from grace.

Each glimpse reinforces my perspective, the world is unsafe.

I was recently asked by an acquaintance, “Where is God in the midst of all that is going on in the world?” She went on to explain that she felt there are only two rational responses to her question. Either God has abandoned the world because a loving, good God would never allow the world to spiral into this pool of hopelessness or, God is not loving or good. She took a second to ponder her question, folded her arms, as if to protect her heart, and stated, “God is not good or loving.”

Perspective can be tricky.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, “A particular way of viewing things that depends on one’s experience and personality.”

Given this explanation, perspective arises from what we observe, our interactions with our little slice of the world, and can be heavily influenced by our sometimes-misdirected sense of self. If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves acting on distorted realities.  

We can think about perspective as a glance through a windowpane. The portion of the picture framed by the window’s borders is the basis for our beliefs and emotional responses. An image of beauty or tranquility elicits a perception of peace and safety. An image of despair or pain results in lost hope and fear.

But what if by only seeing a single frame of the picture we are missing the full context, the complete story? What if the unseen images would change our impressions? What if our thoughts or the information that was given by others is inaccurate?

Cambridge Dictionary offers an additional thought about perspective. They suggest it is, “The ability to consider things in relation to one another accurately and fairly.”

As we navigate our lives, we must be willing to do the hard work of seeing the whole picture. First by looking at each frame and then by standing back and looking at the image in its entirety. And as we are looking, observing, and learning all the intricate details, we need to filter what we are observing through the lens of truth.

Perspective must be tempered by truth and the source of ultimate truth is God.

If I go back to my fear that the world is not safe or the young woman’s decision that God is not good or loving, I have to be willing to acknowledge that I am only seeing, she is only focusing on, a single scene in the grand picture. What we are sensing is being filtered through the narrow lens of our emotions. We must be willing to expand our viewpoint and see the heartbreak and evil, the joy and contentment in context.

The daily news shares newsworthy content and often it is incomplete and biased toward sensationalism. The statisticians, report the data, but the facts can’t stand isolated they must be compared to historical information. God’s goodness and His love have never been dependent on the behaviors of humanity. God’s goodness and love are based on His sacrifice.

Remembering that what we see is incomplete, will help us to reframe our interpretations accurately.

So, what can we do to build a foundation of truth from where we can confidently frame our viewpoints?

First, we need to know the truth. John writes in the book of John,

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”… So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. | John 8:31-37

The word disciple means, a student or learner, someone who applies what they have learned. So, to know the truth, we must be willing to be students of the truth and then follow that truth.

Reading or listening to your Bible or participating in a Bible study are two simple ways to become learners of the truth.

Second, we need to be willing to honestly assess our perspectives. In the book of Romans, Paul encourages believers to live out the truths they have been taught. He offers these words of instruction,  

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. | Romans 12:2

In this verse, Paul is urging the people to allow God’s truth to change their minds, their attitudes, and the way they interact with the world. Right thinking brings the right perspective.

As we learn more about God through His Word, the Holy Spirit works in our minds and hearts to empower us to refocus on God’s desires for our lives.

Finally, we need to act on God’s truth. The great physician Luke puts it this way,

And he said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. | Luke 9:23

Deny self, our desires – wants – motivations, take on the daily challenges, and follow Christ. It’s not enough to read our Bibles or to allow the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking, we must be willing to go out into this seemingly dangerous world and live God’s truth. He is asking us to remember there is a bigger picture, one that doesn’t fit into a single-window pane, and to trust that He remains in control of what we can and cannot see.

Perspective is tricky but God isn’t asking us to navigate our lives alone. He offers His truth to shape how we see the world and then asks us to trust Him with everything else.

You can trust Him.

You are God’s BeLOVED,

Blessings,

Allison

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. | 1 Corinthians 13:12 - New Living Translation

You Are Not a Mamma Finch

All photos by A. McCormick (Except as noted)

Two years ago, a mamma finch tucked a nest in the center of our front door wreath. Five speckled blue eggs rested in the straw.

Out of a sense of being a responsible finch-nest host, I barricaded the walkway so the little ones would not be disturbed. For the next few weeks, we entered our home through the garage.

Without so much as a chirp to warn us, the eggs hatched, the fledglings flew, and all we had left was an empty nest.

Last year, she attempted to repeat her nesting endeavors. But I was able to discourage her activities and she took up residence in the eaves of our roof.

This year I was determined that this tenacious mamma would not repeat her homemaking activities.

So, when I noticed mom bringing nesting material into the front door breezeway, I rearranged the wreath’s foliage. I was confident that she would move to a more reasonable location.

In the coming days, I didn’t pay much attention to our door until a small head protruding from the top of the wreath caught my eye. Yep, the top, not the middle where I had exposed her previous home.

And there it was, a small nest with three blue speckled eggs resting amongst twigs and dry grass.

Mamma finch had prevailed.

I vowed to keep an eye on this year’s family. I will confess that I gave up on the idea of keeping guests from approaching the door. Regardless of what I used to block the walkway, they seemed to ignore it and even with the reminders, they were clueless about the home nestled amongst the lavender, ivy, and twigs.

I remembered how quickly our previous guests had left, so I kept watch, looking for signs the babies were ready to fly. And then it happened…

I noticed nesting material on the doormat, a few feathers scattered on the driveway, and more dry grass on the front porch. Had they left again without saying a word?

I located the stepstool, climbed to the top step, peered inside, and …

EMPTY!

They were gone, not so much as a thank you for the use of the door, sorry about the mess, see you next year. Just gone and I confess I felt slighted, I had worked so hard to keep track of their progress.

Next year will be different.

In the place of a wreath, I will hang a large sign that says, “Don’t Even Think About It.” And, perhaps as a peace offering, I’m placing an assortment of birdhouses in the front yard, right outside my office window. I’m not missing another, building the nest, laying the eggs, and babies gaining winged freedom event.

Photo by Bing

If everything goes according to plan, I won’t be a slave to my front door.

Next year, me and mamma finch are going to have a better understanding.

I jokingly share my story about our bird challenges but I can’t help but reflect on how much I am like them.

They rely on their instincts to navigate the world. Regardless of the danger it places them in, they are happiest when they are repeating behaviors year after year.

I am happiest when I find a response, actions, that give me a sense of control and offer the hope of comfort. I don’t want to think, I don’t need to reflect, or consider the encouragement of others. I blindly follow my impulses, my nest teetering dangerously close to a ledge of disaster.

King David, known as the wisest of all Old Testament kings, encouraged us to be realistic about our ability to make good decisions. He wrote in the book of Proverbs, “A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2, New International Version).”

We may think our decisions are the best, yet they are influenced by our humanity, our brokenness, and because of that, we may be more like mamma finch than we care to acknowledge.

God considers our hearts and our motives. Perhaps we need to do the same. As we are faced with the next challenge what if we stopped long enough to check our hearts? What is our motivation, what are the possible consequences – for ourselves and those around us? What if we sought out wise counsel, prayed, and waited? Waited for God to direct.

You are not a mamma finch. You are more than your instincts, your desires, more than the plans you fashion, or your self-reliance. You are a chosen daughter of a loving God and He has given you a heart that is endlessly entwined in His. Listen to Him and know you can permanently nestle in the folds of His loving arms.

Rest daughter, you are home.

He loves you.

He longs for a relationship with you.

He is your loving Father.

Be Blessed, His BeLOVED,

Restoration

Photo by A. Malanin (Unsplash)

Mother’s Day was yesterday. It is a holiday I’ve learned to make peace with.

My mother passed when I was 29, a prolonged battle with lung cancer, and my dreams of being a mom have been left unfulfilled.

The day, and the emotions it evokes, caused me to question my value – a small bruise in the center of my soul.

But over the years, I learned to honor the memory of my mother, bandage my bruise, and move forward.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself…

Early last week I received an unsolicited email from a woman attempting to promote a recent book release. Unlike most advertisements, the email was personally addressed to me. It was camouflaged as a prayer asking God to protect my children and to give me the strength and wisdom to be a good mother. The message included photographs of the author and her children.

 As I read the prayer, I was reminded of all those women that couldn’t have babies or those who have recently lost a child. And my usual easy-going, understanding nature shifted – well actually, I experienced a little righteous indignation.

Unlike sites I subscribe to, this email came into my home, unsolicited. I assume it went into the homes of other women unsolicited and unfortunately, the content did not consider the emotional or mental state of the receiver.

So, after talking with my husband and praying for a calmer more Christ-like approach, I responded to the sender. I gently painted a picture of how the writer’s words might affect women whose experiences don’t include a healthy baby. I suggested that in the future she consider shifting the tone of her text to fit mothers, mothers-to-be, want-to-be moms, and mother’s that mourn. I hit “Send” on the computer screen and sat motionless in my chair.

You have to understand how out of character this response is for me. I am a “Peacemaker” on the Enneagram scale and believe me I go to extreme lengths to keep my world as steady and peaceful as possible. I’m not a person that confronts others, especially total strangers that send uninvited emails. But I was moved by the potential impact this email intrusion could have on women actively grieving. I’ve walked alongside these women and the wounds can be deep and painful.

But while I was defending those who could be hurt by the writer’s insensitivity, something happened inside me. As I stood for them, I uncovered my hidden wound. It appeared as a nagging reminder that as a woman, I was not enough. Not enough to rescue my mother from her cancer and not enough to have a baby. And, just as quickly as I stood a little taller for the voiceless, I shrunk under the weight of my failings.

Until, I heard a nearly unperceivable whisper, a confirming nudge, from the Holy Spirit saying, “Good job daughter.” Between the time I pressed send and fell prey to Satan’s attack, God provided clarity, and immediately the nagging voice of conviction stopped. I straightened my stance, lifted my head, and courage replaced Satan’s accusations.

This Mother’s Day allowed me to see that bandaging bruises and moving on doesn’t allow for healing. Complete healing comes when the wound is exposed to the restorative hands of the Father. What Satan attempted to use to cause me to stumble, falling into a pool of self-pity and shame, God used to strengthen and change me.

Today, I want to thank the author for sending her email. It awakened me to a blind spot in my life and gave God a chance to work.

And ladies, He can do the same for you.

There is healing for the emotional pain of infertility or the loss of a child. There is restoration for the heartache of broken dreams, failed relationships, or unmet longings. There is hope for the unrelenting tape that attempts to convince you – you are not enough.

In His wisdom and with enduring love, He provides freedom from the bondage of our failings and gives us the courage to stand. He uses whatever is holding us hostage for His redemptive work – transforming us day-by-day into His image.  

This Mother’s Day was different, and to be honest, I think every day that follows has been changed.

Be Blessed, His BeLOVED,

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.
- Psalm 71:20-21 (New Living Translation)

Do You Know Him? You Can Trust Him

Photo by Unsplash

Last Sunday was Easter. We woke early, dressed, grabbed a smoothie, and made our way to the 9:00 AM service.

The sanctuary was full, the youngest of the attendees squirming in their seats excited about the party that followed the service.

The message reminded me that Friday’s crucifixion was only a prelude to Saturday’s silence and Sunday’s miracle. It encouraged me not to be trapped by Friday’s disillusionment causing me to miss the wonder of Christ’s rebirth.

The Pastor went on to explain how this extraordinary act forms the foundation for our conversion – trust the God that brings life from death and offers transformative power for each day. 

We left the church, drove the 15 minutes home, and spent the rest of the day connecting with family and friends.

This morning I had a chance to revisit our Pastor’s sermon during my walk.

He had asked a challenging question, “Do you trust Him?” I think he was asking the question as a prompt for an alter call. But this morning, I took it as a nudge to evaluate my faith journey.

Over the past year, I have felt the invitation to examine my commitments and motivations. Is my faith pure, correctly focused, rightly dividing the motivations of my heart and my mind? Or, are my beliefs a product of tradition, how I choose to define myself (the good Christian girl)?

The walk took me up hills, along a riverbank, and down steep ravines. Each step offered a glimpse into my past, the ups and downs of God’s work, and my responses throughout my life. The reflection led to a single revelation. My faith is built on a wobbly platform steadied by my ability to control the circumstance. If my plans result in a quick fix, faith and trust grow. When my control, planning, and attempts to implement result in the need to wait, my trust sways like a tree standing unprotected facing gale-forced winds.

If I’m honest, my faith and trust in God are based on my ability to control. I think we both see the insanity of this reasoning.

The book of Hebrews offers this reminder about faith and trust,

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

Faith is trusting God even when you can’t anticipate or understand the outcome. It is the belief that God’s got this and fully rest in Him regardless of the results. Faith is risky because you surrender everything to an invisible, untouchable, incomprehensible God.

However, the beauty of our faith is that God is someone we can know. We can understand His character, His love for us, and we can hold on to the truth during times when our human rational minds would drive us to try to do it ourselves or look for more tangible solutions, ones we can see and touch.

So, the question is do we know Him?

Do we know what the Bible says about our God? Do we believe the words that say Jesus died, and 3-days later walked out of a tomb? A tomb covered by a giant boulder and guarded by Roman soldiers.  Do we sense God’s presence in the quietness of our hearts, like a whisper in our souls, or the beauty of a sunrise? If we know Him, then we can trust Him.

Trust Him for the career change. Rest on Him when life goes sideways and we are left picking up the pieces along a dusty and dry path. We can believe Him when the dream dies, a loved one leaves, and all hope has escaped our grasp. If we know Jesus then we know He loves us – died to set us free.

I guess the questions that remain are ,

Do you know Him?

Do you trust Him?

He waits for you dear sister.

You are His BeLOVED.

Trust Him.

Be Blessed,


ENJOY:

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus – YouTube Music

Biting Buds, Tossing Petals

Photo by Max – Unsplash

This weekend, I had an opportunity to spend the day in Eugene. The town is a 2.5-hour escape over the mountains offering a significant change in the seasons.

In Eugene, spring has sprung. And being the gardening enthusiast that I am, the trip provided an early indulgence – a short reprieve from the snow and the cold.

On this occasion, I spent time roaming through greenhouses, walking miles of river trails, and meandering through community gardens.

There were signs of new life all around – seedlings peeking through the warm soil, spring bulbs flaunting their bouquets, and trees carpeted in blossoms. Each encounter shouted, “It’s time to start planting!”

While walking through one of the gardens, I slowed my pace and settled on a moss-covered wooden bench under the canopy of apple trees. I watched the birds bounce between the ground, raised garden beds, and tree branches until I heard this unique cracking sound.

At first, it sounded like pruning shears cutting through bark but then I saw him, a chubby brown squirrel. He jumped from branch to branch, leaving behind a trail of apple blossom petals. He nestled into a cluster of blooms, picked each off the branch, chomped the base of the bud, and tossed the petals. He moved from one limb to the next until he completely decimated a section of the tree. The petals floated like pink and white confetti to the ground. 

I watched for a while, and as I watched him, he watched me – a paw full of flowers, he’d look at me, bite off the buds, look at me, make a funny squirrel squeal, drop the petals on the ground, and repeat.

I was curious why squirrels eat the buds but toss the petals. So, I asked an expert – the all-knowing Google and found an interesting response, well actually several but only one was helpful. Evidently, in spring the tree’s sugar accumulates in the buds. The squirrels are drawn to the smell of the sugar, devour the buds, and often damage the branches in their frenzied activity.

Interesting hypothesis, but it could be that this squirrel was just ornery.

I continued to watch for a few more minutes and then headed to my car. I walked through the raining confetti and climbed the brick steps used to bridge the garden with the parking lot. As I reached the car and slid behind the steering wheel, I took one final glance at that little brown squirrel. He flicked his tail, squealed as only a squirrel can, and took a bite off the end of another bud.

The rest of my day was spent in garden store bliss until it was time to grab a light dinner and drive the 2+ hours home.

Over the next few days, I thought about that little squirrel. His actions are the result of his DNA, instincts that help him survive. He’s not concerned about the devastation he causes – apple trees that for a season can’t bear fruit, branches broken from his careless actions. He is driven by the power of his desires, overpowered by his nature.

His behavior is an interesting reflection of our lives.

We are a people driven by our instincts, often oblivious to the havoc we wreak on others, consumed by the desire for power, obsessed by our wants, and frequently overpowered by sin. Yet, unlike the squirrel, we have a path available that leads away from our human natures.

Recently I had an interaction with my husband. I wanted him to see my point of view and agree with my perspective, put another way, I wanted to win the discussion. However, when he held firm to his beliefs, I retreated. Actually, it was more than a mere retreat, I ran back to a childhood that told me disagreement was a “gentle” rejection. Then I took that rejection and meandered through the garden of pride to pick up a little, “I don’t deserve to be treated this way.” And once I landed in the present, the Author of Lies whispered, “You don’t need to put up with this.”

The result of the exchange was broken branches, wounded feelings, and shame rained down like black confetti. There was a chasm where once a bridge joined our hearts.

Yet unlike that squirrel, controlled by his genetics, God offered me a different path, a trail that led to the foot of the cross. And while I stood defiant at its base, I recognized my actions were my head’s defense against my heart’s insecurities. It wasn’t about the righteousness of my perspective or the integrity of my reason, it was about my need to control, to wield my power.

As my husband and I discussed the sequence of events, we began to recognize the behavior, biting the buds, tossing the petals – protecting pride and discarding grace.  A squirrel in human form.

I wonder if you have ever been at the crossroads of fighting against your human nature and allowing God’s nature to take root? I think it is a place we will find ourselves revisiting throughout our lives. Thankfully, God offers a solution, found in the book of Psalms.

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men’s advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God. But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. They are like trees along a riverbank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper.

-Psalm 1:1-3

The next time you start feeling that tug towards pride or a push towards self-righteousness, try to remember the lesson that little brown squirrel taught me, following our natural desires leads to destruction – biting the buds and tossing the petals.

You are God’s daughter, and He will give you the strength to overcome your instinctual and learned behaviors, and those unchecked emotions that do not align with His will for your life. He will be with you during all the broken branch moments in your life. You can trust and rest in Him.

You, daughter, are His BeLOVED.

Be blessed,

Life’s Grime and God’s Provision

Photographer Unknown

I don’t pay much attention to my bathroom shower. Don’t get me wrong, I routinely squeegee the glass and wipe down the small bamboo stool. But to be honest, that’s pretty much the extent of the attention I pay the space. After all, it gets a daily washing.

Last week, one of the lights over the bathroom sink went out. My husband replaced the bulb and what a difference light makes! That squeegeed, surface-cleaned shower took on a new appearance.

The seams between the floor and walls needed a little attention and the decorative glass inset was slightly lighter than when originally installed – amazing what lime deposits do to glass.

Bright light can help you see the truth. It changes your perspective.

The way we see the world and the choices we make, form the foundation of how we navigate life. Yet our daily experiences – encounters with our spouse, families, friends, navigating a global pandemic, enduring the world’s inequities – shine a spotlight on the character of our souls.

Have you noticed fear, anxiety, or anger creeping in?

Do you catch yourself blaming, shaming, or accusing?

What is the condition of your soul?

Perhaps, God has given us this time in history to help us pay attention to the grunge forming around the edges of our hearts, revealing minds discolored by our human natures. We each have a choice, become self–absorbed – wallowing in what we’ve lost, missed out on, or want – or stand firm in the gap of gentle-heartedness.

Over the past few years, I have watched people I care about struggle. Heck, I have struggled. But there is one characteristic that I noticed in those that successfully maneuver this endless battle to stay present and opened handed. They each remember they are not in control.

Control is the sludge that forms where our pride meets our self-reliance. It causes us to clench our fists, dig in our heels, and demand that the world spin according to our plans. The more we try to obtain it the more elusive it becomes. Until our focus and obsession to regulate all that surrounds us – gaining more victories, holding tighter to outcomes, piling up our conquests like performance trophies – drives us further away from who we longed to become.

So, how do we clean the dirt in our lives?

Jennifer Dukes Lee, in her Bible study It’s All Under Control, offers this,

“God wants you to enter right into his presence. There is no curtain. There is no veil. The only barriers between you and God…are the ones you put there yourself. God has invited you into an intimate relationship with him, a relationship “with sincere hearts fully trusting him.” Take the risk. Enter in. See God as a Father who desires intimacy with you, with your plans. Trust him with your life. Because of his character, because of his control… because of the cross.”

Entering into a relationship with the Father requires us to do three things.

First, we must know Him. Know his character by studying His Word, the Bible. Second, we must trust Him. Allowing what we’ve learned about Him to penetrate our hearts and guide our behaviors. And finally, surrender. Submit to His plans for our lives, giving up our need to control the outcomes or determine the direction.

Yet, surrendering to an unseen, untouchable God is difficult. It requires us to push past our understanding and lean fully on God’s truth. This intentional leaning is the foundation of our faith – Jesus dying to cover our sins. Once secure on this foundation, we can allow God’s truth to replace our incessant attempts to control. We can finally unfold our hands, releasing our need to determine the outcomes and exhale.   

In the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah wrote,

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

- Isaiah 40:28-31

Are you weary today from trying to fix the world, your family, or clean the grime creeping up the walls of your life? Do you feel like you cannot take another step, survive another disappointment, or endure another failure?

BeLOVED, you can trust your heavenly Father to give you strength for your weariness and power for weakness. He will shine a bright light showing you the direction you should go.

You can stop your striving and find rest.

He died to set you free.

You can trust Him.

Be Blessed,


ENJOY:

I Surrender – YouTube Music

RESOURCE:

If you are interested in reading more about getting control of your control, read Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book, It’s All Under Control – A journey of letting go, hanging on & finding a peace you almost forgot was possible.

What Does a Bad Haircut Have To Do With God?

Photo by M. Beron – Unsplash

I walked through the studio’s door; picture in hand, ready to be transformed. There is something about a cute cut to turn your day from gloom to glam. And today ladies, I could use a little glam.

I gave the stylist the photo and shared a little about what I was looking for. He was confident he could recreate it.

A warm shampoo followed by a relaxing scalp massage and into the chair.

We looked at the picture again, discussed his thoughts, landed on a final plan, and he got started.

I closed my eyes resting in the sound of the scissor’s snip, click, snip, and the soft buzz made from the clipper blades. I could see the image in my mind. I was so excited to see my reflection, face surrounded by chin-length curls.

My daydreaming was disrupted by the towel being pulled from around my neck. I felt the soft bristles of the brush touching my shoulders. “We’re all done!” My eyes popped open but to my disappointment, the chair was turned away from the mirror.

He looked at me and said, “OK are you ready?” So much drama for a simple bob cut. I responded, “Yes!” The chair whipped around and my reflection filled the mirror.

You can imagine my horror when the reality of my cut looked nothing like the picture – not even remotely like the picture. My glam moment disintegrated into gloominess.

I was bald – well nearly bald. And, I wasn’t happy!

What do you do when excited enthusiasm gives way to frustration and despair? Let me tell you ladies when it comes to hair, BALD, even nearly BALD, too short, not what you thought IS despair.

I took my infuriated attitude and plopped down in the car, slammed the door, and drove home. Along the way, I called a friend and explained what had just happened. I emphasized taking the picture, how we had discussed the plan even how I waited with great anticipation for the final reveal. For goodness’ sake, I yelled, “It’s a bob cut – how can you mess up a bob? Above the ears is not chin-length, it just isn’t.”

I finally slowed my rant long enough for my friend to slide in a thought.

“I wonder what the women fleeing the tyranny of war in Ukraine, or those facing cancer – truly bald from the ravages of chemo, or perhaps those on the street, not by design but due to uncontrollable circumstance, I wonder how they feel about a bad haircut?”

The air in the car was sucked out the open windows. My body felt limp in the seat and for the remainder of the drive, we both were silent. Nothing else needed to be said. As I pulled into the driveway, I whispered, “Bye.”  She responded, “Call when you want to talk.”

Her words caused something inside me to shift. Sometimes you need the hard truth, a radical shake to help you see yourself.

Faced with the reality of my pride and vanity, I stared in the mirror, beyond the superficial reflection, into that bruised part of my soul. Once there, I recognized that somehow, I had tied my appearance to my value. When my image shifted, that bad haircut, then I lost myself.

I wonder what shakes your foundation. What causes you to lose your way? What are you depending on for personal definition?

Mona Hanna in her book, The Nature of God offers this,

“So much can change in our lives: our circumstances, the way people treat us, our health, and even our feelings can constantly change. But God will never change.”

So, what does a bad haircut have to do with God?

I am beginning to believe that God uses our everyday ordinary lives to push us to the end of ourselves. The funny thing is God knew the haircut today was going to make me crazy. He knew I would call my friend, and fly out of control. God chose to work through her to bring an awakening.

But whether it is a bad haircut, a rude store clerk, an unexplainable illness, or a few profoundly challenging truths wrapped in a friend’s sweet voice, He gets our attention. He replaces our agenda, our pride, and the fears that drive us, with His acceptance and love – covering our old natures with His grace.

We are not defined by our appearance – a poor haircut, an unfortunate choice, or another failure. Our true beauty is a gift from our Creator. Our value is defined by the God that sacrificed everything to give us everlasting life. And our God, never changes.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
Romans 12:3 (NLT) 

ENJOY:

Dear God – YouTube Music

I Once Was …

Photo by Bing Photos

I once was proud, self-assured, and ready to demand the world take notice and listen. I pushed and pulled my way through classroom doors, up corporate ladders, and through barricaded boardrooms. I wanted to demonstrate my value, leave a mark, and walk taller than my mother and grandmother.

And then, I noticed a coldness creeping up my spine. I had achieved the career, built structures of importance, purchased the house and car, life was good. But coldness, crept closer to my heart leaving me wondering if all that climbing had benefitted anyone other than myself.

I once was arrogant, so full of my own knowledge and wisdom that no one could speak into my life or add clarity. I knew what to say and had all the words to say it just right. I knew how to influence and how to intimidate. I knew how to make all the right moves to capture attention, to conquer my world.

But life happens, people die, others leave, dreams fall apart and all that arrogance runs in the opposite direction. I was knocked to the ground; off the pedestal, I had meticulously built, left to pick up the pieces that were so badly damaged that I feared I would never be able to put them back together again.

I once was selfish; my hands clasped into proud fists, stuffed into my finely fitting jeans. They never opened to serve, never reached for the hurting, never rebelled against injustice. Life revolved around personal wants and needs – egotism is a disease that is difficult to self-diagnose and even harder to find a remedy.

Until consequence walked into my life. It walked right up to the front door, knocked, and once the door opened, pushed its way in. Slapped by consequence – the lost dream, the lost career, a lost love – your hands open and you learn to conquer the insidious self, reaching beyond your ego.

I once was broken, soul, mind, and heart all scattered on the floor. Small pieces clung to my bare feet as I moved from room to room. I carried the brokenness everywhere I traveled, depositing fragments, losing myself along the way.

But God…

He took the broken pieces and sacrificially put them back together again. His grace mending spirit, soul, and mind – fragments made whole.

I once was forgiven. All the pride, arrogance, selfishness – the brokenness I had scattered throughout my life and the pieces I collected from others, judged faultless.  I no longer had to carry the burdens of my past or work to reconcile the sins from today.

I once was…

But not anymore.

Today I am secure. Held firmly in my Father’s unconditional love, valued beyond recognition, safe eternally.

Be Blessed BeLOVED,

ENJOY:

When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah) – YouTube Music

The Man in the Tree

Photo by K. Lyons

It’s interesting how nature imitates life.

This week a girlfriend and I went hiking on a local forest trail. It stretched under the shadows of tall pines and along a small stream.

We were absorbed in our conversation, until, we passed him.

On the edge of the trail was a man, tucked into the hollow of a tree. All we could see was head, shoulder, and arm. His head buried in the curve of his elbow, hair partially covering his weathered face, and his lips clenched forming a thin frown. His large muscular shoulder protruded from the stump. His left arm embraced the tree’s bark. It was difficult to tell if he was trying to brace himself from falling deeper into the hole or pushing to fully disappear.

It must have been so difficult to shove himself into the tree hollow, even harder to confront what kept him captive.

He was motionless. His eyes remained masked creating an awkward interaction. We couldn’t help but wonder how long he had been there, why, what it was going to take for him to move on?

We didn’t want to disturb him, so we backed up slowly, turned, and walked away.

I’ve thought about this man several times since the walk. He was stuck by his own doing, or the will of others, and based on his weathered appearance, he had been there awhile. Perhaps, he lost motivation, his confidence, or his strength to make a change. Nonetheless, he was firmly planted.

And this is where life so completely imitates nature.

I think as we travel through our lives, we can get stuck. Stuck along the paths to our dreams, the desert lands of our hopes, and in the storms of our regrets. We find ourselves taking refuge in the hollows of our minds – hiding, waiting.

People pass, family console, friends persuade but we hold tight to the edges of our self-imposed confinement. We back further into the darkness until we are no longer perceptible, no longer seen, and we wait.

The book of Genesis shares the story of the first man and woman. Created by God from dust and rib, they enjoyed intimacy with the Creator of the Universe. They were innocent, sinless.

Until

An act of disobedience left their naked bodies’ draped in shame and guilt. Closeness with their Father shattered; they searched for a place to hide. They found refuge concealed amongst the trees.

And once there, they waited.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Genesis 3:8-10 New International Version (NIV)

Scripture goes on to share that God found Adam and Eve. I can imagine they were on hands and knees crouched at the base of a large tree. Their arms tightly wrapped around its bark, entwined in each other’s, eyes closed, lips forming a tight grimace.

Until

God appeared.

They opened one eye and then the next, looking directly into their Father’s eyes. And as they nervously exhaled and stood to face Him, they were reminded how their disobedience and sin had driven them to hide. The separation caused pain and fear to rise in Adam and Eve’s hearts and although there were significant consequences for their disobedience, God was merciful. He never stopped loving them.

When we fail, pull away, and hide it is always comforting to know, God never stops searching for us. He never stops offering mercy. He never stops loving us.

I went back to visit the man in the woods. I had questions I needed to ask him. I wanted to see if he had made any changes – retreating further into what held him captive or perhaps making some progress towards freedom.

But as I approached the clearing, I saw the tree laying on its side, the trunk cut into large pieces, the branches removed and neatly piled.  

Photographer Unknown – Bing Images

The man was gone.

On the walk back to the car, life, nature, and God’s words merged to remind me – we don’t have to hide, building a fortress to protect us from ourselves, life’s disappointments, and the consequences of our sins. We can be free, just like the man in the tree, just like Adam and Eve.

When we stand, look into our Father’s eyes, and accept his amazing sacrificial love –

We find mercy,

We experience grace,

We are free.

Be Blessed His BeLOVED,


ENJOY:

Take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful reminder of God’s love.

When I Lost My Heart to You (Hallelujah) – YouTube Music

Finding our true value and purpose in Christ – 2 Corinthians 5:17