How to Peace

My dog’s no hater. But she sounds like it when a rush of don’t-mess-with-my-person erupts from her throat in a storm of barks and growls. At the dog three houses down, at the bear-sounding creature firmly hemmed in by a wall of brick one block over. But it’s not hate—it’s purpose.

At the pound, her floppy lips and happy, bouncy spirit won us over. She’s ours. Where can we sign? We brought her home and had one, small pocket of time with dog-licking peace and then…three days later, she put herself between Chloe and an aggressive dog, forever branding herself as The Shield.

That dog looked at my girl funny. Grrrrr….
That UPS truck doesn’t smell right. Grrrrr…RoWr!
Prime rib on four feet, coming my way. Kill!
Forest fire at night? Earthquake only she can smell? She’s got us covered.

But taking her outside the boundaries of our home where she threatens every furball on legs (or with wings. Or wheels) is difficult. Some days, miserable.

Do I throw away the harness to make my life easier? Never! Walks are like Navy Seal fitness sessions. My triceps thank me; my pants barely fit over my strengthened calves. The challenge of exercising a dog-with-a-purpose has reminded me that resilience is an acquired habit. One must face the challenge.

Of course, some walkers give us “the look” when we come bounding down the street. They might turn and go the other way (it’s okay…I understand), or give us the invisible finger, nose in the air, and stop from rounding the corner as they planned, knowing I’ll have a struggle on my hands (I suspect they’re the HOA types who decide we need permission to PAINT OUR OWN HOUSES). Oh, dog-walking elite, you know nothing of my determination.

The Shield reacts to this behavior with a smiting of fury, no doubt, but the only thing that changes her attitude are the people and dogs who insist on peace.

The man with giant headphones, I don’t know his name, but he looks like a Fred—Bella has lunged at him, and given him the warning bark, but he just walks like Jesus if you know what I mean. For miles, he has graced our sidewalks with forgiveness. No avoidance, no dirty looks, just a polite wave, and on he goes. He even recognizes us in the car now, and will wave like we’re friends. Fred is awesome.

Bella has ceased barking/growling/lunging at him.

And the beagle, I don’t know his name either, but he also looks like a Fred. I’m pretty sure he’s deaf and old, because when confronted by Bella once, he ignored her. He didn’t run, return barks or threaten her in any way. He just sniffed his way down the street knowing something the rest of us didn’t.

Bella ran out of steam and decided he wasn’t a steak after all.

You’d think more of us humans would learn from the Freds. Do you have a Fred in your life? Give that friend a hug!

Thank you to all peace-loving folks, and have a happy Tuesday.

Magic in the Green Bean Aisle

She appeared in nearly every aisle we went. Cutting us off with a half-way “sorry” as the gray haired woman finagled her way in and out of the cracks between shopping carts and turkey hunting families, I came upon the last thread of my patience in the produce section. There she stood, blocking my way to the yellow peppers as she relaxed in front of them, meticulously sorting through the green beans. She carefully inspected them for imperfections before filling her bag. One. By. One.

The pressure inside me intensified, filling my ears with smoke. Pumping my heart to full beast mode. I’m sure this woman could sense the creature morphing beside her, but she was fully dedicated to her bean inspection. I could hear the warning siren going off in my head.

Assuming the woman experienced a season in her life where she had to balance 10 million things at once, I hoped she would have some grace and realize not everyone had time to wait for her to inspect the whole bin of green beans. Where’s the tolerance for imperfect produce?

But no, she either didn’t remember or didn’t care, because she just stood there with a colony of pilgrim descendants waiting for her to choose the perfect green beans. She turned aside once, trying to charm her way into our hearts by noting how cute my son was. My charm meter has been finely tuned to detect veiled manipulation, so I just clenched my teeth and waited.

Maybe the shopping frenzy from November through the end of December is the true Antichrist, I don’t know.

But in the midst of green bean #30, God stepped in line beside us. I don’t know that He said anything in particular, but laughter at the green bean situation suddenly bubbled up inside me.

Sometimes I need help laying stress down. Thankfully, God shows up in grocery stores and in the midst of our impossible schedules. I made a decision.

If my house isn’t clean enough, it’s because I’m looking at God’s magic.

20151125_124808

If someone doesn’t approve of the way I do things, or don’t do things, I’ll just turn my head to look at His grace.

20151114_160121

God’s magic is just one glance away from our distractions. I pray that God will pour His grace and loveliness into your holiday season.

 

 

 

Beautiful

I wasn’t going to end my vacation this early. I just finished the first draft of my novel and didn’t have time to write a blog ahead of time like I usually do. Writing ahead allows me to come back and edit, making for smoother reading without so many typos and cleaning up my tendency, toward, comma – happiness,,.

But God woke me up with a message.

He brought to my mind the pampas grass outside my bedroom window.

Every time I look at it, I think of God. The light touches it holy. Something about the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAway it reaches toward the sun gives me a dose of peace. I often pray when I look at it because I know God is never apart from His creation.

If it reached toward others of its own kind, I would focus on them and make comparisons. Where does it lack fullness… is it as tall as its cousin in the neighbor’s yard?

But the light hits it so lovely and it always points to the Son. It reaches toward the sky with such grace, I know that it lacks nothing.

If its arms lowered to peek at its cousin, it may forget to rise up again because the cousin next door is oh so beautiful. Maybe it would forget to stand up straight because the cousin looks so abundant, every arm in place, a perfect curve on top.

Its beautiful arms slouch. Heaviness presses them down until they no longer receive the nourishment from the sun; the center lays empty, exposed to the world.

And it withers – it’s beauty darkens, drains into the earth. It catches the loose branches blown from the neighboring yard and stuffs itself full of another’s beauty, but instead of glowing, it lays heavy in shadow.

Friends, if you lean too heavily toward the world, it will strip away your peace, your self-esteem. You don’t need the curves or abundance of your neighbor. When you shine with God’s glory – when you stand tall in the beautiful way He made you – others will see it true. If you reach in the right direction, you will point others toward His perfect peace.

If we point toward God, our daughters won’t feel like their self-worth lies in the eyes of guys. If we reach toward our creator, our sons will see true beauty, and marry girls that shine with God’s glory.

If we let God be our focus, our children will know how to mend the broken places.

God is endless grace. He blows in Fall to clean the dead branches away, and wraps us with Spring, making us new again.

And He says, “Rest in Me, grow toward me, My beautiful creation. And I will bring you peace.”

Green towels and Gratitude

A Jonah day can blind. Even when God is calling, the pull of a dark room or the lowest part of a ship drapes comfort like a cave of warm blankets.

Sometimes, when the days gets too noisy, when the fights and whines of my kids cut into every nerve, I step into the bathroom and scream into my soft green towel. I can hide there for a moment, basking in the dampening cotton, hiding my frustration in the layers of its stitches.

Our country sits on raw nerves as well. The struggle for freedom has always been present, but the moment we gained the world, our leaders stepped over the edge into the abyss. The depths of this hole swirls full of selfishness, greed, void of anything good or generous. The news stations spout the echoes from this place, filling our homes with tendrils of darkness.

But when the days drag and hiding from the storm only gets us thrown overboard, we find ourselves staring into the eyes of a monster, and we realize in that single breath before it swallows us whole, we should have never sought the dark. There is only a moment of peace before we find ourselves in the depths of its belly.

The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. Jonah 2: 5-7 KJV

Once I unbury my face from my green towel, I step into my bedroom. The sun comes in here, bright and warm and I glance at the light that is never just a ray of 100_3073sun, but a promise of the Son.

So my kids and I get this board and glue feathers and focus on the blessings. We write and draw our thanks, and one by one, we remember the goodness.

But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. Jonah 2: 9

I don’t want to stare into green cotton. I choose to see through the lens of thanks, to do my part to show a modern Nineveh that the Son is shining on them.

He takes a nation blind and blankets them in grace.

So the people of Nineveh believed in God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. Jonah 3:5

Never stop giving thanks, even when the shadowed corner of a ship calls you.

To give thanks releases his blessings.

To see gratitude is a beautiful choice.

And it is a choice.

For further reading on finding joy and thanksgiving, I recommend One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

The Love-War of Fish and Camels

The man peddled his green bicycle on the side of the highway, so close to traffic he nestled in with the BMW’s and rusty fords. He was in great shape, speeding uphill as if riding the tailwind of a jet, but it was the signs that caught my attention. “Peddling the Gospel”, one said, propped up on his back seat. Below that one hung a sign that proclaimed the existence of God.

His ponytail was streaked with years turned gray. He would have fit in with the Veterans Day parade we came from, with a mix of starched and ready soldiers, Vietnam War vets on motorcycles – a mix of proud and angry, and the protestors for peace who have a great point, but don’t know they’re fighting the same fight as the soldiers who have witnessed the hell that will not stop for a piece of paper on a stick.

The man peddles on and I wonder where he is going. He is bold, different than the fishbowl driving alongside him. Where is his family? How will his sign make a difference?

Is he crazy?

I’m reminded of the homeless prophet who ate bugs and wore camel skins. He 051909_1346[00]proclaimed his own message, announcing a gospel yet-to-come, and did not stop when the authorities of the time didn’t like what he had to say.

He might fit in with the bicycle man, fishing among the throng for a listening ear.

I have no doubt people thought John the Baptist was crazy. Who lives on a steady diet of bugs and honey?

But Jesus came, just like the homeless man said, and called a few uneducated fishermen to help lead the world. They probably stank, and spoke rough, maybe lacked a few teeth. Jesus also chose a tax collector, a perpetually unpopular occupation. All but Peter and Jesus were thought to be teenagers. Who would listen?

The green bicycle is sturdy, carrying the man whose gaze never wavers. He sits upright and we pass him by.

Are his words just a naive message on a stick? Who will listen?

God gathers his messengers to prepare the way. This is happening, and many laugh at the modern prophets. “They are crazy” some say, “they don’t fit in, and speak of fantasies like the uneducated. Who wants to hang out with the unpopular?”

Hell whispers into the ears of the throng, leading the blind on their way into a war eternal.

But a sovereign God doesn’t needs mans intellect, or a BMW to change the world. He shook it up with a handful of outcasts and threw out a holy lifeline.

Discernment comes with those who catch it.

A reminder concerning true followers of Christ:

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. Revelation 22: 18-19

Have you wondered about modern day prophets? Do we need them now? Share your thoughts/experiences in the comments.