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Showing posts from 2016

Mindfulness and learning the art of non-judging

I started practicing mindfulness several years ago.  I don't do it religiously but it has become a practice that decreases my anxiety and helps me focus on positivity.
But there has been another outcome of mindfulness that I was not expecting.
It taught me the Grace of God.

One of the pillars of mindfulness is non-judging.  For me, this means that I am allowed to sit in the silence, focused on my breathing, and allow True Me to be me.  As many of the guided meditations will say, it is okay if the mind wanders away from time to time.  Without judging myself, I can simply notice it and bring my focus back to my breathing.

As I was contemplating this, I realized that this had carried over to many other areas in my life and that I was practicing self-grace and non-condemnation.
This practice was silencing my inner-critic.

"For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world  but that the world should be saved through Him." John 3:17 (NET)
No Condemnation

John 3:16…

Talented women

"'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.'  His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.'" Matthew 25:22-23

About two years ago, I started painting after a simple wine and paint night with a few friends.  I loved the art so much that I immediately went out and bought some simple painting materials.  I discovered that I loved to paint and the therapeutic outlet that it offered to me through some very dark times.  
Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about my painting and all of the other "talents" that the Lord has so graciously given to me.  The last twenty years have been a journey of discovering my talents and playing with them like newly unwrapped gifts.  I am grateful for everything that I have been given.  So grateful.
I also realize that being a woman often means that we will not have the opportunity to u…

What cannot be expressed

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." Romans 8:26 (NLT)

I love that this Scripture shows how deeply connected God is to us.
It says that the Holy Spirit utilizes the part of us that cannot be expressed in words.  What it's talking about is the deepest, most primitive part of our human psyche.  It is talking about the part of the brain that operates without logic and narrative.  
God is intimately connected to us in our deepest joys and sufferings.  He touches the places that we keep hidden from others.  Even from ourselves.  Have you ever cried, groaned, wailed out of a deep place?  You know there are no words to accompany your tears?  You may not even have understanding about what you are feeling?  
God knows.  I love that God does not have the expectation that we figure it out.  He does not expect for us to put words or …

9-11 and the gift of Defiant Strength

Less than a week after the Twin Towers fell.
The flowers were starting to wilt.
The Missing signs were beginning to fade.
The dust that lingered over the city was like the grief in the hearts of the people.
Some had given up hope.  Grief was working its way into the cracks of the pavement.

I took this picture that day.

Movement.  People living their lives as best as they were able.
The flags hung on the storefronts.
The screens flashed ads for products that no one was buying.
A man covered his face to hide from the photograph.
The businessmen and women winding up the American machine.

And then there's the woman in the forefront.
I have thought a lot about her.
She has the Right to Walk sign but a van has turned, disregarding the pedestrians, and is in the middle of the crosswalk.
Look at her body language.
Assertiveness.  Defiance.  Determination.

This is 9-11.
Most of us experience some kind of 9-11 event in our lives at one point or another.
An event so inten…

What's in a name...change?

I was 16 when I met Rob.  Officially met him, that is.  I knew of him--a popular, athletic boy that was a year older than me.  I didn't really know much about him--just that his name was like a buzz among the girls and that anyone that caught his eye or affection was immediately promoted to high school stardom.  My junior year, we were in keyboarding class together.  I'm not sure why, him being a senior.  I guess he was just looking for elective credit.  I was just killing time in my own boredom and dysfunction.

This was our first encounter.  He flirted with me like a grade school boy and unplugged my keyboard whenever I was in the middle of some important project.  Young love.  I was smitten.

We dated for six years.  He was the love of my life.  When I was 20, he gave me an engagement ring. I bought a wedding dress.  We set a wedding date.  He called it off.  We were young and immature and unsure about marriage.  He said he loved me, but wasn't in love with me.  I was an…

What I don't know about suffering

Someone asked me the other day how I justify the work that I do with my spiritual beliefs.  She wanted to know how I work with trauma, how I see trauma, how I experience human suffering and still love God.

"Why would God allow all of this suffering?"

That's the question of the ages.

There is so much that I don't know or understand about God and about human suffering.  But I'm okay with, "I don't know."  The only thing that I DO know is that I have witnessed God suffering with me and with others.  Many Christian authors and theologians have called God the One who suffers with.  Jesus was the one who wept with the people around him.  He cried and anguished over their suffering.  He healed them.  And then He was tortured and suffered excruciating pain.

In 2003, I lost a son to stillbirth.  I have never felt such anguish in my spirit.  I suffered physically (24 hours of labor and complications after), I suffered emotionally, I suffered mentally, I suff…

Jesus, the obstacle

Photo from

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 NLT
But we're not like what?  The verse before quotes Isaiah 8:14, which says that Jesus is like a stone that many people will trip over. 
Earlier this spring, I was running along a path much like the one in the picture above.  Around mile 3, my feet became heavy and my toe caught a little rock that was sticking up through the soil.  I went tumbling down into the rocks and roots and now have a good seven inch scar along the base of my elbow.  
I think the scripture is saying that Jesus is like that little rock.  Not so much a grand boulder that sits heavy in our path, but a little stone that sometimes trips us up.  
Before I first encountered Jesus, I was running along that path in blindness.  I tri…

Love lift me up

"Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth." Colossians 3:1-2

When I read this, I think about Psalms 61:2 that says, "lead me to the rock that is higher than I."  Living in Kansas, we don't have many rocky outcroppings that are too high.  But if you have ever been some place that has mountains or plateaus, you know the experience of looking up and seeing the horizon blocked out by the majestic land.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I have been trying to lift my eyes and my heart above the chaos happening all around.  Not that I have become ignorant to the day's events, but I have been working to separate myself from the anxiety and fear that it often causes.  This morning, this was my prayer.

I picture myself raising my hands up like a little child wanting to be held by a loving parent.  I remember this happenin…

No one is an island: Put-in-Bay and racial mutuality

My family and I spent the day at Put-In-Bay (PIB), Ohio--an island in the middle of Lake Erie--also known as South Bass Island.  I grew up going to this island.  My dad and I rode the several miles across the warm, green water to dock at the rocky shore.  Dad spent many hours fishing from the dock while I rode my pink bike around exploring the historical monuments and markers, watching the planes and helicopters moving around the island, and venturing in and out of the souvenir shops with my twenty-dollar bill. 

On holiday weekends, the dock would be full--sometimes boats tied together 3 or 4 deep.  On these weekends, the island was full of revelers staggering drunk around the parks and shops.  I stayed in the boat and listened to their ignorant ramblings.  There were fights.  There was a lot of laughter and singing.  And once I saw a couple having sex in the boat next to ours. I covered my ears and tried to sleep.

1.  A White Paradise
The next day, the party-ers were passed out on p…

5 ways to keep hope when the world seems hopeless

Let me begin by saying that I am deeply grieving with all of those that have lost a friend and loved one in the last few weeks.  Because of what has happened in our country lately, many of us are experiencing an undercurrent of fear and deep grief.   It has touched most of us in one way or another.   Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or occupation.  We have been touched.  Personally or by association.  
I have heard others ask, "Where is the hope?"  It seems that we are lost without a true leader.  Who will rally us together toward healing and peace?  Where will we find solace in our grief?  Will this violence and rage continue to spiral out of control or will our country find a way to pick itself up and move forward in strength?
Let me encourage you.  Hope is not lost.  Among the headlines of death and violence, there were still glimpses of peace.  The peaceful voices may seem to be a whisper in this chaotic time but they are still crying out.  They are wai…

To those who said it wasn't abuse

It wasn't abuse, you said.
He was out of his head
crying and yelling and throwing
himself down kicking
tantrums over little things like
the tightness of a shoe
the color of a plastic cup he wanted
red we gave him blue.
The VHS player wouldn't play,
the certain condition of a day
it was raining or sunny or dry
you said you were just parenting him
getting him in line to mind
building character, you said.

It wasn't abuse, they said.
Just parenting.  A child of unruly sorts
he doesn't look us in the eye he's
disrespectful.  Doesn't tuck in his shirts
unkempt.  Doesn't sit still during prayer
sinful and ungodly a preacher's kid
you know how they are well,
not my kid.

So he would be taught respect
and godliness through discipline
a scriptural concept he would
Honor His Father he would
want to, want to, obey.
and his mother would
Honor His Father by shutting up
and covering up the little
legs slashed and bloodied
welts and bruises and broken
kitchen utensils …

Preventing Post-Traumatic Stress in Children Through Attachment

Let's talk about trauma.  What is it?  Our Trauma-Informed Systems of Care team at the Wichita State University Community Engagement Institute likes to define it as any event or experience that overwhelmed an individual's internal resources (or resiliency), leaving him feeling powerless or hopeless.  It can be a single event or a reoccurring event.  It can be life-threatening, frightening, stressful, neglectful, overwhelming, and more.  
Trauma is universal.  It is also deeply personal and individualistic.  What is traumatic to one person may not have any traumatic meaning for another.  The meaning, or story, that we create around life experiences impact all of us in different ways.  
This is particularly true for children.  When a little one experiences a traumatic event he creates a story around what that event means about his world, his family system, and himself.  These stories often dig themselves deep into the fabric of a child's psyche.  They are called internal worki…

We need an expert guide

“This is what the LORD, your protector, says, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you how to succeed, who leads you in the way you should go.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭48:17‬

There are some things that I am thinking through and praying about.  Some decisions that need made. As I stand here looking into the future, I am aware that my own navigating through these decisions are tricky and need an expert guide.
It feels like being on Lake Erie with my dad and his boat.  He has given me the responsibility of navigating the boat into the harbor and into the dock but always, he is standing right at my shoulder telling me which way to steer the vessel, when to apply the gas and when to reverse.   On my own, I could do tremendous damage.  I'm not the captain and I have no long-term skill in guiding water craft through tight canals, among other much-valued vessels.  It's intimidating!
Or like Frodo navigating through the Mordor.  A step in the wrong direction means certain dea…

40 Years for the Troy Strawberry Festival

Troy, Ohio.  Small-town Ohio.  Home of the famous “Strawberry Festival.”  My mother and father both graduated from Troy High School- the pride of the town.  Red and grey.  The marching band would mimic the Ohio State band-- spelling T-R-O-Y on the football field with solid pattern.  We displayed deep loyalty for two things:  the American flag and the Troy band.  This is where I was born.  The Strawberry Festival lasts a full weekend.  Actually, it is a year-round event- a silent obsession.  High School beauties grow their hair out for the Strawberry queen contest, runners train and weld metal and wheels for the highly esteemed “Bed Races.”  Fulton Farms plants and harvests millions and millions of plump, crimson strawberries.  The life of Troy.  My blood flows strawberry red.  Jennifer and I used to watch the long, long parade from atop the Motor Mart.  Her Dad worked there and my Dad had graduated with the auto parts store owner so we were the blessed children with the bird’s-eye vie…

When you don't "want to"

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
The pastor at our church often prays, "Lord, give us the 'want to.'"
I don't think I've ever heard him talk about this little prayer that he prays or explain it in any way.
Most Sundays, he just prays and skips right along to the next topic.  But every time he says this one little line, it sticks in my heart like a field burr.  I can't get past it.

It's similar to what King David prayed in Psalm 119:36.  "Lord, give me the desire to follow your laws."  And like the verse above, I believe that God gives us the desires of our heart, which means that he actually places the appropriate desires within our hearts and then grants those desires.

So any time I don't "want to" do something--when I have absolutely no desire to do it--the answer is as simple of a little prayer.  Lord, give me the "want to."

There are a million thing…

The Thing that has been implanted within you

"So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls."  James 1:21

Tonight I'm pondering why this Scripture would recommend putting away or storing filth and evil excess.  It doesn't say destroy or rid or incinerate.
And just the excess
There's something comforting about this Scripture.  Like the author was saying, "Listen, I know you are enjoying your evil little life and that you enjoy wallowing around in that filth.  I do too!  I know that sin will always be in the picture so let's be realistic about it.  Just put it away if you can.  I know that there will be times when you get it out, look at it, touch it, play with it, love it... but then put it away."

He recognizes that something foreign has been implanted into us.
It's like we were abducted at some point.  Something was implanted into our psyche.
The Implant-ers care about our well-being.
Or perhaps have sympathy …

A Midnight Meal

It's 3:15 am.
The sheet is twisted tight around my ankles.  The blanket is bunched up around my waist.
I'm too hot.  I adjust the covers and roll over.  I stick a foot out to catch the cool wind blowing from my fan.  And pull it back in when it becomes too cold.  Flip over to the other side.  My mattress feels like plywood.  The furnace kicks on.  I hear tinkering in the pipes.  My dog wakes up and licks my face.  Now I have to pee.  I throw the covers off, take care of my business, and re-adjust myself back under the covers.
They feel too heavy.  Something isn't right. 
Now I'm remembering the conversation from earlier today--or late yesterday, I'm not sure.
I'm remembering a conversation about an incident that happened years earlier.  I'm remembering the wounding words spoken to me from the lips of a trusted friend.  Feeling unsafe and vulnerable, I pull the covers up to my ears.  Perhaps I can block out the voices. 
Perhaps I can will myself to sleep a…

Do you have a healthy or a sick body?

"The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.  So it is with the body of Christ." 1 Corinthians 12:12

I was in church ministry for over 12 years and visited many different churches all over the country through the experience of a traveling ministry.  In that time, I had the privilege of being welcomed into so many different styles of church settings. 

Here are a few of the styles that I noticed in my travels:

The "Seeker Sensitive" church.  This is the place that is of the 90s when the Seeker Sensitive church movement was brand new.  They still think that lights and smoke are relevant, have some kind of coffee bar near the front entrance, and have a kickin' band with the metro worship leader in skinny jeans and dark-rimmed glasses.  A newcomer would most likely not recognize any of the song lyrics but might be able to jive along to the Dave Matthews Band-esque style.

The "Biker" church.  If the Seeker Sensitive church is the …

"God hates..." So, what have you heard about God?

"Therefore you are great, O Lord God, for there is none like you!  There is no God besides you! What we have heard is true!" 2 Samuel 7:22

I'm curious to know what you have heard about God.  
I'm guessing (because it's the typical norm for how humans behave) that you have heard a lot about God's character or what He thinks/feels about you or a variety of other topics.  
Or that because over a million people (most being individuals that claim to be His followers) boycott or vote for/against something that this is surely in line with God's will.  Right?
Think about it.  What have you heard?
From the front of a church? From the lips of a news anchor? From the imagination of a movie producer? From a well-funded political campaign?  From the experiences of a friend? From your own experiences?
In this verse, God has just made a significant promise to David.  He began by reminding David of what had been done up to that point:  Remember how you were a little boy tending sheep…

Are you quick to become angry?

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger." James 1:19

As is part of my job, I work with a team to train others on how to "Cultivate Compassionate Culture" in their lives and workplace organizations.  I overheard one of the attendees say, "You know, this information is really just New Testament teachings in a different context.  And isn't it interesting that 2,000 years ago someone wrote down this revolutionary information and here we are 2,000 years later learning about it again because of how quickly we forget?!"
He was right.  Human nature is not naturally compassionate.  We are naturally slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry.  It is simply a part of our wiring.  There is a scientific, evolutionary explanation for why we respond to others in this way.
Our brains are wired for survival.  So any time I receive stimulus that feels threatening, my brain and body…

Why we all need a tribe

"If I say, 'My foot is slipping,' your loyal love, O Lord , supports me." Psalm 94:18

When I was in college, I went camping with some friends at Red River Gorge in Kentucky.  The gorge is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest in the western Smokey Mountains.  It was kind of a strange trip to begin.  The crowd that I traveled with was not a kindred crowd.  I didn't know any of them too well and we were spending about four days together in the woods.  In a tent.  Without showers.  Or bathrooms.  
All of the women were older than me.  And I think this trip was some kind of "hear me roar" sojourn.  They talked incessantly about bad break-ups and the men that they no longer needed.  I tried to sleep through the eight hour round-trip blaring of The Indigo Girls and the rest of the other Lilith Fair line-up.  
I was trying to find myself during these years.  Up to that point I had tried the  country-western-two-steppin'-rodeo-groupie-thing and the  Nirvana-gr…