Monthly Archives: January 2014

Like a Little Child – part 1

IMG_1108Mark 10:13-15 (NIV)

“13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Clearly, we must be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven.  But what does this mean for us now — in our day-to-day lives? The last couple months, God has nudged me to explore the latter question.

Commentaries on these verses are plentiful and fairly consistent.  People were bringing little children (paidia, those ranging from older babies to preteens) to Jesus so that He could touch and bless them. The disciples rebuked them and tried to keep the “culturally unimportant” children from wasting Jesus’ time. Jesus was indignant and further highlighted the importance of His message with a sharp  double command, “Let the little children come… and do not hinder them.”

It becomes clear to those listening to Jesus that God’s heaven is not gained by human achievement, position,  or merit; it must be received as God’s gift through the simple trust of those who acknowledge their own inability, and accept His gift of salvation. The first century Jewish attitude toward children was that they didn’t matter, didn’t count, and merited no level of importance or attention. On this occasion the disciples heard Jesus saying that they personally needed to be willing to see themselves as unimportant, but not to be despised or shamed. In Jesus’ eyes these little ones were of utmost value, presented as models for would-be disciples. Jesus took pleasure in giving them unmerited grace and compassion.

IMG_1091The key for our lives today is found in the words “such as these.” Jesus isn’t saying that  Heaven will be inhabited only by those with the title of little ones, but that children of God should possess the qualities consistent with young children. What does that mean for our daily life as His followers?

In thinking about these verses, I have been on an internet exploration. I am the fifth daughter. Even my best outfits had already been photographed multiple times back when my older sisters wore them, so there are very few pictures of me as a child. In fact, when I was in 6th grade, our class made a  bulletin board of everyone’s baby pictures. Excitedly, I pinned my happy mug up — only to notice later that the date of the picture was 1951 (I was born in 1964)… my sweet mom had inadvertently supplied a picture of my sister, Mary!

So in the last few months, I searched the web for pictures of “little children,” mostly girls, to remind myself of what I was like way back when. By clicking on the link, you can see many photos that I pinned on my Pinterest.  I studied precious little ones and prayerfully considered what they reveal to me, in order to capture the meaning of “such as these.”  I’m trying to remember and rediscover who I was when I was unencumbered by the world’s opinions, pressures, and judgements. When I was free to be me, and incapable of being otherwise.

IMG_2636I encourage you to collect your own pictures — of yourself or other children! Let them speak to your heart as you ask God what qualities are in little children that He desires in you. Here’s an incomplete list of adjectives and phrases I feel describes what I saw and felt when I searched the faces of little ones.

Amazed — Joyful — marveling — curious — unhurried — no audience — content — imaginative — creative — glowing — healthy — beautiful — delighted — loving — consumed — giving and receptive — innocent — loved — deep — thoughtful — intrigued — adventurous — bright — open — soft — tactile — engrossed in the moment — unaffected — warm — willing — trusting  — unafraid — authentic, yet not trapped — FREE — full of wonder — awe struck — simple —  real —  beautiful from the inside out — blooming — can’t hold in authenticity — unreserved — uninhibited — effervescent — self-assured — unbridled emotion — safe — secure — hospitable — restful — gentle — feminine (girls) — unashamed — exuberant — experimental —  fresh — glorious — proud — full — appreciative — brilliant — independent, wanting to “do it myself” — dependent — vulnerable — overjoyed — sharing — artistic —  living in abundance — open — offering — needs love — needs comfort — expressive — real — inviting — thankful — unselfconscious — vast — relational — non-conforming, unique — incapable of pretense — no adornment needed — prayerful — amused — mischievous of the best kind — encouraging — experiential — proud — imaginative — active — moving — balanced — productive — not driven — determined — without judgment — patient with own shortcomings — grace-filled — interested — resourceful — feeling music — aware of no audience or critics — unhurried — unpretentious — rested — encouraged — undeterred — persistent — pretty — innocent — work is fun — expectant — take charge — Absorbing — affectionate — happy — unabashed — content — stretching — not covetous — abundance, no worries — empowered — excited — at peace — expressive — intimate — open to all emotions — unfiltered — without purpose — vulnerable — searching — trusting — sponge — spontaneous — strong — observant –responsive — flexible — sassy — expectant and content at same time — surprised — un-rushed — abundance of all things — positive — intent — gentle with own efforts — focused — demonstrative — connected body, heart, and mind — playful — without fear

What a glorious list! Several of these qualities (in bold below) really stood out for me. After I typed the list above, my computer froze. Nothing “worked.” So I left it, read the days’s devotional and a few other things. Don’t you love it when God works in His mysterious ways — so obviously that you can’t miss His message?  😉   See below a few commentaries I came across related to this verse — all  while my computer malfunctioned.

IMG_0537Fully Present. Little children are fully engrossed in the reality of the present moment. “When Jesus tells us to become like little children, He is inviting us to forget what lies behind. …Whatever we have done in the past, be it good or evil, great or small, is irrelevant to our stance before God today.It is only now that we are in the presence of God.” The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

Abundance. Expressive. Exuberance. Young children seem to operate from the Abundance of God’s Kingdom — meaning they aren’t anxious about lack of supply. They know something great and new is yet to come, while simultaneously being content and engrossed in whatever holds their present attention. They also seem to experience the abundant life promised in John 10:10. They are unbridled in emotion and fully connected in mind, body, soul, and spirit.

Full of Wonder. Awestruck.  Appreciative. “In our skeptical and scientific world, it seems we have lost our childlike sense of wonder and awe. We fail to notice the daily miracles surrounding us. Jesus warns us, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15). Jesus is telling us to call upon God with the wonder and amazement of a child. He calls us to believe in Him with the trusting nature of a child. He wants to see our excitement every time we seek His face.” Michael Youssef (today’s devotional)

IMG_0089Incapable of pretense. Unself-conscious. “In Matt 18: 2-4, Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter as He sets the child on His knee. The child is unself-conscious, incapable of pretense…. The kingdom belongs to people who aren’t trying to look good or impress anybody, even themselves…. The child doesn’t have to struggle to get himself in a good position for having a relationship with God.” The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning

Outrageously Joyful. Fearless. Those who encountered Jesus had “a liberating experience of sheer joy. He freed them from self-hatred, exhorted them not to confuse their self perception of themselves with the mystery they really were, gave them what they needed more than anything else — encouragement for their lives — and delivered reassuring words such as, ‘Do not live in fear little flock; don’t be afraid; fear is useless, what is needed is trust; stop worrying; cheer up — your sins are all forgiven.’ …The contagious joy of Jesus (only carriers pass it on) infected and freed HIs followers.” The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning

IMG_4742Sponge. Curious. Receptive. “There is a wondrous open-mindedness about children and an insatiable desire to learn from life. An open attitude is like an open door — a welcoming disposition… When our inner child is not nurtured and nourished, our minds gradually close to new ideas, unprofitable commitments, and the surprises of the Spirit. Evangelical faith is bartered for cozy comfortable piety.” The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

FREE!  That’s the one that brought me to tears. Free in some ways is the umbrella over all the other qualities.  In my next post I’ll explore why we as adult followers of Christ are so reserved, and what we might do to regain some of those childlike characteristics.

I want to dance like no one’s watching. To whole-heartedly sing with passion equal to  the superior voices on stage. To simply be amazed with God all day, every day. To be fully present in this moment. To unbridle my jubilance without fear. To love with sincerity and abandon. To love to learn and work because it’s my privilege. To live with confidence in God’s provision and respond with outrageous generosity. To shed all my masks and pretense, and live the free life God offers me — knowing all the love, acceptance, worth and security I need is found in Him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI want to be vulnerable, authentic, and surrendered to the Lord — my audience of one. To trust no matter what, to live in hope, confidence and excited expectation, because Abba has a plan and wants to bless me. I want my gratitude to be continual and my praise to be spontaneous.  I want to trust God ruthlessly and live with the wisdom of my years and the faith of a little child.

I want to be the one who God had in mind when he knit me in my mother’s womb, and live the abundant life I was created to live. But how? How do I reclaim who God made me to be?

Please join my unfolding journey. I would love to hear your comments as you use my pictures or your own to look into what it means to be “such as these.”






Recently Single

Article #3 (see explanation) written in 2006,  just after my divorce was final. 2014 perspective added.

IMG_24242006 article:  At 40, if nothing else, my life’s direction seemed decided. There was a predictable rhythm to my days and years that bordered on a comfortable rut. I knew my marriage wasn’t all I wanted — but these were the busy years with children. I was slightly dis-illusioned and weary, but enjoying my role as mom. I was on well-known terrain and lived in a level of denial regarding my marriage that left me at least well functioning. I took relational solace in the fact that empty nesters reconnect, right? Soon the kids would be grown. We’d travel, fall in love again, and enjoy the “good life” before reaching the dreaded “golden years.”

A week before my 42nd birthday, I find myself a very different person living a totally different life. I have a divorce under my belt and a new name on my driver’s license. Six weeks into divorced life, nothing feels certain. I love my children, and thankfully they live with me; however, one is in college, and the other two are busy teens. My once bustling household alternates between overflowing with children, and emptiness. Just me, alone. This is the beginning of the stage I had once romanticized as reconnection time…

My house is for sale. My budget unresolved. Health insurance a quagmire. My savings shifted. Trust is shattered, taxes extended, friendships altered. I am battle weary and need a vacation, but instead, I have simply been relocated to a different “front line.”

IMG_3959One of the most difficult realizations of the last weeks is that “divorce” doesn’t really end the web of consequences created by marriage and shared children. Final dissolution, as they call it, is a misnomer. Divorce requires interactions with my ex regarding topics we never discussed in marriage. The five year plan (as I dubbed the time left with children at home) and the future beyond loom large and intimidating blank canvases before me. I never dreamed of this life.

Many ask, “how are you doing?” with understandable looks of pity and concern. Most would be uncomfortable with the truth, so I say, “Thanks, I’m fine.” Then they ask about the children, and I respond, “they’re rocking along,” because my heart, broken for them, cannot bear to say more. I believe divorce is a better outcome for my children than living in the disfunction that we called home. But they deserve so much more — and I am keenly aware of how powerless I am to provide all they need.

IMG_5398Please do not misunderstand my comments and hear that I am ungrateful for concern or that you shouldn’t ask the newly divorced how they are. My world is turned on end, and your acknowledgement of that is caring, real, and greatly appreciated. It’s just that I don’t always want to talk about it. Sometimes it is all I can do to get through the moment, and the “divorce situation” needs to be blocked out. Other times, I slip up and say more than I intended, because my emotions are raw, and I’m still trying to understand what I feel. Please forgive the awkwardness of our conversation. As my psychologist says (yes, counseling helps a lot), “you will be nutty for a few months. It’s OK and it won’t last.”

Already I have realized what poor support I was for my friends who divorced before me. It’s just hard to understand that which you fear for yourself, or that which you cannot fathom. My learning curve has been steep. I’ve faced head on every lie in my marriage and many of my own shortcomings and mistakes. I’ve navigated the legal system, learned I am my own best advocate, increased my financial acumen, and should earn an honorary degree in marriage and family counseling! (I am in no way minimizing the value of a licensed therapist.) I have grown in confidence, faith and maturity. I’ve learned much more on every subject than I did in four years of college.

IMG_0400I am different, and therefore my relationships must adjust. Sadly, several friends have fallen by the wayside. My therapist explained it in two ways that I found to be beneficial illustrations: “salt and light” and “my store.” Hearing his theories may help both those who are involved in divorce and their friends to relate better to the inevitable changes occurring.

If my old life and relationships were represented by a store, I was mostly undercharging or giving everything away (remaining in a bad marriage usually robs you of personal boundaries). I attracted people who felt comfortable with me.  As my life changed and I became more emotionally healthy, I metaphorically began charging a fair price for my goods. Some merchandise is eliminated and new items emerge. Now if I have a sale, or give away merchandise — it is a conscious choice. Of course, I make mistakes, but overall, I run a better store.

IMG_1022This change rocked the worlds of the regulars at my store. Some adjusted and remained loyal customers. They were the more healthy people who adapt and grow in life. They eventually appreciated the healthy changes I made and adapted with their own healthy response.  Another group of customers were mad that I raised my prices to a competitive rate, and they left in a huff. They were the ones who cannot bear change, possibly because it disturbs their fragile reality. Others, who were never comfortable with my dysfunctional business, happily became regular customers. They are the truly healthy and emotionally high functioning people.

2014 perspective: I  was blessed that not many friends “chose sides” in my divorce. This is yet another very painful experience. The changes above are those inevitable shifts in relationships that occurred precisely because I am a new person.  In looking deeply at my life, my sins, my marriage and the inevitable path of divorce, all that had remained private or at least in the shadows of dysfunction came under the light for dissection. I sought wise Biblical counseling (which I highly recommend as essential) throughout the process, and God began transforming me from the inside out. Those around me were either attracted to the light and authenticity (and welcomed God’s work in their own life), or they were repelled, which introduces the 2nd theory from my therapist.

IMG_0046God uses all things for good — including divorce. Please hear no arrogance or boast in the following  analogy. I am a sinner still and humbled that God might use anything in me or my life for His purposes and His Glory. In the divorce process and after, I began to more fully offer my life (all of it, not just my marriage) to God for examination.  I became more aware of my sin, more honest and real with myself, and more vulnerable and authentic to others. Daily I want to be more dependent and surrendered to His will. Only when I am truly in this posture can God’s light and salt be used through me. My flesh still often gets in the way. But in the middle of divorce and the aftermath, I was raw and desperate for HIm.

2006 article: “Salt and light”  — The Message (MSG) Matthew 5:13-16

“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

 Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

IMG_1875I was mildly salty and dimly lit two years ago. While I can’t really see it, I am told that Godly counseling, facing reality and divorce, the ensuing humility, dependence, and repentance — all have evidently allowed God to fill me with more of His salt and light. In my exposed state, I rub against others and the salt of God’s work in me is either painful in or healing to their own wounds. His light of Truth (as I face the denial and disfunction in my own life) is either welcomed or repulsive to those around me. In short, people either want to be affected by what God is doing in my life, or they do not. Neutral is not an issue with God. The more closely the sin and deception in their lives mirrors my own, the stronger will be their reactions.

Neither the gains or losses are about me. God is at work. Many friends politely fall away. I don’t try to guess why. Some are angry; I let them go. Others reach out to me, and I am grateful. God is mysterious and always good. Acceptance, not understanding, needs to be my goal.

IMG_2486As a newly divorced woman (wow, that’s hard to write), I am navigating new and uncertain terrain and often have no idea of the rules of the road. Instead of looking at life through the lens of fear, defeat or dreams lost, I am trying to see the blank canvasses as exciting opportunities. I don’t always succeed, but I have noted two definite advantages to being divorced at 42.

My learning curve as described earlier, has been the steepest of my life! And secondly, I have a new lease on all my relationships.  Moving forward I hope to make increasingly better choices with family, friends and hopefully a future husband.  I want to learn to give and receive healthy love and respect. And definitely an exciting possibility… I have the opportunity to experience the exhileration of falling in love again!

God is good. All the time. I need only know Him and trust Him.

2014 Perspective: This isn’t just about divorce. As Christians all of us are here to be salt and light! I do believe in our intense growth periods (often the valleys), God’s work is most evident in us, and we are most available to be used as His vessels. I once heard it described like this: pretend your relationship is a dance, and you’ve been doing The Bump. If you change steps, and began doing The Waltz, your partner (friend) must respond too! They can’t do the Bump anymore as you Waltz!  This thought  helps me to just offer love and not condemnation or judgement as relationships are often seasonal. I think in my raw post divorce state, I was sometimes self-righteous and defensive in these changes.

I paraphrase the common quote: Everyone is on a journey, and you have no idea what they are going through. Be kind and love always — even if you are Waltzing near their Bump!




Logging off and Plugging In

Screen shot 2014-01-05 at 7.50.28 PMOften times I talk or write myself through my thoughts… not knowing at the beginning where I will end up. So, here goes… Sometimes Facebook frustrates me. I don’t begrudge anyone their many joys in life.  But every now and then,  I feel sad when I look at my screen.  The ready supply of smiling faces with great friends, family, good times, travels, etc.  distorts what real life is. It can spawn comparisons which are never good. How can we not wonder if our own lives are a little pathetic next to all that glamour and glitz. Events often become more about sharing the picture online than sharing the moment in real life.  Social media is the electronic version of keeping up with the Joneses.  I am tremendously blessed, but my word —  the mountain top experiences of my life come at no where near the rate at which some people post and punctuate their days of bliss. Their 2013 year-in- review highlights must be amazing!

Frustration. Sadness. Comparisons. There must be something deeper.

IMG_0282Am I jealous? Competitive? Insecure? C.S. Lewis says if other people’s “pride” is getting to you, you might need to look for the “plank” in your own eye… It’s true. I can post my best foot forward with the best of them! I enjoy sharing my family and world and having others complement them. That is all well and good. But, I wonder if all the “high life”  shared online interferes with authentic relationship and the intimacy we deeply need from one another?  Does the fact that everyone else seems to have it all together and be busy making merry make anyone else feel less inclined to reach out? Do we feel others are too busy, perfect or removed to give us “skin on” friendship when we are experiencing a bout with depression, anxiety, or just the sameness of an ordinary day? When we want to just talk face-to-face for no reason, do we reach out?

Articles abound about the unique ills social media are spawning. I’ll also quickly credit Facebook (and other social media) with the positive ways it can be used to spread news, solicit prayers, and help us know a little more about a much wider circle of friends. I don’t dislike facebook per se, and I’ll leave the research to others.

IMG_1553It just seems to me that the real fabric of life and intimacy with others is necessarily absent from Facebook,  because it’s not an appropriate forum to bare our hearts.  The question is are we following up in REAL life? Are we still  taking the time to send a real birthday card, call a friend with our congratulations, stop by  with a casserole — or is clicking “like” and commenting, ‘I’m so sorry’ or ‘you are in my prayers’ where we end the connection? Sadly, I think I am guilty of sometimes counting Facebook as a sufficient connection.  After all,  my online time has to come from a limited supply of hours in my day. In the name of efficiency,  am I increasing the volume of friends and family I reach, while sacrificing really touching and knowing people and sharing our lives?

IMG_1768What of the hard times: the opportunities we all have to persevere, to grow in faith and character? The circumstances where God is all we have, and He proves Himself to be enough? Or the everydayness of children, jobs, homes, and aging? While often not Facebook appropriate, they are also times to be shared with those we love and even those we meet. Times to pray together. Times to learn from one another and to know we are not the only ones struggling. In our intensely cyber-connected world, I believe we are hugging less. Sharing less of our real selves. Learning less from each other. Possibly we are less compassionate. Less sincere. We are wide in friendship more than we are deep in relationship. Consequentially,  studies say, we are more  isolated and lonely than any generation.

My question is this:  What can I do to create intimacy and real connection?

Relationship — Father, Son and Holy Spirit is at the core of the Trinity. We are made for relationships of ALL kinds. Our relationship with God is our first priority, and I know that sadly, Facebook curiosity sometimes comes before devotions for me. The Bible also stresses the importance of many other relationships — those with a spouse, children, parents, other Christians, co-workers and unbelievers are all deemed important relationships — worthy of my time and presence, as I seek to live in obedience to Him (see verses below).

Personally, I am feeling disconnected and isolated from real life and real relationships. Despite its decidedly positive side, Facebook is playing a part in my withdrawal from people.  Moving to a new town provided fertile ground to log in rather than get involved; my internet history shows way too many visits to Facebook.

The value of Facebook, especially with God’s big picture in mind,  is not worth the time and attention I am giving it. God is nudging me to see it as an idol, as I believe He does.  As I am currently using it,  Facebook keeps me away from Him and His will and purposes for my life. Especially in my relationships with others, it is a cheap substitute for engaging fellowship.

I don’t think I’m all that unique. Following are astounding statistics. Facebook is the largest social network in the world with 500 million active users of whom 50% log in on a daily basis. The average time spent on each Facebook visit is 18 minutes. The average monthly amount of time per user spent on Facebook is 12 hours, with 640,000,000 combined minutes spent on Facebook each month.

What must I do? 

Repentance is real change of heart and in behavior that turns me towards God in agreement with Him. I’m not getting totally off Facebook (I don’t think that will be necessary and is sort of throwing out the baby with the bathwater), but I see a problem, an addiction? I’m going to tremendously reduce my interactions and time online. I’m going to consider Facebook as more of a once-a-day venue to transfer and receive news, and try to respond  to my friends, especially the local ones, more intimately and more authentically. I believe my life (and hopefully the lives of others) will be richer for it.

Am I alone or does anyone else struggle in this? I would love to hear your thoughts. Logging out and plugging in — I’m off to meet a friend for a walk!

I especially like Hebrews 10:24-25 which says,and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

 For other relationship verses