Friday, December 24, 2010


You don't like that word. Gifted. It freaks you out. This whole post freaks you out. This whole thing freaks you out. As does your etsy shop. You really think you might throw up right now. But God is teaching you about gifts, His gifts. He gave some to you turns out and He wants you to write about them. So you do, even though you don't want to. You were thinking about not writing it then one of your 16 year old students wrote you an essay about what they believe that convicted you. Okay God, you get it.

Your first experience with the word gifted was in the third grade when you took the test that put you in the gifted class. You were three points shy. This wouldn't have been such a big deal except both of your sisters were in the gifted class. You think you disappointed someone even though everyone assures you you did not. You eventually test in, but already that word gifted is somehow loaded for you. Giftedness is somehow tied with disappointment.

You have been afraid lately of the gifts that God has given you, especially because He seems to be asking you to use them. Repeatedly, all at once. You had sort of been hoping you could wade in to all of this. You see, you don't like to say things like "I am good at painting" or "I wrote this. I think it is worth reading." Maybe you don't think it is lady like. Maybe you are afraid that others will disagree. Maybe you very secretly don't believe that what you do is any good. You know it is probably the last one.

Your sister says to you "This guy at work went off on a tangent and I think it is for you." Just a few weeks ago you wouldn't have believed that God would use a stranger at your sisters work to deliver a message to her that was meant for you. That sounds crazy, but crazy seems to be happening lately. You are learning what God will do to get your attention.

Your explains the metaphor that this guy used, when he proclaimed boldly that he was a gifted teacher. You think about this. How the gift often represents the giver. You think of some gifts that people have given you that you are particularly proud of, the quilt your grandmother made for your wedding gift, the key ring one of your favorite students sculpted out of wire with your last initial on it. You love these things because they were made just for you, and because they express perfectly your relationship with these people. The quilt from a master seamstress as part of a bigger family tradition. (You are from a big family with even bigger traditions.) The ring from an excentric student who can concentrate better when he is keeping his hand busy.

You know that the same is true to the gifts that God has given you. They were also meant to represent the Giver and the relationship He has with you. He is a creator and He wants you to create. He created poetic circumstances and beautiful metaphors, He wants you to explore them. He created art and thinks people should have access to it. By sharing His gifts you are sharing Him, not telling everyone how great you are. And even if people interpret the works that God is doing in your life as that, then maybe that is okay. God thinks you are pretty great.

More than that you think of the gifts you have given people. Just last week your sister wore the sweater you gave her last Christmas to church. When she got a compliment on it she said thank you, my sister bought me this. You do that, when people compliment the physical gifts others have given you. The giver gets the credit.  In devaluing the gifts, you realize you are devaluing the Giver. You decide you aren't going to do that anymore. You think you might just be good at this blogging thing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some thoughts on my Spiritual Growth part one.

My wife teaches English composition. She has her students write an essay called "this I believe". This I believe that becoming a Christian has happened to me and is happening to me. 20 years ago I thought I knew what it was to be a Christian. I now know I didn't have a clue. 10 years ago I thought I knew what it was to be a Christian. I didn't have a clue. Five years ago. I thought I knew what it was to be a Christian. I didn't know. I believe I still don't know but Iam and I am becoming a Christian. The Bible calls this moving from glory to glory.

I was raised in the Methodist Church (later United Methodist) or more specifically in two Methodist churches. During nine months of the year my family attended Jesse Lee a Methodist Church in the suburbs north of New York City. This church had many fine people and Christians but was a little liberal or at least sophisticated. We believed Genesis but were taught in Sunday school (8th grade) that Genesis was probably written by four writers with letter names X or Z or Q or whatever (I had no idea Moses wrote Genesis). Jesse Lee had a congregation of 350 or so parishioners. Despite the liberal bent it was long enough ago that Jesus and the Father were still being taught in a pretty much orthodox fashion. The Holy Spirit was mentioned once a week in the confession of faith.

During all or part of the summer months I attended Whitewater Methodist Church in the small farm community of White Water Indiana where my mother grew up and most of her family still lived and went to church. I was baptized (as an infant) in this Church and my parents were Married here. At the Whitewater Methodist Church you sang "Sweet Hour of Prayer" and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and you meant it. At the Whitewater Methodist Church Jesus WAS Methodism and Christianity (except for this one Sunday school teacher who thought that Christianity was following the 10 Commandments. It seems every church has one) and you prayed to Jesus or God the Father. They seemed to know the Holy Spirit at Whitewater better than Jesse Lee but as a part of a relationship with Jesus not as a separate person of the Trinity.

During my college years I spent quite a lot of time in Whitewater on the weekends where I would go to visit my Grandparents. At the time the Whitewater Methodist Church had a wonderful man of God named Charlie Radcliffe pastoring there. I was going through a period where Christianity was pushed into the background of my life and Rev. Radcliffe drew it forward. at the end of my senior year in college I had a very powerful experience with the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit showed up in power at a moment of great need and I was engulfed in a blanket of love and joy and peace. After that time I could tell you there's a Holy Spirit like I can tell you there is a desk. This is also the time I count as my conversion when I turned my life over to Jesus.

To be continued

Sunday, December 19, 2010


You didn't expect this. You certainly don't understand it. You were at church Sunday and the Holy Spirit came on so thick you were expecting a vision. You haven't gotten a vision since your healing. You sit and wait for it. Close your eyes super tight, relax them, sit up, sit back, the Holy Spirit as thick as that day two years ago. No vision. The Lord tells you He is going to show up a little differently today. And yet you didn't expect this.

God gave you free babysitting this year. You asked for it, and God gave it to you. You expected that part. (What can you say, you've already confessed on this blog that you are spiritually spoiled.) This relationship has become so much more than equal babysitting. Elizabeth has been God's grace incarnate so many times you tear up thinking about it. And this was not the most convenient year for her to meet others needs. A single mom, three kids, a shaky income. She babysits your peanut even when she doesn't need you for babysitting that week. You fight about who has the easier end of the bargain, both claiming to have the long end of the stick. She loves your baby so well, she loves your whole family so well. You get a glimpse of what it might have looked like to live in the church Luke talks about in Acts. If even just the smallest sliver of a glimpse.
On Sunday she was having a rough day. It all came down all at once at church. (Doesn't it always? Neither of you seem to have the capacity to break down in private, only in public. Sigh.) But as you talk through everything the Lord meets her needs, and not just her needs but her desires. The ones God spoke in her heart, just for her. The bricks fall into place, the sky opens, the promise she had told you about in October, the one she was allowed to cash in in 2010. That impossible promise is redeemed in the matter of 15 minutes in a conversation between friends. And you got to be there.

And then, there was more. MORE. You shake even now as type this. If God keeps showing up like this you will be completely ruined for the everyday. You will be shocked when God doesn't miraculously appear. God has you open up an etsy shop. Even now as you type this, you know it sounds crazy, ludicrous, almost patronizing even. Your friend needs a better job and you tell her to sell baby sweaters online.
You have increasingly done your Christmas shopping online. You don't like going to stores by yourself and your husband hates crowds, plus you can shop online at work. Somehow you found the website etsy and have been stalking it. You aren't quite sure what appeals to you about it, but it is really freaking cool. You have played with the idea of starting a shop, and while you haven't listed anything yet you registered and have played around a little with the skeleton of it.

As she comes over that day, everything falls exactly into place. You take pictures of the things she has made and make your baby model them. You know you aren't a great photographer and yet every picture snaps magically into place. The Holy Spirit shows up so thick again you both have trouble breathing, like the air is too thick or something. You keep thinking about how crazy this all is. You both figure that if anything comes out of this it will be all God. Because what you two are doing makes no sense.

You put the shop together on Monday morning. You knew it was what you were supposed to be doing. But you kept shaking your head at how silly this was. Why this God? You tell the Lord He doesn't make any sense. He tells you that is none of your business, He is asking for obedience. So you do it. Monday night late you check it on a lark. You know there are shops that go months and months with no one even looking at their stuff. You have a sale. And because God has a sense of humor it is the item with an owl on it. Owls, you hear your dad's voice in your head, are a sign of the prophetic.
In case you are interested

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Promised Land

You've been thinking a lot recently about promises. You know that God has so many promises in the bible that you can claim. And that is all well and good and everything, but sometimes you want more. You have come to the conclusion that the spiritual inheritance God has given you through your family makes you very, very spoiled. Your hearts yearns for more, not just for the promises God promises to everyone, you want the promises God whispered into your heart. The ones that are made just for me.

On facebook today you find out that God blessed Camp Ray Bird with an additional 109 acres. You remember fondly the summer you worked at this camp. You remember praying for that land the entire summer. You felt the Lord speak into your heart that summer, that land belonged to Camp Ray Bird. And yet the deal was not closed that summer as you were so sure it would be. God told you that land was theirs, how could the talks stall out? This was not how you had pictured it.
Later you find out that you were not the first person to pray for the land surrounding the camp. Various camp directors have been praying for that land for 40 years.

You seriously doubt you are the only one who heard the Lord declare that land for Camp Ray Bird. Maybe the director heard it the first time he prayed for that land 40 years ago. Maybe he retired, and went on to be with Jesus thinking "this is not how I pictured it, I was sure that land was ours. You wonder if he ever became disheartened, yelling out to God "where is the land that you promised me?"
These wonders come very close to home, too close to home. Because you are still wondering about a promise God gave you. You have the most amazing baby girl, a gift that you cannot believe God blessed you with. You could never be good enough to deserve her. But this was not how you pictured baby's first Christmas when you were round enough to play Mary in the Christmas pageant last year.
When you were giving your kids their final exams last year you also were waiting for your ultrasound appointment, the ultrasound appointment. The one that ends in "it's a ____!" But you felt confident in how that appointment was going to end. You knew what you had in their, and despite the fact that you had showed no other medical symptoms, you knew that the day would end with not just boy but boys. Twins.
You didn't come to this conclusion lightly. Heck, you didn't even want twins. Two cousins and a speech coach had had them and twins looked hard. One at a time until you were done, that is what you had always said. But the signs for the twins were flashing like neon vacancy script on a cheap motel. The names the Lord pressed into your heart two years before you were even trying to conceive, the night you were visiting Camp Ray Bird and the Holy Spirit took hold of your hands. You laid them on your womb and prayed for it to be filled with those boys. The dream you had a week after you knew you were pregnant. The one you knew was more than just a dream. Your friend praying for you to be filled with twins twenty minutes before you told her you were pregnant. The numerous words your dad received, even after the first ultrasound. The second not just a dream.
Then there was the owl. Your dad had been talking about owls for weeks, months even. Owls were supposedly the new sign of the prophetic. They can see into the night. (As an English teacher you appreciate God's use of metaphors.) The morning of your due date your sister and you take a walk with her giant pit bull mix to really get things going. When you return home and head into the back yard there is a giant owl waiting for you on the tree in your backyard. As you, your sister and her giant dog approach. You had never seen that owl in your neighborhood, you have never seen it since.
You are absolutely in love with your baby girl. She is the most exquisite child, the best parts of your husband and you plus an extra amazing all her own. And as you rock her to sleep at night, you pray for her brothers, the ones that are in your heart. The ones that God promised you, and by extension, her. Even the song that you sing to her every night, the one you picked just for her has mention of these brothers. You didn't plan that.
You get choked up when you talk about them to your dad, the person who has had so many words for these boys, your boys. You tell your friends how crazy it is, but you miss them. You didn't know before, what it was like to be a mother. But now that you know your heart pulls at the idea that your sons are not with you.
You were pretty angry at God when you got that ultrasound that said girl. You attempt to blame it on the pregnancy hormones but your freak out was pretty epic. Why would God tell you twin boys only to give you a girl? Why would He urge you to tell non-believers when it wasn't to be? Why so many words, so many signs if you weren't carrying those boys?
You don't know. You still don't know. But the Lord has made peace in your heart. You are eating up every single second of this baby's first Christmas. And hope that next year it will be a babies' first Christmas.

Hey! Ray Bird Ministries does such an incredible amount with every single dollar God has blessed them with. They are so so serious about sharing the gospel and making disciples y'all so please consider checking out their website and being a piece of the great land promise!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A reluctant healing

You've been blogging for a few days and have no idea how God is going to use this thing (you haven't even had a chance to tell your dad you are blogging again in your joint venture.) How the heck do people stumble upon a new blog anyway? When Beth Moore asks for your miracle. And in the comments section you decide to take another little jump off the divine diving board God has lead you to and link to this blog. You sort of feel like you are going to throw up but here it goes.

I was the most awkward seventh grader on earth when I got mono. There is no joke less funny then the joke that is told to the highly hormonal thirteen year old who has contracted the kissing disease, who has never been kissed. Trust me. For most mono means a couple of weeks out of school and then you are done. For me it was the start of a very dark journey. I missed 70 plus days of school that year partly because of the mono, which I could never seem to shake, and partly due to the anxiety that I was experiencing after having missed school for months at a time. But even without the emotional aspect (and I am someone who can emote) I just plain didn't feel good.

In eighth through tenth grade I got myself together enough to make it to school on a semi-regular basis. I missed a lot more than most but had a very understanding doctor who wrote me a catch all excuse note while we figured out what the heck was going on with my health. Even in this confusing time the Lord blessed me with parents and a doctor who believed me. We muddled through.

But shortly before my seventeenth birthday things got really bad. I dropped out of all but one of my classes and made it to school probably less than once a week. On the cusp of dropping out of school completely I got a correct diagnosis. Fibromyalgia, and a promise from a kind and brilliant doctor that I was going to get much better.

With diet and less activity than usual I managed to live a relatively normal life. Mostly I learned how to be dependent on the Lord and trust that He would show up when I really needed Him. But God didn't want me to get by. He wanted me to thrive. I had in my teenage years gotten prayed over for healing. I would name it and claim, and a few weeks later be angry that I still felt like crap.

Slowly in my 25th year the Lord began to thaw my heart toward healing. Through words from my sister and father, and a friendship I had been avoiding due to the fact that she kept claiming healing over my life (how dare her!), I began to hear the Lord speak that he wanted me to be free of everyday pain.

Disclaimer: I am in now way saying that my experience is that over every fibromyalgia. I just know that this is true for me. Now that that is out of the way.

I finally ordered A More Excellent Way from Amazon and after repeated shipping failure (spiritual warfare anyone?) I got my hands on that book. The passages about fibromyalgia being linked to fear of failure, fear that I was not good enough pierced my heart. It was as though the author knew me, knew things about me I did not even admit to myself. Maybe I would be healed.

Very shortly after that the Lord showed up on a Sunday during the worship and pushed me into my seat. There I saw a silhouette of a person clinging to a thorn bush. That person was me. Somewhere in the midst of my illness I had begun to hang on to it. Identify myself with it. For me, I was allowed to not be good enough, because I had fibromyalgia. It was okay to not be able to be everything for everyone, I would it is just I had fibromyalgia. The Lord showed me letting go of the thorn bush, straightening from the stoop I was in, and standing, turning toward the cross and instead clinging to that. And now (and I am battling to know this every day) it is okay to not be good enough, it is okay to not be everything for everyone, because what Jesus did on that cross is enough. His grace is sufficient.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lead the Celebration

Sometimes, when your dad has prophetic gifts, and he gives your sister a word you ask for one too. Sometimes he says, "no, nothing, oh wait...." then he gives you the most ridiculous vision.

He tells you he sees you leading a marching band. A high school marching band. A black high school marching band. You think you have an interpretation for this, but as you pray on it the Lord reminds you of things. He reminds you of all those Labor days, waiting for your High school marching bands turn (you played in the drum line). You were always jealous of the band from the other side of town.

The black marching band always looked like it was more fun to be in then yours. It probably was. The drum majors would break from straight up left, right, left, right and would get down. Then slowly the boogie would spread from the drum majors, to the woodwinds, to the trumpets, to the drum line, until finally the tubas were swinging in ways that look anatomically impossible.

The thing you remember about watching this marching band, and the bands at the schools you grew up to teach at, is that each person has their own dance, that joins together to form one huge celebration. No one worries about if they look stupid, or whether they are "doing it right" they just boogie, and trust that the boogies combined form one giant celebration. It looked so free, and so freeing.

You realize as an adult that some of those kids probably didn't have a lot to celebrate, that the band marched in t-shirts and shorts because the school couldn't afford uniforms. But somehow it didn't stop the celebration. It didn't even slow it down. And God lays on your heart that He is asking you to lead the celebration in your life.

When the Craigslist car starts, when the baby sleeps mostly through the night, when you have enough money to pay your bills and a little extra to put in the savings account. Boogie down, praise the Lord, don't worry about what it looks like. Freedom is promised in Christ. So get into that freedom, and lead that celebration.

Oh and in leading the celebration, I wrote this piece for my church's advent book

Friday, December 10, 2010

A shift in content

Sometimes you come home from a conference in Birmingham where the Lord tells you something so in line with what your heart wants you are afraid to think it might be true. You aren't sure how to make it happen. You tell Him it doesn't make any sense for these things to be true. You tell God He should have either told you before you started a family and your husband applied to graduate school or He shouldn't have told you at all.

But the women at the conference were talking about stepping in to the "God margin." The place where you do a little bit and let God multiply that little bit so that He can produce the desires He gave you in the first place. And yet you only speak the dream out loud to one sister, not wanting to disappoint anyone else when you too get disappointed.

The dream in your heart won't be ignored. God crafted it just for you, and the more you ignore it the more you want it so desperately to be true. So at small group where you pride yourself on being transparent you ask for more faith for doing "something" God has called you to.

They pray, or at least you figure they do because that was Wednesday, and by Friday the Lord has reminded you that in many ways He has created you to create . And there is a blog that has not been touched since Barack Obama was elected President, and don't you think it would be fun to take your dad along for that ride too.

You tell God no one read that blog before, why would they read it now. It does not make any sense for you to start that thing up again. He tells you that really isn't any of your concern. I asked you to be obedient, not to make sense. So here you are, on a Friday morning as your students watch a movie, because it is Friday, you are tired, and this student group learns ridiculously fast as long as you can apply the lesson to a movie.

But also because not only did God ask you to be obedient, He supplied you the free moment to do so. And if only by a millimeter, in your obedience the Lord grows your hope, and your faith, and the dream that He has planted.