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THE VIEW OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW

IMG_8481It is one ugly mess when Michigan’s winter snow starts to melt and the frozen ground begins to unthaw. The fresh snow that once covered the landscape in a magical white dust becomes tainted with the salt and dirt spewed from the blades of snow plows. The oversaturation of the winter meltdown causes lawns to flood and snow boots are replaced with mud boots.

I look out my kitchen window and can’t help but feel the lifeless surroundings mourn for restoration. The barren tree branches reach upward to reclaim buds of new growth.  The grass cries out “Rake me; the embedded debris has crippled me with weeds.”

Life’s transitional seasons can be ugly. We all face moments where we mourn for restoration. It may be due to divorce, addiction, job change, health issues or the loss of a loved one; whatever you face, there is hope. God reminds us of this truth through nature and the changing of seasons.

There is always a sense of excitement when I spot the emergence of crocus buds pushing up through the barren winter soil. With great effort and perseverance the roots defy all elements that seek to hinder their rebirth.

What is the view outside your window of life?

I don’t know about you, but the views outside my window of life haven’t always presented a pretty picture. There are views splattered with the dirt of my failures, floods brought on by untimely meltdowns, mud slides where waist high waders are needed and high winds that uproot anything in its path of destruction.

I don’t want to be like Moses in the wilderness. He was unable to move to the window of grace, mercy and redemption. When the view from his window seemed hopeless with no possibility of change, he blamed God. Based on that decision, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. He was given a glimpse of God’s promise of restoration; but never experienced the full benefits.

Seek restoration.

When the snow plow of life throws dirt and stones; when flood waters cover the ground beneath us and new growth is buried under frozen ground, don’t lose hope. In times when faith is nothing more than a withered leaf that desperately clings to the branch of a barren tree, don’t lose hope. Life presents us with a variety of seasons and it is up to us to determine how we view the situation.

Don’t limit yourself to one season, one window or just one hope. Most of all, never limit the time needed to mourn the restoration process of your heart and soul.

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SHOES PURCHASED BY GRACE

IMG_8429My home business has daily UPS service. The driver assigned to my route is called Mr. Jeff by the grandkids. As he loads packages into his brown paneled truck we talk about family and he has become a wonderful friend over the years. He knows when I have ordered something special for the grandkids; so, it isn’t unusual for him to hand me a delivery and say, “I bet I know what’s in that box.”

That was the case this week when he handed me a package from Kohl’s. Inside the box were new athletic shoes for the grandkids. Every spring and fall my three grandkids get to pick out new shoes from an online store. One by one they come into my office and together we scroll the internet for the perfect pair of shoes. They enjoy the opportunity shop, but it’s waiting for Mr. Jeff to make the delivery that excites them most.

Every day I would get text messages or phone calls wanting to know if Mr. Jeff had delivered their shoes. Finally, on Friday, the package arrived. That evening the kids bounded through the door; snow jackets, boots, back backs and lunch bags cluttered the entryway as they scurried off to the back bedroom to find their shoe boxes.

“Where are our shoes, NeeNee? There’s nothing on the bottom bunk bed and that’s where you always put new things you buy for us.”

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They ran back to the kitchen where I pointed to three stacks of paper labeled O, F and C. Next to the piles was a paper shredder and garbage bag.

“I have decided you need to do something to earn your shoes.” I could see the question marks in their eyes as they turned heads to look at each other.

“What does ‘earn’ mean?” questioned five-year old Fischer. “It means we are going to have to work to get our new shoes,” replied his brother. “So what do we have to do NeeNee and what are all these piles of paper?”

“The initial of your first name is shown on the stack of papers that belong to you.” I could see they had already started to eyeball whose pile was bigger or smaller, but NeeNee had curtailed that problem by weighing each stack to precisely 2.8 pounds. They were about to learn a lesson in shredding by weight, not volume.

“To earn your new shoes,” I continued, “you must shred all the paper in your pile. If you only shred half of the stack, then you only get one shoe.”

I was pleasantly surprised by their responses.

“I’m in,” said Carson, “I’m first,” said Olivia, “I get to dump the shredded paper,” offered Fischer.

 I explained the bags of shredded paper would be donated to a local pet store for use as animal bedding. The kids loved the idea of recycling; they had a sense of pride in knowing they were doing something that would help someone else, even if it was an animal.

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There doesn’t always have to be a moral conclusion for the things I write about, but if you know me, you know I will find one. So here’s the moral to the story I have shared:

Jesus didn’t buy us new shoes, but He bought us new life. It comes with one condition; that we believe in Him and commit our ways to Him. We can’t earn what He purchased for us on the cross, but we can let Jesus shred all our sins and recycle our life into something that serves a new purpose.   

God is a master at recycling and reshaping our lives into something new.

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THE MIND OF A CREATIVE PERSON (Part two)

stairs

You will want to read Part One of this post first.

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As I came around the turn, I was surprised to see a huge two story mansion in the middle of the dirt road. It loomed ominously toward the blue sky and, since it blocked the road, there was no choice but to enter the front door. As I walked the empty rooms of the first floor, I noted my swimsuit attire had changed to shorts and a t-shirt.

The chatter from the second level drew me toward the stairs. At the top of the staircase was a restaurant that bustled with activity. Wow! How could I have not known this restaurant was so close to where I live?  I asked the hostess for a menu; she pointed to a container near the cash register.

“Our menus are in those drawstring bags,” she said. Inside the bag were golf tees, a score card, pencil and a folded menu which made me wonder if the restaurant wasn’t near one of the golf courses near my house.  

In the corridor outside the restaurant people scurried in every direction; but, I was drawn toward the double-paned glass door at the end of the hallway. A middle-aged Armenian woman, named Yevi, greeted me at the door. She guided me to a room filled with books and old photo albums. I knelt next to a bookcase while Yevi shared a number of her best loved books; one was an Armenian Bible.

As she returned her favorite books to the shelf, I spoke about the final square mile of my journey; Yevi listened intently. I explained that my last turn onto Argentine road had led me into a vortex where I lost all sense of direction. Yevi took my hand and led me to a small enclosed patio area. It overlooked a small riverbed and on the other side was a quaint summer cottage and a road that appeared to led to a town square.

“You are correct about the vortex,” she said. “You have arrived at a crossroad; the direction you are headed isn’t what it appears to be. Your original destination is being mirrored by an unknown force. You must follow my instructions if you want to find your way home.”

She positioned my feet on a designated place on the hardwood floor and stepped away. “Close your eyes and let the energy erupt within you. When that happens, your inner spirit will be overwhelmed with a whirlwind of emotions; and you will find yourself on the other side of the river bed.”

I shut my eyes and focused on the words spoken by Yevi. At first, nothing happened and to be honest, I wasn’t sure anything would. And then, I encountered an unknown force that entered through the soles of my feet and exited the top of my head. The physical sensation was powerful and more real than I care to admit.

Just before I woke from my dream, I found myself on the other side of the river bed in familiar surroundings and pointed in the direction of home.

Is there a moral to my dream story?

I’m not sure. Life is filled with stories and ideas that only need an infusion of creativity to bring them to life. There is a lesson or truth to be learned in all things.  You may find a different meaning, or no meaning at all and that’s OK. But I think we can all relate to the craziness of life, dreams and the many ways we try to make sense of them.

This is what I learned from my dream story.

Many of us have taken the long way home because we encounter a spiritual vortex. I’ve experienced many.  When that happens, it’s time for us to position our feet on solid ground, shut our eyes and listen to the voice of God.  As we place our faith and trust in Jesus, we are transported out of the spiritual vortex.  Our square mile runs in life will always be filled with craziness and obstacles we don’t understand; but, Jesus runs before us and is aware of every spiritual vortex that seeks to detour us from the finish line.

Are you faced with a spiritual vortex? Turn to Jesus; the author and finisher of our faith.

Hebrews 12:2

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THE MIND OF A CREATIVE PERSON (Part One)

I find it rather humorous when given accolades on my abundance of creative energy. What others see as a gift is the curse, at least to me, of an overactive mind that never shuts down. With the help of medication, I am able to corral my OCD tendencies to some degree. They still tend to get out of the barn. This two-part story shares what I do at night while you sleep.

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fishThe 40 degree temperature was melting the giant mounds of snow stockpiled along the roadways. The rapid meltdown caused flooding to roadways and surrounding lakes but that didn’t keep me from putting on my swimsuit and running shoes. I grabbed a Corona from the fridge and set out for my square mile run.

A number of neighbors waved as I passed by their house or shouted words of encouragement. My first turn was onto a dirt road over-saturated with the melted snow. It was a muddy mess so I jumped onto a four-wheeler and spun mud all the way to my next turn. It too, was a dirt road but bordered by two lakes in certain areas.

The first stretch of the road was a steep incline which I ran on foot; Corona still in hand. At the top of the hill was the most beautiful sight. Water cascaded over rocks that glistened in the sunlight. I carefully stepped on embedded rocks to make my way over to the edge of the waterfall where water pooled in a small pond below.

An African American woman stood next to me and struck up a conversation about the sheer beauty of this small waterfall. I shared that I only lived a short distance away and had somehow forgotten about this place. “You are already in your swimsuit; you should go for a swim.”  After I politely declined, she began to discuss how this location would make a great wedding venue as long as they had electricity.

“You can’t have a wedding without music,” she chattered. I looked toward the grassy area where she pointed and noticed a couple of picnic tables and an arbor. “Well, I’ve got to go,” I said abruptly, and started my descent down the hill.

When I reached more level ground I turned to see my mom on the front porch of a house, but had no time to stop or wave. I needed to get to my next turn at Argentine road.

I wasn’t prepared for the flooded lake waters that covered the road ahead. They were deep, murky and filled with dead fish, debris and plastic boat covers. I grabbed ahold of a boat cover and used it as a life raft while I kicked and swam my way to the next turn.

I had finally reached the home stretch, or so I thought.

(To be continued)

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAUGHTER

File0223Thirty-eight years ago today, I gave birth to a baby girl at Pease AFB in Portsmouth, NH. It wasn’t an easy delivery or labor and there were moments she stopped breathing. It gave her dad and me a scare but our baby girl was determined; with the help of forceps, she made her debut. We choose the name Jamie based on the character played by Lindsay Wagner in the television show Bionic Woman.

Happy Birthday, daughter, here are 38 things I love about you; one for every year.

1: Your beautiful smile
2: The way you twirl your hair when you’re tired
3: Your love for that giant blanket that is tattered and torn. It looks like a blanket your dog uses.
4: The sticky note on my fridge with a running tab of how much you owe me
5: You finished your Master’s degree while pregnant with your third child
6: The parking tickets at college that just appeared on your tuition bill
7: Incredible work ethic
8: Ability to look at both sides of a story
9: Giving up is not in your vocabulary
10: When life sucks, you call mom
11: You choose me as a friend
12: The 3 grandkids you gifted me
13: Our appointment with Dr. Joseph, you were a God-send
14: Your beautiful eyes
15: The compassion and commitment you show as a school principal
16: Your passion to mentor others
17: The indiscreet way you borrow things from me and then claim ownership.
18: Your demonstration of sportsmanship in both high school and college
19: You still love naps, just like your mommy
20: WYSIWYG= what you see is what you get
21: After all my mistakes, you still love me
22: You have no problems using my Kohl’s cash
23: You respect and love your grandparents
24: Family is top priority
25: Your obsession with Pinterest
26: The lifelong high school and college friendships you continue to nourish
27: Your philosophy of ‘what’s yours is mine’
28: Watching Lifetime movies on the couch when you stop over for a visit
29: As a child, you asked to go to bed at 8 PM, just like your son Fischer
30: The collection of roly-poly’s and worms hidden in a shoe box under your bed (age 6)
31: You look good in everything you wear
32: You reserve judgment until you have all the facts
33: Your willingness to honestly tell me your opinion when asked
34: Your love for Jesus
35: The way you embrace your step-parents
36: You married your high school/middle school sweetheart, Matthew, the love of your life
37: Our morning conversations on your drive to work
38: Your idea of a homemade dish has directions on the box

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THE DEEP WATERS OF FAITH

Executed for belief in JesusIn the USA, Miley walks the glamorous runway in her white fishnet dress. Her breasts fully exposed except for small circles of black tape covering her nipples; her scanty thong panties leave nothing to the imagination. She smiles, signs a few autographs as fans roar and photos are taken at another celebrity event.

Meantime, in North Korea, an unnamed woman, around Miley’s age, is blindfolded. She is escorted at gunpoint down a muddy runway in clothes that haven’t been washed in months, maybe years. The onlookers roar and cheer her impending execution. There are no autographs, only the blood splatter of the bullet that explodes in her brain as the crowd shouts for more.

The unnamed woman was executed because she publicly professed Jesus as her Savior. Miley, on the other hand, remains exalted on the cover of magazines as she publicly promotes promiscuity and immoral behavior. Is it just me, or has the heart of America become content with treading the shallow waters of complacency? Western media readily presents coverage of Miley’s tongue and inappropriate attire, but turns a blind eye and deaf ear to news of Christian executions.

People magazine has replaced the Bible in the Western world as we obsess over the rich and famous. It’s much more pleasant and conversational to focus on celebrity culture than discuss the faith based torture and persecution going on in other countries. It seems Miley’s wagging tongue and scantily clad body ranks higher in news coverage than a bullet in the brain of a Christian.

The roar of celebrity fans is mere background noise in comparison to those who cheer the execution of those who follow Jesus. This quote from Lori Stanley Roeleveld expresses my heart felt summation:

“While we in the West argue over worship styles, sleep in when there’s a visiting preacher, bemoan having to endure a boring prayer request or off-key soloist, serve up the pastor’s sermon over lunch, or sit home and judge the church unworthy of our attendance altogether there are other brothers and sisters gasping their way to every precious moment when they can gather, in hiding, with other precious believers and hear a whispered message from God, bathe in the reading of His word, and pray with passion and tears for strength to endure and the courage to continue speaking the truth under threat of death.”

It is time for believers to wake up! Christians around the world are being sentenced to death daily for their belief in Jesus. The only red carpet they will ever walk is covered with the blood of those executed before them. As the blindfold is tied, they know death is certain; they understand what Jesus felt when the crowd roared, “Crucify him; crucify him.”

I believe the time is coming when Christians in America will face persecution, even death, for their faith in Jesus. If faced with execution, would your faith in Jesus be submerged in deep waters or would you tread the shallow waters of complacency. The unnamed woman in North Korea took a bullet for her belief in Jesus. Would you do the same?

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THEN ENTERS JESUS

computer

Ug upi vsm trsf yjod upi str yti;u s,sxomh/.  O pgyrm yu[r eoyjpi ;pplomh i[ ;pplomh sy yjr vp,[iyrt dvtrrm/. Yjrm ,u gomhrtd strm Y str pmy toyj lrud. Yjod od ejsy zo hry/.

As I looked up at the jumbled characters on my computer screen I realized in my overzealous effort to finish a writing project, I had misaligned my fingers on the keyboard.  It wasn’t the first time, and probably not the last. The garbled mess reminded of the many times I have tapped wrong keys in my life.

And then enters Jesus, the greatest editor of all times. He erases every erroneous keystroke we tap in our life story, even those things we consider impossible to erase. Divorce, addiction, spousal infidelity, hopelessness, despair, lack of judgment and the unmentionables are translated by grace and rewritten by forgiveness.

If your life story reads like this:

O esd upimh/ smf yjpihjy z lmew rbrtuyjomh/ Opmu smf pm yjr trnpimf/ Dyo;; o,syitr/ Yjpiy oy esd vpp; yp n;pe d,plr tomhd. Yp nrvs,r sffovyrf yp vohstrryrd/: Ejrtr upi trs;;u yjsy n;omf yp mpy drr ejsy esd js[[rmomh/ d;homr; dpomhd hpermvp d;ohmd rpdq;odh;dfmg/  

Maybe it’s time to let Jesus take control of the keyboard of your life. He longs to edit and rewrite our garbled life story to read like this:

Forgiven, redeemed and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. God’s grace has rewritten this life story. Hopelessness has turned to faith and joyfulness has replaced despair. The Word of God has proclaimed judgment on sin and buried it beneath the cross.

It is easy to become overzealous and misaligned when writing our life story. I tend to seek the tailwind of success and take shortcuts that point me in the direction of wrong choices. Thankfully, Jesus stands ready to realign my erroneous keystrokes to the Word of God; the ultimate keyboard of life.