The Glorious Muddle
glimpses of grace in the messiness of life

April 25, 2017

Finding Your Voice

Everbloom launches today!

Launch dayEverbloom is written by women Redbuds, my writing guild. I’m humbled to be one of the authors among such a talented group, and proud to be part of something so wonderful. I couldn’t put my copy down! It contains cathartic stories of pain, loss, struggle, beauty, and redemption.

From the beginning, our hope for this book is that women will be empowered and inspired on their own journey of transformation and growth. At the end of each story, the reflection question is actually a writing prompt to spur you on to find your voice and to inspire others.

We believe in the transformational power of stories to help us find our unique influence & voice.

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Read what our publisher writes:

Be inspired by the transforming power of story!

Through the pain, loss, beauty and redemption in these pages, you’ll find freedom in Christ and the courage to embrace your own story. The women of Redbud know the importance of spiritual shelter, and how easy it is to feel alone and misunderstood.

In the Everbloom collection they offer essays, stories and poetry: intensely personal accounts of transformation, and the journeys to find their own voices. Best of all, they invite you to join them, with writing prompts that encourage a response of honesty, faith and imagination.

Accept the invitation: set out on the journey to find your own voice.

Everbloom, TWITTER

 

A close-knit community of Christian women writers share compelling and courageous personal journeys of transformation and growth toward finding their unique voices and invite other women to join them on the beautiful journey.

From matters of politics to education, from social justice to health and wellness and beyond, this has been a year for the voices of women to ring out, and the Women of Redbud Writers Guild add their voices to the swell: voices of honesty, faith, deep spirituality, and generous wisdom. They speak out on behalf of those women who might not have found their own voices yet, sharing stories of their own personal transformations, discoveries, and overcomings. Opening the Box

In forty stories, from global campaigns against social injustice and poverty, to the most intimate retellings of miscarriages and stillbirths, these Women of Redbud Writers Guild share a clarion call to all women: there is no pain that cannot be redeemed by the grace of God, no God-given voice that should be silenced, no one for whom the love of God through Jesus Christ will ever fall short.

Click here to purchase. And stay tuned for a special giveaway here, on my blog, on May 4.

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April 12, 2017

Sunday’s Coming!

angel-1822368_960_720This Easter week, my thoughts turn dark as I look to Friday. Pain. Death. Grief.

But Friday is only the climax to the story. It’s not the resolution. It’s not the end.

In the words of Dr. E.V. Hill, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!”

Oswald Chambers reminds us that the horrible events of that historic Friday weren’t an accident. “The Cross did not happen to Jesus: He came on purpose for it.”

This morning, as we ate breakfast and talked about our most meaningful Easters, my husband told me about the time a friend from Sri Lanka spoke in his church. This friend had grown up watching people journey to the Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa) in his home country, where the right tooth relic of Bodhidharma, the Buddha, is kept. Bodhidharma’s body was cremated when he died.

Millions make the pilgrimage to Medina in Saudi Arabia every year. There they pay homage at the tomb of the prophet of Islam.

Confucius is buried in the Shandong Province of China, in a large cemetery where over 100,000 of his descendants are buried.

Christians may dispute the exact location of Jesus’s tomb, but they agree on one thing. The most important thing. Jesus’s tomb was only temporary.

His tomb is empty.

Jesus died to rise again.

As C.S. Lewis writes, “In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend.”

That Friday, from noon until three in the afternoon, the sun went dark as Jesus hung on the cross. The earth quaked. The curtain of the temple was torn in two. Rocks split apart and tombs broke open.

Anyone alive at that time had to know that something significant was happening.

Matthew gives more detail in his account:

The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Matthew 27:52-54

Jesus’s death paved the way for us to have life everlasting.

Again, from Oswald Chambers:

The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much. The Cross is the point where God and sinful man merge with a crash and the way to life is opened – but the crash is on the heart of God.

In his own words, Jesus replaces despair with hope. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

Death doesn’t have the final word.

Sunday’s coming!

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April 7, 2017

Tears in the Bible

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This weekend is Palm Sunday. It’s the first day of Holy Week, a week of extreme emotions, both ups and downs. The week begins with jubilation, climaxes with the most terrible event in human history, and ends with the most wonderful one.

And yet as I read over the accounts of the Triumphal Entry, something is missing. I’ve always thought of Palm Sunday as a day of joy. This time, I don’t see joy. Not true, lasting joy anyway.

I see sadness.

The crowd surged around Jesus and shouted his praise, expecting him to swoop in and defeat their political enemies. But we don’t read that Jesus pumped his fists in the air and high-fived his palm-frond waving fans.

Jesus cried.

Jesus cried over Jerusalem. He cried for the people he loved who were lost.

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  Luke 19:41

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Luke 13:33-35

As I pondered this, I decided to search for other instances when Jesus’s tears are recorded.

Jesus wept.

Of course the first verse I flipped to is the favorite for school children to memorize:  “Jesus wept.”

He wept when Mary told him his friend Lazarus had died. (John 11:33-35)

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

The people watching thought he cried for Lazarus. You may, too.

But I don’t think he cried for Lazarus. He knew he was about to call him to walk out of the tomb. I believe he wept because he saw the fierce grief his friends felt. He cried because they hurt.

Jesus wept because he cares.

He cares about our pain. In Psalm 56:8, we read that God keeps our tears in his bottle. They are precious to him. Our sorrow and grief is never wasted.

You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

One of the things I love most about Jesus is his deep emotion that he so freely expressed. Joy, laughter, righteous indignation, tenderness, sadness. He experienced it all. Even when the Bible doesn’t explicitly say he cried, his life was filled with suffering. He came to die.

Jesus grieved.

Jesus sympathizes with our pain because he knows what it feels like.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Isaiah 53:3

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.  Hebrews 5:7-8

In Garden of Gethsemane, he was deeply troubled and distressed, grieved to the point of death. He prayed:

“Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Mark 14:36

God’s heart grieves.

Jesus is the physical expression of the heart of God toward us. He shows us what God is like.

A dear friend of mine, who has experienced intense grief, told me that she is learning to trust God’s heart in her pain. I love that. Trust his heart in our pain.

What do you know about his heart?

Do you trust what you know?

On Palm Sunday, as Christ-followers around the globe begin to commemorate the week ahead, we know what’s coming. God’s heart is about to grieve like no one’s heart has ever grieved before or since.

He was willing to have his heart broken because He cares for us.

May we get to know, and trust, his heart in a much deeper and more profound way this Easter season.

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April 3, 2017

An Unobstructed Heart

heart-1213481_960_720I love the game “I Never.” I always scored big when I pulled out my trifecta of secret weapons. I’ve never had a broken bone. I’ve never had a cavity. I’ve never spent the night in a hospital. I lost the cavity card a few years back, and now the only hand that’s left for me is the broken bones.

You guessed it. I have now spent a night in the hospital.

I believe everything happens for a reason. Often, we never know what that reason is. I will probably never know why I ended up in the hospital a few days ago.

Overnight in the Cardiac Hilton

If I had any illusions that you can rest in a hospital, I don’t anymore. With three IVs hooked into my arms and a heavy monitor dangling from my side, I felt strapped to my marshmallow mattress.

Meanwhile, a huge thunderstorm slammed rain and branches against my window and a double shift of nurses laughed and partied at their station across from me. I never knew that in a bad storm, the nursing staff has to stay overnight to insure they’ll make it back for the next day’s shift. Obviously, they were bored.

I prayed frequently for the other cardiac patients on my floor. Next door to me, a big man with a bigger voice yelled for a nurse at least three times during the night shift. Alarms sounded and nurses ran with equipment to respond to two Code Blues, made especially chilling when one nurse (hopefully a student nurse) screamed, “What do I do?”

An Undivided Metaphorical Heart

In the midst of the noise and lack of sleep, I read and prayed. I wanted to prepare my heart for the next day’s catheterization and potential stents. I read in Matthew 22 about the foremost commandment. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second? Love your neighbor as yourself.

All your heart.

Do I love him with all my heart?

I had to mull this over. And I had time to do it. You may want to ask yourself these same questions.

Do I even know what it means to love God? Do I love him more than anything else? Are there obstacles that need to be removed?

Is my heart growing cold and hard, like a stone? Like a Code Blue, does my heart need reviving?

Is my heart divided? What else clamors for my affection?

And can I even begin to love my neighbor, to truly love others, until my heart is whole?

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19

Obstacles get in the way of loving with a warm and vital heart. Distractions cling and keep my heart from operating at full capacity, fully alive. They need to be taken out. Or at least ignored.

An Unobstructed Physical Heart

The hospital pamphlet told me that with a stent, the physical obstructions would remain but the path for blood to carry oxygen to my heart would be opened up. The good stuff would get where it needs to go much easier.

The chain reaction that brought me to the hospital started with stress, which elevated my blood pressure to a dangerous stage, which prompted a visit to my doctor. I thought she’d increase my dosage and I’d be back at work by 9:00, but to be cautious, she ran an EKG, compared it to my baseline one, and sent me straight away to a cardiologist.

My highly medical analysis: The squiggles above the line on the EKG had flipped, mirror-image, to below the line. The cardiologist said this is not good and sent me straight away to the hospital to be monitored before the next day’s heart catheterization, expecting a stent or two.

The next day was our Sweet Sixteenth wedding anniversary. Six years earlier, on our 10th anniversary, Steve had the same procedure done, resulting in four stents. (The timing made me laugh in the doctor’s office, which he called a good sign.)

My procedure revealed that I have a strong and healthy heart. My arteries are “pristine.” All good news. Great news, in fact.

An Unanswered Mystery

But baffling news. The mystery remains. My doctor said tests are never foolproof. I guess I fooled the test, symbolically on April Fool’s Eve.

Did someone pull the EKG out of the printer upside down? Or put someone else’s baseline reading in my file? No, because all the other markers proved both are mine.

Or did God answer the prayers of my friends and heal my heart?

He certainly has done it before. I guess I’ll never know what happened or why.

All that matters is that he holds my heart, and he’ll hold it forever. Now it’s up to me to clear out some of those obstacles so I can love him fully.

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March 29, 2017

What’s Wrong with Buzz Words?

bumble-bee-55264_960_720You hear buzz words all the time. On the television news, in church services, in business meetings. They are the current jargon used by newscasters and politicians, public speakers and people who want to appear trendy. Or should I say on trend?

Unoriginal or Relevant?

There’s a place for buzz words. They show that you have your ear to the current culture. But they also reveal a lack of imagination. You can swap any buzz-word speaker with another. Where’s the individual voice and personality?

My husband’s office played Buzz Word Bingo, marking off each word or phrase when uttered in a team meeting. Whoever got the first straight line of words would stand, in the middle of the meeting, and yell, “Bingo!” They would’ve loved the following paragraph I wrote:

Going forward, be empowered to break through the clutter and bring more robust words to the table! You can be proactive and raise the bar for original language. Step up to the plate and streamline the process. Whether it’s in your wheelhouse or not, you can still push the envelope and think outside the box.

Writers who use buzz words are lazy.

Heed what my man William Zinsser wrote back in 1986 in his classic On Writing Well:

”Beware of all the slippery new fad words: paradigm and parameter, prioritize and potentialize. They are all weeds that will smother what you write. Don’t dialogue with someone you can talk to. Don’t interface with anybody.”

Maybe I’m thinking about buzz words today because spring is blooming everywhere, causing the buzzing bees to stir up the pollen which makes my head buzz. Whatever the reason, these tired words are permanent residents of my veritable zoo of pet peeves.

Some nouns masquerade as verbs.

We have issues with verbs in popular culture. Some may call it a verbage problem. Have you ever wondered what’s with the ending “age”? We used to say signs; now it’s signage.

Task – Why would you want to use this as a verb? Who can pronounce it? Besides, no one tasks me, or has tasked me, with anything. They can ask me to do something and I can decide whether I’ll agree.

Reference – This is a dictionary or encyclopedia. I refer to things I found in a reference.

Engage – Only use this if you’re asking me to marry you. Since I’m already married, give it up.

Impact –  Only a noun until recently. Impactful – That’s just crazy talk.

Grow – Things grow without trying. We do not grow a business. We help the business grow.

“Can we reach out?”

Joan Rivers’ famous line, “Can we talk?” is passé. It’s just not cool to talk anymore.

You can dialogue, communicate, exchange, interact, connect, or touch base. But not with me. Don’t reach out to me unless you’re throwing me a life preserver. And interface? Please! I only do this with my husband.

There’s more. So much more.

I unpack my suitcase, but nothing else.

Revisit means I’m stopping by your house for an encore. I revisit people, not things.

Leverage involves a fulcrum and alignment is what the mechanic does to my car’s tires.

I only say win win when I stutter or refer to (not reference) someone from Vietnam named Nguyen Nguyen.

And then there’s then-boss and then-husband. What!? What’s wrong with saying former boss or husband at that time?

Unimaginative writers tell the reader something is heart-stoppingly scary or gut-wrenchingly moving. Better to describe it in a way that makes my gut wrench than to tell me how I’m supposed to respond.

I am head-congestedly whiny now, so I will stop. My allergy meds are reaching out to me.

 

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