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Category Archives: Renewing Our Minds

Pulling Vines: Landscaper of Our Hearts

Pulling Vines_Pulling with everything in me, I grabbed hold of some stubborn vines declaring war on my pachysandra and yanked away. The morning sun beat down with increasing intensity and my muscles pulsed in ways they hadn’t all winter, yet my focus remained steady and determined.

I’ve had enough of weeds choking me over the years. They crept in silently. I would ignore and eventually get used to them, not really seeing how big they were becoming—until one day I couldn’t see past them. I was horrified how they seemed to tower over all healthy growth in my life.

The same was true when I went to the mailbox one day. I saw an overgrown, out-of-control forsythia bush and almost didn’t recognize my own yard. My stomach turned. I was disgusted that I had let my lawn get that trashy, that I lost my vision for intruders, and that I’d let my guard down, given up, lost my fight.

Know the feeling?

I look back to a year ago when the repercussions of years of long drives to therapy, IEP battles, and the never-ending search for new answers, avenues to explore, and home coping strategies for one Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Are You Collecting Spoons?

Collecting SpoonsIn the middle of my van, right behind the driver’s seat, I keep a small crate in which I store items I need throughout the week: two Bible study workbooks, the latest coupon book for BJs, a catalog for The Paper Store, karate belts, and the Junior High Sunday School attendance clipboard. If I am stranded in the cold weather in the next few months, I may not have a blanket to keep warm or a flashlight to light my path, but I can study the Bible, clip coupons, window shop, and impersonate a brown belt!

For about two weeks, whenever I opened the van door, I saw a metal serving spoon poking out of my “car office” crate. It almost seemed to taunt me. For various reasons and meetings, I had been at my church about four times since taking the spoon home to clean after using it for Sunday School, but I kept forgetting about it.

My crate is supposed to be a placeholder for me, a reminder, a way to stay organized. And yet, despite my best efforts to keep everything in its proper place for the right time, that spoon got the best of me. For the life of me, I could not remember to return it to the church kitchen drawer. I held onto it, transported it all over the local area, and

carried something I did not have to.

Know the feeling?

Psalm 55:22, ESV, David singing

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

I don’t know about you, but it usually doesn’t take me long to grab a burden, sling it over my shoulder Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Diagnosis Sin: What Festers When We’re Not Looking?

diagnosis-sin-what-festers-when-were-not-lookingIt was such a relief to be wheeled into a private room (one of the benefits of an expected flu diagnosis) after a week of high fevers, chills, night sweats, vomiting, and massive body pain. God even delighted me with a feisty, redheaded nurse who got what little humor I had left in the humility of fluids coming out of me in all the wrong ways.

Earlier that day I had sought refuge at the clinic in town, only to find out I had been taking too much Extra Strength Tylenol for a few days. In my mind, you manage the flu by taking Tylenol around the clock as needed. I didn’t stop to realize Extra Strength Tylenol had different rules. Oops.

The visit there was an epic failure. The doctor spent more time berating me for my accidental overdose (later determined to not have damaged my liver after all) and treating me as if I had a pain med addiction than she did listening to my symptoms. Because none of my symptoms followed the logical order of the flu, she said everything was inconclusive and sent me home with strong orders not to take any pain meds for many days. Um, okay. Thanks for nothing. No chest x-rays ordered—just some blood work to make sure I shouldn’t be entered into a Tylenol recovery program STAT.

You see, she had tunnel vision. She was maybe six months out of med school with the script on her diploma just now drying. I am fairly patient with the learning curve, but she didn’t do her job completely that day.

As my husband can attest, I took my little plastic stomach acid depository in the car with me and contributed quite a bit to it all the way home uphill, in his very jerky stick shift car. I was in so much pain, it was all I could do. I threw fluids down my throat regularly and laid down again in agony, so defeated after a week of suffering and no answers, only to discover that without my friend Tylenol, my fever went to high levels; I was no longer able to manage my body temperature. I frantically called my husband back from dance and basketball drop-offs to collect the kids and get me to the emergency room. Operation Stop the Tylenol was not successful. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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God, Fear, and the Presidency

god-fear-and-the-presidencyMy brawny Shih Tzu Samson spent the entire morning running around afraid and jumping to high surfaces to escape a mouse while his slight little sister, Delilah, sat confidently on the floor, alert and nonplussed.

It occurred to me: This is me on any given day.

What about you?

Do we fear the issue at our feet that is taunting or stressing us, or do we know our Defender well enough to rest that He will eventually take care of that “mouse”?

I need to remember my advice to Samson: “Some days I am like you, Buddy. I jump to higher surfaces because I forget my Master’s care and strength. Rest, my little fuzzball. You are safe and very loved.”

Can humans royally mess up? Yes. Are there reasons to be fearful whenever the “other” candidate comes to power? Sure. Is this a particularly worrisome election year? Depends on whom you ask.

But this is not about the president or who runs Congress. I wouldn’t try to tell you how to vote even if I wanted to. You know why? Because our great democracy allows us to become informed as best we can and cast a vote in the direction we’d like to see the country go. We win some. We lose some. The pendulum swings.

What does God say about sovereigns and rulers—and what to do with fear?

For some folks, the fear may feel like it’s about our new president and what he stands for. It could be about ISIS. It could be about Korea, Russia, and nuclear missiles.

On some days, my fear starts right at my own doorstep about the future of my children, whether my newly minted teen driver will navigate slick roads, if certain relationships will ever repair this side of heaven. I understand fear. I struggle regularly with social anxiety. On some occasions, fear threatens to determine if I walk into an event or social setting, if I’d let it­—but I’m learning not to.

The author of fear is not God. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Is That You, God? Can I See Some Identification, Please?

is-that-you-godIn the previous post, we looked at the beginning of Gideon’s story in Judges 6, when God spoke the seemingly impossible into Gideon’s circumstances, but we stopped short of another twist in the account. Gideon’s need for reassurance went even further than the back-and-forth with the angel of the LORD. Gideon was called a “mighty man of valor” at a time when he was hiding in a winepress threshing grain, trying to stay under the radar so Israel’s enemy didn’t find him. Considering how weakened Israel was at the time, avoiding the enemy and living in constant fear, it is understandable how much he needed to be sure he was hearing from God.

Judges 6:17-18, ESV

And he said to him, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, then show me a sign that it is you who speak with me. Please do not depart from here until I come to you and bring out my present and set it before you.” And he said, “I will stay till you return.”

Speaking to the angel of the LORD, Gideon didn’t mince his words. He clearly asked for a sign.

Was this wisdom, or a lack of faith?

One thing is clear: Gideon Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Wheat and Winepresses: God Speaking Into Circumstances

wheat-and-winepressesHe was sitting in the middle of a winepress, hiding from his enemy, threshing wheat. Defeated and discouraged, Gideon was hardly a man you would describe as part of God’s inheritance of the Promised Land. If he didn’t thresh his wheat in secret, the Midianites, his enemy, would come and plunder the food, leaving him more hopeless and desperate than ever. And yet in the middle of this sad state, an angel of the LORD visits him:

Judges 6:12, ESV

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

Um, what now?

There may be circumstances in your own life where you feel completely done under, barely coming up for air, sitting in the dark threshing your own wheat just to get by, trying to manage making it through one more day. You simply want to go unnoticed and un-harassed. Oh, I know several folks sitting in that place right now. It was me last year this time. And I know that in these moments, we certainly don’t feel like “mighty men of valor,” but when God Himself calls us that, He has a clear vision of what’s ahead and how He is about to use us for good.

For good? In these circumstances of certain defeat? How can He possibly use it for good?

Well, Gideon sure didn’t jump in with both feet initially. He needed a bit of reassurance, some confirmation. Do you know why?

At first he did not Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Letting Go: When We Enter a New Chapter

letting-go-when-we-enter-a-new-chapterThis past summer I spent a week packing boxes with dear friends of mine moving back East from the West Coast. We made many trips to used bookstores, donation centers, and the dumpster. We wrapped their lives up into 11 categories—little compartments of 49 years of marriage rolled into newspapers, bubble wrap, and cardboard.

Waiting to be opened on the other side of a house sale and cross-country move, each box was evidence of life well-lived—together, real, and raw—caught within memories, fondly received presents, mementos from vacations, mugs for special occasions, and dated photographs. A mere song on the radio triggered a reflective wave of “remember when.”

We laughed ourselves silly going through shelves of books at 2 AM—how difficult it was to part with those pages from scattered memories and loved ones over five decades. We sobbed over discovered treasures from their childhoods. While not always easy, life had been good to them. I could see the value placed in considering each piece of it.

So, I asked myself:

How do we pack a lifetime into one 12 inch x 12 inch x 12 inch square at a time?

And the overall decision awaiting us as we dragged packing materials into each room?

Keep, donate, or throw out?

My friend, the wife, had so much courage, incredible stamina, and amazing strength as she divided her life into categories and choices. How do you take a 49 year marriage and family life and split it into thirds? How do you give away your life? How do you decide what to save and what to let go of?

I don’t know, but as I watched her do it, I knew deep within me that it is something we must all do. Self-reflection and life sorting is not only healthy, but it also opens space.

I had to move into a new chapter recently, one I really didn’t want: Read the rest of this entry »

 

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