Retrospection: the act or process or an instance of surveying the past.  Looking back.  Second guessing.

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately.  Ruminating on the “if only” moments.   The changing of seasons seems to turn us on our heels and face us toward the things that have been.  Surveying them some how helps us to say one last goodbye before turning and moving forward into the “what has to be” of tomorrow. 

The past is a treasure box filled with trinkets, rust, and gold.   Some things meaningless; others priceless.  Some things painful; others exhilarating with joy.  History inevitably is mingled with tears, smiles, and a lot of sweat.    

From our treasure box of the past, there are many lessons we can take with us into the future.  Here are my retrospection discoveries:

1.  You can never have too many family dinners.  It doesn’t really matter what you serve, sitting around a table is an incredibly unifying experience.

2. You can never welcome too many people into “family” status.   Family are the people who will stick by you no matter what and not because they have to, but because they can’t imagine doing anything different.   Sadly, “friend” has become a casual word filled with lopsided definitions, but “family” speaks a greater truth–it says “We belong to one another.”

3. Define the battle before you start fighting.  So many battles; so few victories.  So much wasted energy.  There are things in life that are worth fighting for; there really are!  There are also too few warriors; people willing to take up the sword and fight.  Yet, I observe that too many of us get drawn into the wrong battles where we become weary, injured, and often disabled.  And the war we should have been fighting goes on without our contribution.  Think deeply about this as a spouse, parent, friend, employer/ee.   For what are you really fighting?

4. Forgive quickly.  People make mistakes–a lot of them.   Forgiveness is an excellent trainer.  You want good character?  Then choose forgiveness as quickly as you can.  Walk into it.  Take big steps toward those who you feel have wronged you.  You will find humility, selflessness, patience, and mercy shaping your character into a beautiful reflection of the One who modeled the true depths of forgiveness.

5. Laugh.  Why the heck are we so serious?  Learn to laugh freely–at yourself, at the nature of things, inappropriately if you must, just never at others.  Carry a joke book if you’re laughter-impaired.  I married my husband because of his laugh–seriously, I did.  Before I knew his name, I knew his laugh.  Laughter makes us human; makes us lovable; makes us vulnerable to be real.  Laughter marches to the rhythm of the heart. 

6.  “Please,” “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I love you” are endangered terms.  Before we lose these beautiful creatures once and for all, make them a part of your daily repertoire.  If you’re uncomfortable with them then practice in front of a mirror.  So many things in life could be fixed with one of these words.  Speak the power of charity; sincerely, generously, and frequently. 

Today, spend some time in retrospection.  Think about where you’ve been.  The blessings you have received.  The lessons you have learned. …and treasure them.

What discoveries would you add to the list?

Getting Through Stuff: Storms, Scares, & The Stuff that Makes Us Trust

“We get through stuff” were the last words spoken in the darkened bedroom just before the first ray of light broke. 

We do.  We people get through a lot of stuff–we get through broken relationships, broken hearts, broken bank accounts, and broken bodies.  Instead of perishing, we find a way to white knuckle our way through some pretty treacherous storms.

“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.  The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?'”  Matthew 8:24-27

There are many of us who are probably in a boat of sorts that is being covered by the waves.  This week I have been hit with waves of grief, disappointment, and betrayal.  And I confess, it seems like Jesus is asleep in my boat.

I have sounded the alarm.  He appears to still be sleeping.

I have nudged Him with fervent prayers.  Yet on the storm rages.

I have felt like the disciples, like I am perishing.

Yet, Jesus when awakened by the disciples does not recognize the same peril of which they are distressed.  He first addresses their fear, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”

We all want Jesus to rebuke the storms in our life–to seperate the elements, quiet the uproar, and set us safely into “perfectly calm.”

Far fewer of us, most notably me, are willing to let the Lord rebuke my fear and my lack of faith. 

Is it possible that the storms rage on in our life because it is more important to God that we trust Him in spite of the storm and not simply because of the storm?  Jesus knew full well that the disciples would not perish from the storm.  The much bigger threat was their lack of faith.  The storm scared them.  They scare me too.  They’re probably scaring you.  Let the Lord rebuke your fear.  Allow the storm to show you what you do not yet know about trust. 

Today, I am declaring “Christ is in my boat.  Bring on the waves!  Amaze me, Lord!”


The Echo of Easter

Drawing close to Easter is an excellent calibrator.  Its message necessitates we focus on the things in  life that are really important.

Important things get lost throughout the year in the momentary clutter of frustration, confusion, and busyness.  I find that while Easter ought to be a holiday celebrated in my heart every day…every moment, I confess I sadly allow it to get stored away with neglected decorations pulled out only seasonally.

Not today.  Today Easter is alive and well in my heart.  It is finding victory in my thoughts. 

Here is how the message of Easter is making a difference for me today:

Not everything is as it appears.  For everyone present on Good Friday the story seems over.  Done.  Finished.  I suspect the disciples found themselves swirling in futility thinking.  The message of Easter is that appearances will give way to a greater revelation.  So many things in my life don’t make any sense on paper.  Yet faith speaks a greater confidence–God works in mighty ways beyond what the eyes can see.

Closed doors are nothing to fear.  Chapters close.  Roads end.   Death comes.  The message of Easter is that fear of change is replaced by the hope of the new which will come.   Where death snuffs out life, resurrection hope shouts “There is more!  Just wait.  There is more to come!”

Truth wins.  Things can be concealed for a night, but truth will eventually be awakened. There is victory.  Justice will be had.  No tomb will hide the truth long enough; no guards can hold back forever its power.  Truth will awaken triumphant.

God works in ways we wouldn’t choose.  The message of Easter is that God has and continues to use means and methods that no man would call common or expected.  He is using means today in my life that I wouldn’t use and Easter echoing in my heart reminds me that it’s okay.  Okay to trust His ways fully.  Okay to let things that make no sense to me be means for God to humble me with His might and power. 

How is the message of Easter echoing in your heart today?

There Are Days…

Do you ever find that there are days that seemed filled with more than your share of allowable errors? 

Yesterday I was more mistake-prone than usual.  I overslept.  I had an editing fail.  I spoke some careless words.   I forgot to pick up my boy at baseball…causing the hubs to miss a business dinner.  I arrived home to a messy house filled with grumpiness.  It was an epic fail day.

Instead of going from “strength to strength,” I seemed to be on one slow ride swirling around the drain of humanity.

Humans fail.  It’s a reality we try so hard to avoid. 

I don’t know why we are so reality-resistant about our humanity.  Pride.  Insecurity.  Fear of others.    Maybe the need to measure up gives us a false sense of security that we won’t be swallowed up…by other’s expectations or criticisms, or overlooked, or worst of all, found unworthy. 

There are days when I think we’re all just trying too hard.  Doing too many things to prove we’ve got what it takes. 

There are days when the failures–be they big or small–are just reminders that I haven’t yet surrendered to humility.  I haven’t yet embraced the virtue of being poor in spirit.  No, the poor in spirit have nothing of their own accounting.  They have reached into the depths of their performance pockets and pulled out nothing.  They are desperately dependant on the riches of another.  They’ve come to the end of themselves–and their own kingdom building–and have surrendered to One whose riches are not conditioned on their perfected accomplishments.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God”  Matthew 5:3.

There are days when that has to be enough. 

What will you need to surrender today in order to let it be enough for you?

Getting Dirty: Making Way for the Beautiful

“Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.  For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herbs.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land cultivate faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your ways to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light”  Psalm 37:1-6.

I hadn’t planned on getting dirty.  

Yet, the mud caked under my fingernails.  Thorns from nearby roses embedded under my tender haven’t-gardened-yet-this-season skin.  Misguided roots persistently blocked the patch of ground selected for the new plants.  I’d forgotten how much work gardening can be, especially in land that has suffered seasonal neglect.

Flowers sat on the side awaiting their assigned seating in the garden.  When purchased them at the nursery, I had only imagined them planted with heads prouldy reaching for the sky.  I only saw their beauty.

I hadn’t planned on getting dirty.

Beautiful things compel us to dig in and wear pain.  Pain makes a place for beauty to dwell.  It’s true in the garden and in life.

I watched three loved be baptized this week.   As I listened to them describe their journey to the water’s edge, I thought about the pain they each had endured to make way for the beauty of Christ to be displayed in them.   It hadn’t been an easy for any of them.  For each, they had dug through hardened dirt, twisted roots, and painful thorns to stand before their community of friends alive in Christ, their Healer.    Yet rolling up their sleeves, with the help of Christ His glory went proudly on display; heads held proudly and hearts humbled tenderly.  From the pain there was a joyful harvest of beauty. 

I think about my own journey, most notably my journey of late.  There’s been much digging into hardened ground.  The muscles have fatigued and the heart has frequently fainted.   There are days when I think the ground is too hardened for flowers.  There are others when I think I am too soft to finish the planting.    There have been too many days where it seems that all I have to show is mud-caked hands.

I never planned on getting dirty.    Yet, this weekend reminded me that the beauty is worth the pain. 

Are you tired?  Trust in the Lord.  Cultivate faithfulness.  Make way for the beautiful.