Becoming a Beautiful Snowflake

Okay, so maybe saying that I think I’m turning into a snowflake doesn’t sound quite right. But it’s an apt description for this process that I am experiencing. Here’s an illustration showing how to create a really fancy snowflake. Check out all the intricate cuts you have to make to get it right.

intricate paper snowflake

Becoming beautiful can be a slow, laborious and painful process.

It’s easier to fold the paper and just make a few triangular cuts, of course. But then you end up with a rectangle with some pretty holes in it. It’s not beautiful — just something to do to fill the time. It won’t stay up on the refrigerator long, either. Your mom will toss it as soon as she knows you’re not looking.

I think a lot of us are content to be that rectangle with the awkwardly placed triangles. I know I often am.

The thing is, I prayed this really scary prayer. I asked God to use me to advance His purposes, to get “me” out of the way. Truthfully, I really didn’t want to pray that prayer, but God is not interested in lukewarm servants. And I’ve seen enough of what God can do to know that I want to consciously be a part of His amazing work.

I know I’m going to be a really beautiful snowflake. The parts of me that are being cut away are immense. It hurts.

But you know what? Before I met God, I would have a greater emotional reaction to having my car break down than I am now with all this business going on with my sons. My friend Deb said, “He is carrying you.” Oh yeah. There is definitely only one set of footprints in the sand.

I lean not on my own understanding.
My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give it all to You, God,
trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me.
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open…


Telling the Truth Is Scary

throwing Jesus off a cliff

Many people didn’t want to hear things that challenged their worldview.

Jesus always told the truth. People really didn’t like it. The very day He gave a sermon in His hometown, the people tried to drive him off a cliff.

We say that we want to be like Jesus, but do we really?

Do we really want to say the uncomfortable truths that people don’t want to hear? The truths that make people wish you’d just go away and not disturb their comfort?




Here’s one “unpopular” thing Jesus said:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25

I don’t think most people want to go there. I know I’m scared to say things that might cause people to dislike me or not take me seriously. But my challenge is to do so anyway. When I think about my purpose in life, what comes to mind is sharing what I’ve learned from experiences that I hope most of you never have.

I’m aware that people like me better when I talk about the designer top I found on sale for $20, share uplifting Bible verses or compliment them on their hair. And those things certainly have a place in life. But there’s so much more. And a lot of it is painful, scary and paradigm-shifting.

So some of the people who read this blog will think I’m crazy. Negative. Too serious.

Some people will enjoy reading what may sound like a particularly bloody train wreck.

And that doesn’t feel good. But it is what it is.


And Unto Us, a Savior Is Born — Really!

Note: This post is not cheery.  It was either write the truth or not write at all.

Having a savior feels different than it used to.

The word “savior” just used to sound like any other word. Jesus our savior. Born in a manger. Sheep and donkeys came to mind.


I’ve known the reality of having a savior for a couple of years now, but perhaps never more than this Christmas.

My older son, my sweet boy who took off into the depths of LSD and never desired to fully resurface, well, a few days ago he changed his email address to an auto-forwarded message that sounds an awful lot like a suicide note. He’s somewhere in Guatemala. He was waiting for a cosmic change on the 21st. It was no joke to him. No one has heard from him.

Maybe my son is dead. I don’t know.

My younger son is getting inpatient treatment for a stigma-producing condition. It’s the kind of thing where people don’t send flowers, offer much support or even really want to talk to you much at all. We are in Shreveport this holiday season because that’s where the hospital is. Christmas will be the same as every other day this past week — getting into an overcrowded elevator and visiting him from 5:30 to 6:30.

It would be so easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. It would be easy to completely fall apart, actually.

But in one respect Christmas is not at all the same as any other day. It’s the day we celebrate that we have a savior. A SAVIOR.

This means the world to me, now that I know what it means.

My merciful savior stands between me and hopelessness. He grabs the demons of despair by their necks and casts them away from me. He is good he is love he is everything to me.

I tried to cover up my pain by shopping. However, the world’s solutions don’t work. I have maxed out my credit cards and now despise the mere sight of another sweater marked 50 percent off. The only cure for pain is turning to our savior. The pain doesn’t necessarily go away, but it sure as heck becomes easier to carry. Here’s why:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

He arrived!! They worshiped him! He saved us! He saved us.

My savior. I love you.





Which Winter Holiday Do You Celebrate?

Jesus and Christmas

Fur Elise in the tree.

An old high school friend whom I’ve always respected put a brief rant about the folks who write CHRISTmas instead of Christmas on his Facebook status this morning. His update made me think about my own annoyance with the very same thing. Although Brian and I hold very different theological views, I think his annoyance is justified.

Here’s why.

Many of the folks who are insisting that we “put the Christ back in Christmas” are not celebrating Christmas. (In my not-always-so-humble opinion.) I’m not sure exactly what is being celebrated, but I really don’t think it’s Christmas, the name of which means “Christ Mass.” Whether or not we should celebrate a “Christ Mass” is in itself debatable, but I think it’s pretty clear that we are not participating in anything remotely close to a reverent and joyful honoring of Christ’s arrival to save us from our sins and oppression.

I passively resisted a bit this year by not putting up Christmas decorations, but my husband wanted them, so I caved. I’ve also been sucked into the commercialism, although I didn’t go so far as to line up at Wal-Mart Thanksgiving night.

I’ve been having fun celebrating this holiday that is not Christmas. I bought my husband some things that he’s been wanting for a while, and I know Sage will be thrilled with his gifts. I feel joy when I find the perfect thing for my best friend. It’s true that the spirit of giving is often alive and present during this time of year.

I’m having a party, although I’m not calling it a Christmas party. It’s a girl’s crafting night. We’ll eat cookies (not necessarily Christmas ones) and have a good time while the tree sparkles in the background.

I’m not going to feel guilty about putting up a tree or buying a bunch of gifts, although my scale will indicate its displeasure at my holiday over-consumption of baked goods, I’m sure. What I’m trying to figure out, though, is exactly how to celebrate Christmas. Because I want to. And I don’t know how.

However that turns out to be, it will still incorporate joy.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10


Having Coffee With God

coffee with God

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. ~Jesus (Rev. 3:20)

I think of myself as a fairly hospitable person. If someone stops by, I will offer them coffee or a mug of hot chocolate and something to eat, if there’s anything on the stove. I’ll make sure they get one of the comfortable chairs and drop what I’m going to give them my undivided attention.

Tonight, I was asking myself why I do not do this for God. After all, I want His presence in my house, in my life.

All too often, though, I tend to treat him like the kind of friend one takes for granted. I’ll invite Him over but not really take time to talk to Him or give him the priority seating He deserves.

If I was God, I don’t know that I’d want to visit my house all that often. After all, who wants to go to someone’s house when they hardly ever take the time to pull up a seat and have a cup of coffee with you? It’s like I mainly ask God over when I need my house cleaned.

Of course, God is often willing to help clean the house, as really close friends are apt to do. But even the closest of friends won’t look forward to stopping by if all you have is a mess and you won’t take the time to hang out.

I have to say that God is unimaginably better than even the best of friends, so this analogy may not hold up. Still, I think that I should offer God more hospitality than I offer my friends, don’t you think?

This post was inspired by this sermon by Walter Beuttler.


The Unlovely Man

homeless manhomeless man
Today, my friend Gen and I went to the mall. I didn’t really feel like going, but I had to return some curtains that didn’t match up, and luckily Gen was game for meeting me there, which took the boredom out of the errand.

We walked around for a bit, and I noticed a man. He was a skinny black man wearing worn and grimy clothes who looked markedly out of place. We walked up to a sandwich place to buy some water and he approached us. Actually, I think it was me he approached. I am marked that way.

“Good afternoon,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty hungry, and I’m wondering if you might be able to spare a couple of dollars so I can buy myself something to eat.”

Mentally, I rolled my eyes. Like most people, I’ve heard this line before.

I caught myself feeling ugly inside and asked the Holy Spirit to put me in check. I said, “No, I don’t have any cash. But I’d be happy to buy you a sandwich.”

The man looked taken aback. But then, with a gleam in his eye, he said, “What kind of sandwich? Do they have hamburgers? Frito pie?” By this time, he was pretty much giving his order to the girl behind the counter — for the second time during the past couple of hours, as it turned out.

I bought him a bottle of water, too, but he refused it. Before the food was even ready, he was telling his story of hunger to some other folks who had walked into his snare.

I felt like walking right up to him and confronting him, saying, “I just bought you something to eat. Quit telling these people lies to feed your addiction.”

I didn’t, though. Quickly, my irritation turned to sadness. This man, whose clothes weighed heavy with the weight of many demons, reminded me of my older son.

The story about this son is long and sad, and maybe I’ll tell it at some point. But not now.

So here was this man who reminded me of my son, and he was dirty, he was begging, he was lying, he was quite unlovely.

I think we tend to want to make poverty romantic. To be the savior to the unwashed. It doesn’t work that way, though. People are often impoverished because of addictions, unwise choices and burdensome relationships. A person may want freedom from worrying about how to pay the electric bill, but may not want to make the changes necessary to make that happen. Change is hard for all of us, and some folks just aren’t up to it. As Gen’s husband said the other night when we were talking about a similar situation, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

But we can love. How we can love without being taken advantage of currently eludes me. I am asking God to show me how.

Photo credit: Confetti


Jesus and The Little Red Hen

little red hen
A couple of days ago, I had a dream that brought to mind the story of The Little Red Hen.

Here’s the story. The Little Red Hen finds a wheat seed and sees that by planting it, she can have bread. She asks for help from her neighbors, the lazy and disinterested pig, cat and rat. This is fruitless, and she ends up planting the seed, harvesting the wheat, grinding the flour and baking the bread herself.

Say you encounter Jesus and begin planting seeds. You’ll soon find that not very many people are interested in planting seeds or doing anything else to to get the life, the bread, that Jesus offers.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who are just fine with going to church on Sunday and asking for prayer. There is not anything inherently wrong with this. But when a person lives their life la, la, la all the time without seeking the Lord, and wants their problems “fixed” by a prayer on Sunday, they are being lazy.

Jesus gives us His bread by grace. However, my experiences indicate that the bread is much more filling when we are respectful to its maker. When we seek to help him in the kitchen, so to speak.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his thought-provoking book The Cost of Discipleship, calls this sort of thing “cheap grace.”

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

To enjoy the bread that God has set before us, I believe we need to fully participate in bringing the Kingdom of God to our world. Here are a few examples:

    We can ask God to heal us from our sickness and then proceed to sit at home and focus on our problem while waiting for God to deliver us. Or…we can sing praises to God for everything wonderful in our life and do something to show the love of Christ to someone else who is suffering.

    We can ask God for help paying our bills, or we can focus on being God’s hands and feet for those who have less than us.

    We can beg God to take us out of our circumstances, or we can repent to God for the choices we made that led to those circumstances.

My experience has been that God really moves when we focus on His kingdom more than ourselves. When we participate in the baking of the bread, then we will likely reap the most benefit from eating it.