My “Greatest Story Ever Told”

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People often ask about my faith journey. It’s too long a story for a blog post but it all sums up in a paintbrush story.

By the time I was a junior in high school I was totally caught up in the seventies version of Drugs, Sex, and Rock-n-Roll. By the time I was a senior in high school I was totally disillusioned by the same. I began a spiritual search, which passed through the new age movement and landed with a group of Christians on my campus. I started attending their meetings because…well…that’s where the cute boys were. They played fun games, sang crazy songs, and included a ten-minute talk about Jesus, which I tuned out.

Then they invited me to camp for a week on Catalina Island, off the coast of Long Beach, California. It was amazing, but I couldn’t tune out that speaker. His name was Ken Overstreet and every time he spoke I felt like he was “reading my mail.” He answered all the questions that had been haunting me.

At the end of the week, he gave this analogy: “Someday, you’ll be standing in front of Jesus. He’ll be next to a huge canvas that is covered with a cloth. When he removes the cloth, you’ll see the most beautiful picture you’ve ever seen. It will be so beautiful it will make you cry. You’ll cry and cry and ask, ‘What is that a picture of?’”

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At this point in the story, Ken pulled a large paintbrush from behind him and held it up for us to see. Then he continued:

Jesus will answer, “That is a picture of what your life could look like if I held the paintbrush in my hand. Right now you hold the paintbrush in your hand, what does the painting of your life look like?”

Then Ken gave us 45 minutes to go off alone and contemplate our life’s picture and decide if we were willing to give our paintbrush to Jesus. I can tell you, for a 17-year-old, that was the longest 45 minutes of my life! I knew my picture as a mess. I was already tired of all the things I’d tried to fill that God-shaped hole, but would I have to give up my dreams, my hopes, my future? I mean…I had some dreams! I planned to go to Hollywood and be a movie star — and I knew I could do it too.

I finally decided it was worth it, and my prayer of faith was something like, “Even if never get to Hollywood, I want you to paint the rest of my life picture.”

That was 39 years ago and I have never regretted the journey I began that day. My life is richer, fuller and deeper than I could have imagined. I’ve traveled the world with the love of my life, had great kids and grandkids, and had the privilege of influencing generations of students. And now, I find myself at yet another crossroads.

I had a vision of my future. I was sure I would retire in a job I loved and I could picture it all. But once again I’ve been asked to hand over my paintbrush and trust the true artist with a picture I can’t even see. It’s hard to do. Thankfully I have 39 years of history with this particular artist and know that his work is better than mine. But, I admit it’s hard to trust that.

Have you ever handed your paintbrush over to a higher power? Is there a part of your life now that you need to entrust to God? I’m with you. Let’s do it together.

The Female Side of God, Please!

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In the front of my prayer journal (the one beginning June 2014), I wrote, “Something new is happening in my life…Spring”

Well, these last eight months haven’t felt like spring. They have felt like the longest, coldest, hardest winter ever. Losing my mom, losing the job I loved, and with it my InterVarsity family.

As I walked the labyrinth at Mercy Center last week, I reflected on Spring: re-birth and birth. When you’re in labor you have to go through “transition” before you give birth.  Transition is ugly. You turn mean. You say horrible things to people that love you. You swear.

I’m in transition. I’m mean. I hurt those I love. I swear. I’m in pain. I’m grieving.

Will I give birth in the spring?

I know I can’t rush the birthing process. No one hopes to give birth to a premie or a stillborn child. Growing new life takes time — patience. I’m not ready to give birth.

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I walk the soft curves of the labyrinth, turning toward and away from the womb. That’s what I need right now. Not a hard, masculine side of God with bared chest and bulging muscles. I need a soft female side of God, with large round breasts and fleshy arms to hold me tight and suckle me. A soft place to land. A warm place to hide. I’m tired of the tomb, I want the womb – like my childhood caregiver, Lillian, who swept me into her arms every day after school and held me close and safe to her fluffy goodness. My own mother was small-boned and wiry. She smelled of smoke and had a hard time holding still. Lillian was warm and soft and available.

Twice now, girls have come up to me on the playground when I’m on yard duty and asked for hugs. I love to wrap them in my arms for just a moment before they run off to play. For just a moment they feel safe. Because the world is a hard place. One of the girls has a chronically sick sister that makes her life unbearable, and the other is as smart as Einstein but has the social skills of Joaquin Phoenix and gets made fun of a lot. And I get to be a soft place for them to land.

I need a soft place to land. But just as the labyrinth pushes me out of the womb and back into the world, this birth will happen eventually.  What will it look like? Will it have ten fingers and toes, or be weak and sickly? Will it live? Am I ready?

Thankfully it’s still winter, at least in Reno, although California is showing signs of life. I have time to rest before moving forward. I will wait, quiet and nested in the womb of my God.

We are BUTT dust

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Okay, here’s my rant about politics and religion. I remember a day when people could agree to disagree without being mean spirited or villainizing each other. This has changed in recent years. In the past, I was proud to put a bumper sticker on my car during an election. During the last election, I was afraid to do so. I was afraid of having my tires slashed. Especially at church. Something shifted in our culture that has made us intolerant of each other. It’s like when politics or hot button religious issues come up, all Jesus said about loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek goes out the window.

I’ve decided the difference is that we have lost our sense of humor. We have lost our ability to laugh at ourselves. We take ourselves too seriously. We begin to think we are too important and that our opinions matter too much.

We need a global perspective. We need God’s perspective. We are a wisp of smoke, here today and gone tomorrow. We are fragile, fleeting creatures and need to treat each other with kindness. The verse from Psalms should put us in our place: For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. Ps. 103:14

I blew this one the other day. A friend of a friend posted a link to a blog I didn’t agree with and I said something mean. I hurt someone’s feelings because I disagreed with her. This is easy to do on-line because we don’t have to know that person. We don’t have to look in their eye, we can just anonymously jab the knife. I felt badly, immediately deleted my post, and apologized. Now we are Facebook friends!
But, who am I to treat a neighbor that way? If I’d been sitting down across from her I would have seen it in her eyes: here is a fragile soul, a wisp of smoke, a holy creation. Treat her with gentleness and respect. But I didn’t. I have broken the second greatest commandment.

I am Butt dust.

So, I’ve resolved to weather this election with humor — by laughing at myself. And with grace for those I disagree with and who disagree with me. It will be hard and I may have to grit my teeth and bite my tongue but I want to remember that I am butt dust.
Say it with me now, “We are BUTT dust!” There, don’t you feel better?

Photo Credit

On-line Dating for Seniors or Dating My Mother!

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Many of us in my generation are dealing with a lot of difficult issues concerning our aging parents. After my father’s death, my mom was desperately lonely. So when she came to live with us, I started dating her online. I found a free dating site, sat up a profile for her and monitored it so she could enjoy some male attention.
Here are some of the things I learned from dating my mother.
1. Make a day of the photo shoot. Mom and I had a great time picking lots of outfits for her to change into and taking shots all over the house in different poses. We even did some outside.

Mom and Carl                                                           And the Winner is…Carl!
2. Monitor who’s trying to contact your mother. I deleted all the thirty-year-old prisoners who “really liked older women” before she ever saw them.
3. Set up safe coffee dates for your mom. This got mom out of the house and socializing – but safely.
4. If someone seems iffy, drop in on a date. Mom felt one guy might be after her money. So, we set up a lunch date and my husband and I went along. When the guy saw us, his face fell. He knew he was busted and didn’t even offer to pay for lunch.
5. Sneak the age category up when Mom’s not looking. My mom was beautiful and young at heart and at 73, she didn’t want to date anyone over 75. So after a series of losers (like the guy who said he had a cabin and boat at the lake, and only had a shack and rowboat), I sneaked the age limit up to 80. That’s when we met Carl. He’s a retired engineer with a kind heart and a good pension. Mom, who’d never left the USA, has now traveled the world and spent the last eight years with the greatest gift our family has ever received.

So, I’d love to hear your online dating stories. Good or bad. They are fascinating! Also, how have you helped your older, or younger, friends deal with loneliness?