Shaken

“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”
(Acts 16:26 NIV)

Bookended by heart wrenching worship in the midst of darkness and the sweet revelation of salvation available to all, this moment grabs me.

It is the purpose, the prayer, the hope, the reason, the why.

That through it all, whatever it is-whatever it ends up to be, that this happens in the lives of those who feel forgotten in the dank prisons of enemies lies, the grimy chains of webbed fear.

That the foundations of prisons be shaken by the power of God,
the chains broken by truth,
the doors flung wide open by amazing grace.

To walk free.
To live fearless.
To love again and again and again.

To be released from perfectionism.
To walk away from fear driven manipulation.
To embrace grace and live loved.

To overflowing joy.
To leap in anticipation.
To take a deep breath of satisfaction.

In my life.
In yours.
In whosoever believes and receives.
In the powerful sweet beloved name of Jesus Christ.

Shaken foundations.
Chains loosed.
Prisoners set free.

Amen. So be it. Amen.

Morning Ramble

Good morning, my friend.

A good morning it is. I slept all night (I woke up but went back to sleep- victory!). I am not really a morning person or consider myself to be one of “those” people.

Those” people wake up bright and early, launch out of bed and begin their day with energy and optimism. They move confidently with an attitude of gratitude that rockets them through their perfectly ordered and productive lives.

I wake up dull and early, crawl out of bed slowly and begin my day by feeding the cat to shut her up. Then I groggily stumble around the kitchen trying to be quiet as a I make my morning cup of coffee. It isn’t that hard now, we have a Keurig. Then my fuzzy mind begins to clear as I sit and sip and stare at the wall. I quietly drink my coffee until my mind begins to form understandable thoughts to direct purposefully toward gratitude as they naturally tend to slip toward grumpy.

Other people would say that I am quiet in the morning. I would say that I am merciful and saving them from the mindless grump that attempts to emerge.

The boys begin school next week and I will have to either get up earlier or forgo the staring at the wall whilst sipping the morning brew. Instead, I will be trying to move them through the morning routine with the hope that they themselves will emerge from it fed, clean and ready to be successful students. This is when I really wish I was one of “those” people. Oh well. I will just have to do my best- good thing I believe God answers prayer.

If you are one of “those” people, please don’t take offense. I am actually jealous of you and really believed that I would grow up to be you. If your morning personality falls on my side of the bed, welcome- I so get you. My advice? I have none. I am not done staring at the wall.

Out of curiosity- who are you when you emerge from the long (or short) sleep of night?

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Birth Day

Today is my birthday. 41 years ago in a the city of Los Angeles, only a few miles from the beach, a hop, skip and a jump from the walk of fame and into the loving arms of Donald and Mary Hanson, I was born.

I am the oldest child, the first born. I basked in the sole attention of my parents for three long years (that I have no recollection of) before I was promoted to the role of older sister by my brother, Marc, whom I tortured mercilessly. I made him play dolls, dress up and generally bossed him around until I reached the non tender preteen years. Then I promptly decided that I didn’t want anything to do with him. My sincerest apologies to my brother, Marc. Please forgive me for all former eye rolls, slights, sarcastic remarks and hen pecking that you suffered at my hand. I was a horrid older sibling and am doing penance for the prejudice I harbored (that girls ruled and boys drooled) as I am currently surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of preteen boys 24/7.

I flew out of the home nest when I was a young 18 years old and married the love of my life when I was an ancient 23 year old. I was made a mother twice, first when I was 28 years and then again 2 months shy of being 30 years old. It is still too soon to offer apologies to my husband and children. It will take a few more years to clearly see all the ways I have fallen short and you are just going to have to wait.

Today, I am celebrating more than my birthday- I am celebrating all the things that have been born since that day. The love, the dreams, the friendships, the adventures, the heartaches, the children, the sorrow, the growing, the doing, the being.

And

Something new is being born in me today. I am filled with a giddy excitement of what is to come. There is a feeling of a release and energizing momentum gathering beneath the surface. Being the contemplative creature I am, I am watching it with eyes of delight and wonder.

Yes, today is a birth day… In more ways than one.
What a happy day indeed.

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Walk

Walking is essentially forward motion. Not staying in the same place. Going somewhere. We are all walking on a unique life path. We might have a hope, an idea, and a vision of what the future may hold but the truth is, we don’t know how it will play out. Life brings us joys and sorrows, struggles and triumphs, great opportunities and closed doors.

But I don’t walk alone.

I don’t simply react to what happens to me. I step out in faith. Take a risk. Make the move. Walk forward, not exactly knowing where the journey will take me but confident in the One who leads me.

So far, my journey has looked vastly different to that which I imagined.

I am not disappointed.

As I step out in new endeavors, pursuing my call and purpose, growing in faith and experience, I do so,not with a certain destination in mind but with a certain relationship in hand. Wherever this great adventure leads, I grasp the Hand of Faith and walk into it.

How freeing it is to let the expectation of destination go and grasp the thrill of the unknown adventure with a known God.

I know and love Him.
I am known and am loved by Him.
And so I walk.

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A Quiet Moment

It is eerily quiet in the Fireworks Booth. Our friends have packed up and left, the boys are clustered around the table in the trailer and Bobby is making T- Shirts on the other end of the parking lot. I am “manning the booth” and not one soul has stopped to buy the exploding wares I sell. The days go like this: a mad rush of customers, crowds of friends and family visiting, kids riding bikes and playing cops and robbers, students holding signs by the street- then then all leave and quiet… quiet…quiet.

I am not going to lie to you (what would be the point in that?) – I am enjoying the reprieve. I am a creature that thrives in the quiet and relishes the cool whispering breeze wafting through the empty booth. The only noise about is the the constant rush of traffic, the chirp of the summer birds and the occasional bark of my dog who is happily enclosed in his nearby kennel.

Of course the paradox of this moment is that I wouldn’t appreciate it so much if I didn’t also have the mad rushes, the visits, the kids, students, the noise and hubbub of it all. I need both. God created each one of us with unique temperaments, personalities and gifts but He made all of us with the need to connect with Him and others. We are made to be interdependent on each other and to flourish in our uniqueness. The challenge is to thrive in both.

For the moment, I will flourish in this quiet moment and be utterly thankful for the bustling ones. What kinds of moments do you flourish in? What moments are you utterly thankful for today?

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Sudden Loss

There are days when your own strength is gone. It has been used and spent, poured out and not refreshed. You are empty and numb. The weight of life, circumstances that you can not control nor put off bear down and become the crossroads you don’t want to approach but do not require permission to appear.

My friend’s dad died unexpectedly yesterday. They were out fulfilling their Fathers Day plans together and fishing in the Bay for salmon when his dad slipped and fell. Within moments it was clear that he was having a hard time breathing and his son started CPR. He continued until the Coast Guard got there and they took over. They were unable to revive him and he slipped into eternity.

Today is one of those days for my friend and his family. Human strength strains under the weight of sudden life changing loss. We can’t understand or comprehend it but there is comfort in knowing that we have an everlasting God who can and does. When we have no strength left, we can lean on a Creator who gives His own strength freely. When we are weary, we can rest because God neither faints nor tires. Why is this comforting? Because we need to know that the world will not completely fall apart when we do. We need to know that there is One whose understanding reaches so wide and is so deep that we could swim in it for a lifetime and not find it’s end.

It is for days like this when a familiar verse becomes like a warm blanket to wrap around and comfort those we love:

“The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. (Isaiah 40:28-29 NKJV)

And includes a promise for the future:

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30, 31 NKJV)

Dear friends, for the crossroads that have been placed before you or journey of grief that life has laid upon your doorstep, I pray that you will lean on God’s strength and rest in His power. I pray that you will find comfort in His everlasting love and inexhaustible understanding. And hope for the future… You will rise up as on eagles wings and soar!

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Shoofly Pie

I was warned by my friend to leave my healthy eating in California and be ready to experience Pennsylvania Dutch deliciousness. I arrived late on Tuesday night and drove through Philly to the burrow of Silverdale where every home looks like a doll house and vast lush green yards surround each one. I woke up late Wednesday morning in my friends homeIt is (a 100 year old farmhouse). I made my way down to the charming country kitchen. I was drawn to the window over the sink that looks out to the red barn garage in the back and small cemetery behind the church next door. I turned around to the kitchen table and was introduced to my breakfast choices: Shoofly Pie, Hard Take Coffee Cake and Funny Cake (with coffee, of course). Which one to choose?

With the echoes of healthy eating ringing in my ears, I choose the most “breakfasty” one- the coffee cake. Pie for breakfast? Long ago, in my teenage years, I must confess that cold apple pie was a favorite breakfast treat (with ice cold milk of course) but now as a full flegded adult the closest thing I get to pie for breakfast is doctoring up steel cut oatmeal with cinnamon apples. Anyway, Angela told me that the hardtack coffee cake was best dipped in coffee and who was I to argue? It was like a soft biscotti and yummy. I can’t remember if I tried the Shoofly Pie that morning or not, but it actually became my favorite of the three.

Shoofly pie is made from flour, butter, molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon,and salt, and sometimes nutmeg. Traditional shoofly pies are made with either a “wet bottom” (soft filling and crumb topping) or “dry bottom” (crumb topping mixed into the filling). Most of the ingredients will keep in the larder for the winter, even without today’s conveniences. Perhaps that’s why its history is such a long and fascinating one, and why folks who abstain from modern conveniences such as electricity – the Amish, for example – still make the pie. Legend says that it was these ingredients that survived the trip from Germany (I read that the term “Dutch” is actually a misnomer, a corruption of the word Deutsch, which means German.) and their ingenuity caused it,s creation. Like the colonists already in America, these settlers ate pie at any time of day. According to food historian and cookbook author William Woys Weaver, shoofly pie is still served for breakfast among today’s Pennsylvania Dutch. It is a credit to the McMcheal kids that any of it was available the second morning. This is good stuff. Wildly unhealthy delicious scrumptious stuff. It is said that the molasses caused the flies to flock to it. Whatever the reason for the name, Shoofly Pie gives us a glimpse into history, a time when fruit and vegetables were not always available from the grocery store and bakers were forced to be creative with their stock. The order of the day was survival.

Survival is important. We wouldn’t be here if the first colonists didn’t survive. Survival gets us through the tough times, the shocking times, the times that change our lives whether we want them or not. Survival is necessary but it is not meant to be the only mode we live in. Sometimes I think we get stuck in survival mode. The funny thing about survival mode is that after the circumstance we need to survive is over, survival mode can become unhealthy one. The same things that caused us survive, don’t necessarily cause us to thrive. Take Shoofly Pie, for example: it was healthy for the colonists because it helped them stay alive during the long lean months. In our current world, Shoofly Pie (although decidedly delicious) does not a healthy breakfast make. Today, we have refrigerators and grocery stores. Today, we can do more than survive – we can choose to thrive.

It is time to thrive. We can choose to eat healthy (unless on vacation), choose a job we love or choose to love the job we have, have healthy relationships with others and certainly have a healthy relationship with ourselves.

You can do more than survive. There are more options than those you know (your past) and those that keep you going (your habits). You were made to thrive. There is more available to you than just surviving your situation. Change is possible. It isn’t easy, but it is possible.

” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
(Phil4:13 NIV)

It is time, my friend, to ask yourself if you need to change modes. To leave behind your “survival tactics” and learn a few new “thrive tactics” instead. It is time to look at what you have available to you and create something new. You have so much more than you realize.

We have the luxury of being healthy in our day and age in every area of our lives. You have a God who is willing and able to move you from one mode to another.

“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
(Jer. 29:11 NIV)

What mode are you in? What things need to change?

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