I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

I have never re-blogged another person’s words, but Dannah Gresh’s words need to be shared.

God bless you, Dannah, and all other women who boldly stand on keeping their mind on things that are: true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

I Have It … All?

Ever find yourself in a space in time when nothing seems to be going wrong and your life is just perfect? Hair looks good … clothes fit great … car’s just right. Everything you do is as you always hoped it would be and you can’t think of one change to make, right?

No? Well me neither … or have I?

When I see or hear of celebrities shopping the boutiques of Rodeo Drive in Hollywood, it seems natural for society to think of them as the “Perfect, Beautiful People”. They appear to have all the lovely things a person could want. They have money; possessions, perfect bodies, and are loved and adored by many. It seems dreamy to think of a life like that. Watch television or read the magazine articles reported on them, and this life is promoted as the brass ring we all need to reach for. Total perfection; hard work rewarded by the trinkets and baubles offered by society.

Then I look at my life.

When I walk down any street where I live I am rarely noticed by those around me. I wear fashion that does not set me apart. At any time you can find someone driving a newer car than mine, wearing nicer clothes or jewelry, or living in a bigger or nicer house than I live in. And trust me, “perfect body” is not the first thought that comes to the person who first meets me.

Far from the perfect life … or is it?

Webster’s Dictionary defines perfection as freedom from fault or defect. Hmmm, that’s a pretty awesome picture.

It’s true that I don’t need security guards for protection because of all my money or fine possessions. And it’s also true that I have never had a celebrity news team show up at my door to do a story on my life.

I have made some pretty bad mistakes in my life … in fact, some very similar to the mistakes reportedly made by Hollywood’s beautiful celebrities. But my saving grace was that I chose … saving grace. I assure you that if I could have fixed it all by myself, I wouldn’t have needed God’s grace. But that was just not possible. And as soon as I realized my limitations, I also realized that there was another who was Limitless. With the peace I gained from letting go of the illusion of control over the broken areas in my life, I learned that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I may not be loved and adorned by the millions of people around me, but I am loved by the ones that count.

And that is total perfection.

I think I’ll pass on the trinkets and baubles for now … I’ll save mine for later.

Uncle! (for now)

I need to be honest with you … I’ve been working on a subject for this blog for a couple of weeks, but the topic refuses to cooperate. This is how it’s gone over and over: I think the ideas are coming together just right. I’m feelin’ the flow … feelin’ the love …

then WHAM! Everything just stops.

I regroup, step back and take a breath. I let it sit for a few hours and return to the computer, hoping that a fresh perspective will offer a better view of what I just wrote.

But I get nothin’.

I talk with my husband and my friends, hoping that something in our conversation will align all the stars in what I’m keystroking. I see a glimmer of an idea; maybe THIS will be the glue that pulls it all together. I start writing again … again, feeling the flow, love, yada-yada …

Then WHAM again. Nothin’. I feel like I’m Charlie Brown and Lucy is holding my football with the promise, “Really, Charlie Brown, I won’t pull the ball out from under you THIS time …”

I have 50,000 words sitting on my bookshelf, that looked good in my mind. After writes and re-writes, I’ve decided to leave it there. It’s not mish-mash per se, but it isn’t what was living in my brain, either.

So, to all of those half-written blog posts that are out there in eternal draft format and to all those unpublished manuscript chapters sitting in Staples boxes not getting published … I scream Uncle! (for now)

I cannot force creativity; I can only accept its leading. I cannot pull insightful phrases out of the air when I all I want to do is giggle at the range of colors I see in the font palate.

I enjoy reading. I enjoy writing. I enjoy reading what I write. But if it isn’t flowing, stressing over it will not make it come any faster. I need to give myself permission to step back, re-charge my batteries, and allow the process to take me over again.

I have no doubt that God’s blessed me with experiences to share with others. It isn’t that I’m all that special, but my Lord in Heaven certainly is. But God even told Elijah in 1 Kings 17 to beat-feet it from where he was, hide east of the Jordan, and allow the ravens to feed him for a season.

I’m excited about the prospect of writing again soon, but I’m more excited about doing it in the timely manner that God has set for me. When I am in obedience with my time, I don’t experience whams … and I’m ready to experience a non-wham existence for a while.

Please know this is not good-bye . I’ll still be out here … maybe as much as I ever was. But I need to make sure my motives are pure. Thanks for your support … and prayers if you’re so inclined.

(BTW) I am open to revisiting the subject matter that’s stymied me of late … but I’ll need to check my motives first.

I Did Not Blink

Converting my closets recently from Winter to Summer clothes, I came across some summertime pajamas I purchased last Spring. They weren’t flashy, but the sweet kind of PJ’s you buy with comfort in mind. Pretty, yet functional. Finding them brought a smile to my face.

They were a pair of PJ’s I bought for my hospital stay when I had brain surgery, April 2011.

I can hardly believe it’s been a year since that incredible Friday evening when everything around me took on a new life of its own. If you care to reflect back, visit an earlier post.

This past year has been filled with wonderful gifts and blessings. I don’t know if I would have recognized them as such if it had not been for that fateful night in April. For example, I’ve always known that I have an awesome husband. But Lew was there for me in ways that I could not have anticipated … it had to be experienced. He was tested right along with me, and I will forever be grateful to him and his dedication to me and our marriage. My children really stepped up to the plate of responsibility and attentiveness. There’s nothing as wonderful as seeing your grown children react as the loving and caring people you always knew they’d turn into being. And I can’t forget my friends. I received so many cards, calls, and e-mails of best wishes and support. I just recently re-read all my notes and once again felt the surge of love from all my well-wishers.

It’s been said that beliefs and sponges are alike in that they need to be squeezed to see what they hold inside. Truly my beliefs were squeezed—or challenged—last Spring. I had to evaluate if what I believed would be enough to carry me through to whatever happened during the surgery as well as beyond. I had to look dead-on into the eyes of my mortality … I needed to see if I felt the need to turn away from what I saw or if I would be the first to blink.

No blinking for me!

I won’t say that it’s been easy, because this past year has brought challenges. Even after physical, speech, and occupational therapy, I have needed to find a new normal that works for me. I will probably always have some weakness and loss of dexterity in my right side. Running up or down stairs is just a memory now. The area on my head where my hair was shaved has filled in a bit and there aren’t as many renegade wisps as there were only a few months ago.

But I clearly know what I have gained. I can tell you—without a doubt in my mind—that I know Who holds my tomorrows. I can also tell you that I have peace knowing that the Creator of the Universe also planned the existence of Robin Gilbert Luftig. After I was created I truly believe that he stood back, looked at his creation, and smiled.

He watches my back just as he watches my tomorrows.

Life is sweet, don’t think it isn’t. There may be trials in your world today, but they are temporary. Time—along with trials—will pass. Don’t waste time fretting about what could have been. We should always hook our wagons to the “what-is”, remembering who it is that’s holding all of our tomorrows; because honestly … it isn’t us.

“… in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NIV

Seasons in Life

Bonnie was a girlfriend from days long gone by (not her real name). Bonnie and I were incredibly close; our lives were so in sync. We were pregnant the same times, liked the same herb teas, and even went back to college as non-traditional students during the same season in our lives. We were connected at the hip. I would have a thought and she would express it. It was a wonderful friendship; closer than family.

Unfortunately, Bonnie and I also dealt with similar compulsions in our lives at the same time. I filed for divorce to start a new life. I soon began steeping in my dysfunction, not realizing the harm I was causing myself. And as a good (and compulsive) friend, Bonnie came right along. It didn’t take long for her to follow the path I had blazed and she, too, filed for divorce.

Again, she and I were inseparable. We even scheduled our children’s visitation evenings on the same nights so we could go out and enjoy ourselves; really paint the town red. Life was our oyster and there was no limit to what was before us. We were two attractive young women looking for attention and enjoying all that we received.

But, as scripture warns, we enjoyed the “pleasures of sin for a season”.  Slowly our lives began to fall apart. Bonnie and I began spending time with people we never should have met, doing things we never should have done … going to places we never should have visited … leading us to make choices—different choices—we never should have made. In the middle of the wallowing in muck and mire that was due to these choices, Bonnie and I severed our friendship. We remained civil with each other, but too many secrets were shared between us. Secrets that once bonded our lives were now feared as potential weapons that could do great harm to the other if shared indiscriminately.

I moved from that area where Bonnie and I lived and as it always does, life moved on. Years later I found myself on my knees, asking God to take over my mismanaged life, and was thrilled that his grace was waiting for me. My walk with Christ daily fills me with wonder and awe of how he could love completely … watch me walk away … then forgive completely when I changed my course in life and wanted back under his protecting wing.

A few years ago had the opportunity to re-connect with some friends and family back home. I walked into a fast-food restaurant while visiting and saw a young man who I knew immediately had to be Bonnie’s son; his features reflected his mother’s so strikingly that I had to ask if Bonnie was his mother. Yes, he said, shyly … how did I know her?

I vaguely shared how she and I had spent some time together years ago. I gave him my cell phone number and asked him to have his mom call me. I was so excited about having the opportunity to chat with Bonnie. I had been spending lots of healing time in scripture and working The Steps. The thought of offering an amend to my friend thrilled my heart. I wanted so desperately to share my new life with her. We had always been like two peas from the same pod and I knew she would get it, too.

But her return call never came.

I thought that maybe Bonnie’s son misplaced my note, so I called her number … the same phone number from all those years earlier. I left a message—clearly the voice I recognized was Bonnie’s—asking her to give me a call because I had lots to share with her. But nothing. It then hit me …. she just wasn’t going to be returning my calls.

Those secrets from years ago … could they still be controlling her? Just because I found peace in truth didn’t necessarily mean that she found it, too. I had faced demons and shared all my ugly past with the people who mattered—my new husband as well as trusted friends—and experienced a peace that can only come from trusting a God bigger than me. I needed to realize that Bonnie had the right to not want to hear my amend; that she had the right not to accept the new and improved me. If she wanted to hang onto her memories of me … that was her right.

I am sad to think that a great friendship was destroyed by sin so many years ago, but it was. Was it my sin, her sin, our sin … who can say?

I have few regrets in my life. I have offered everything to God and it has been important that every part of my life be directed to glorify him. But if I had the chance to take anything back … if I could have a do-over … I would fix my relationship with Bonnie. I miss her and I can only hope that she has found peace in her own life as I have found in mine.

Seasons … they come and they go. I was reminded this morning that as one season closes another season begins. Driving to work today I needed to wear sun glasses for the first time in months, reminding me that the days are beginning to get longer.  Another Winter season is coming to an end and a fresh Spring season is getting ready to begin.

Just as it should be.

Like looking in a mirror …

… Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” John 4:28-29 NIV

I’ve recently been spending time in the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. This passage is filled with lesson after lesson, and each time I read it I find something new. This time when I read the story, however, I didn’t stop at verse 26 when Jesus told her that he was the promised Messiah. I decided to keep going … wanting to go beyond Jesus’ declaration. I wanted to study her reaction.

Scripture tells us she left her water jar and returned to the town. I think this is one of those times where scripture is so understated. Think of it … she just met a man who crossed a cultural barrier by talking with her and then <gasp!>, asked for a drink of water from her. He told her that knew her history as well as her present, yet didn’t judge her. Instead, he offered her life everlasting and, along with that, peace. If that wasn’t enough, he then chose to reveal to this broken woman … the first person who ever heard these words from his lips … that he was the promised Messiah.

Incredible! 

I was just like that Samaritan woman. I kept to myself, not giving others the opportunity to know me; afraid of their judgment. I already knew the condition of my life. I didn’t want to hear the disgust in their voices, too. I knew all the terrible decisions I had made; I thought if they knew the state of my life they would recoil from me from revulsion. Furthermore, I judged myself even more harshly than others ever could. It only made sense to me to hide my sins and not talk about them; just as the Samaritan woman tried to hide from others.

I believe that when Jesus asked her about her life and she answered him honestly, she gave him the opportunity that he had been waiting for. She shared a glimpse of her brokenness and he, in turn, offered her salvation and peace.

I believe it’s the same for you and me.

Just as this woman’s life (I believe) was changed forever, so was mine. I have never tired of sharing what Christ’s love, grace and mercy has done for this poor Samaritan-like woman.

We can be so broken inside that hiding past failures and pain seems like the only safe option. But that is farthest from the truth. Sharing past hurts and sins with Christ as well as caring and safe people can be as healing to the spirit as removing a splinter from an infected and festering wound. It’s risky … and possibly painful … but it pays off in the long run.

Consider sharing some unknown hurts with Christ as well as a safe, respected friend. You may be surprised as to what it brings to you.

I Am Second: A Review

A single nondescript white chair graces the cover of I am Second by Dave Sterrett and Doug Bender. Within the pages of this book, a variety of people will sit in that chair as they take their turn telling their story of how they strived to put themselves first, only to discover that that position already belonged to someone else. You will find no fluff, no justification, and no excuse when each presenter shares their journey of discovery.  What you will find, however, are stories from broken people—young and old, men and women, conservative and outspoken—who realized that all their efforts to control life around them were to no avail, but that God was waiting for them. They discovered that he loved them in their state of brokenness and had a specific purpose for each of them.

I Am Second offers example after example as to who God loves and how he wants to restore his relationship with them. Simply put, there isn’t anyone outside the reach of God’s mercy and grace. Different life stories illustrate this point; a rocker who promoted the abuse of sex and drugs, a young man who was controlled by anger, and a woman who turned to the street to survive all describe how life became sweeter when God became their focal point.

I Am Second reminds us that God doesn’t love us because we’ve become good enough to be loved. He loves us … because he always has. I highly recommend this book for its potential to change lives and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I Am Second has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through Booksneeze.com, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Early Conversations

Corcovado jesus

Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Chorus, Jesus Paid It All, Elvina M. Hall, 1865 

I love it when it all comes together …

When I woke up this morning, the chorus of Jesus Paid It All was ringing in my ears. I must admit my first thought was, Huh? But okay, I’ve learned that when God starts being all chatty so early in the morning, he has lots to say and wants my attention immediately. So I went with it.

Standing in the shower I start singing the words. Okay, I thought, that’s powerful. But I’m still waking up here, Father. I get it, I get it.

I move onto devotions. Surely, I’ll get into some deep meaning in scripture. My reading is Romans 5:8 … “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I realized then that I didn’t get it at all. I wasn’t comprehending the significance of my morning. I needed to ponder, really reach into what I was hearing.

Then it hit me. I can do all I want that’s good … I can talk the Christian talk … I can act like I know what Life’s all about. But bottom line, if it wasn’t for Jesus’ willingness to take what I deserve and offer me grace instead of judgment, it’d all be for nothing. Nada. Zero. I know that it isn’t cool to talk about messy things like “blood” and “judgment”, but that is the bottom line. I owe all my peace, sleep-filled nights, and tender heart to my Savior. Without his willingness to give himself as he did, I’d still be the pathetic wacko I started out as so many years earlier.  But now I have another option; Grace.

My day’s been filled with whistling a catchy tune today. Yes, Jesus DID pay it all. And I will forever be grateful. I’m so glad he woke me up the way he did.

Real Goals or Goals for Show

What a wonderful experience I’ve had since I’ve started following Girlfriends in God, an on-line daily devotional sponsored by Crosswalk.com (http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/girlfriends/).

I know that whenever I read something and it sticks with me for a couple of days, it’s more than just a passing thought—these words are meant for my soul. That’s what happened when I read the January 5th’s devotion, Go for the Gold Part 2, by Mary Southerland. Her words of wisdom as well as challenges from scripture noted in her devotional burrowed deep into my heart regarding setting, maintaining, and understanding goals.

“A goal should not be set to authenticate what you have already been doing or want to do. God created us to mature, to grow and change, not to stand on the sidelines of life. God wants us in the game and on the field of life. Godly goals will push us beyond where we are and what we are capable of. If no effort is required to reach the desired outcome, then it really isn’t a goal.”

Have I been standing on the sidelines when God has had a specific plan for my life? At first I said, “Nawh, that’s not me … I’ve had a full year last year.” But I’ve learned long ago that first responses to questions may not always be the most accurate. So I sat back and took stock of the past year. Did I work on a goal that stretched me spiritually? What did I have planned for this year?

Then I got sight of the second question.

“Are the goals we are setting from God or from our own selfish desires? Do I want my relationship with God to grow or do I want others to think I am Godly?”

Again, I didn’t just read the words of the devotional so I could put a “done” check  on my mental list of things I needed to do. I gave these questions serious consideration.

I love difficult questions like these; I appreciate the challenge. I don’t want to spend my few years here on earth making nice-nice with my beliefs only to one day stand before my Lord and have HIM ask me these same questions. I would much rather ask them of myself so I can answer God as clearly as I can. If I am not mindful of my motives, I can very easily fall into the “I want others to think I am Godly” category. Who would NOT want others to think the best of them, right? But the problem comes when that is our core motivation.

These are some thoughts to ponder and pray on for guidance. This is the time of year for reflection and re-evaluation. No one knows exactly how long we have on this side of Glory to do such pondering. Let’s make the most of the time we have and ask … then truthfully answer … the hard questions about our goals and motivation.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)

When Did It All Go South?

Hustling … bustling … doesn’t feel Christ-like to me.

Before you paint me as being judgmental, please know I catch myself falling into the traps of the Christmas holiday season, too. But what’s the deal? I understand God’s greatest gift was put into motion when Jesus was born; the gift of the possibility of eternal presence with The Father. I understand that when Jesus was a small child three wise men brought him gifts fit for a king; Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

So how did we reduce all this symbolism to re-gifting last year’s fruitcake?

Take a moment out of your day. Do some deep-cleansing breathing and reflect. Reflect on what has already been given to you. Think on what you already possess that reflects on eternity. And ponder about what has been given to you that royalty also has: children (if you’re a parent), your health (it is a gift that you could lose at any moment), and the ability to forgive and ask for forgiveness.

It’s still a wonderful time of year if we take a moment and think about its true meaning.

Merry Christmas!