Friday, December 7, 2012

What Every Bully Wishes You Knew

         I recognize bullies. I “get” them; I feel the pain pulsing in their hearts and empathize with the desperation pumping through their veins. For that same poison has pulsed and pumped through my own bloodstream.

And although DNA may make one person more susceptible to becoming a bully than another, most bullies are not born, they’re created. They’re molded, sometimes instantly, and sometimes over many years, by hands of rejection, abandonment, abuse, and heartache – and these hands always craft into the dead center of every bully one thing: fear.

Fear is the master; the bully is but its slave. Anytime you see a prideful man, you see a man who is scared to death.

If we bullies were honest with you, we would tell you a few things.

We would tell you that the reason we make you feel so stupid, is because we’re terrified you may figure out how smart you truly are – and if that happens, you’d realize how dumb we truly are.

When we control you, it’s because we are fearful that too much freedom may allow you to see that you don’t really need us anymore.

When we hurt you and intimidate you, it is because we hope that by keeping your head down; you’ll never be able to look up – look up and see that we are actually the ones trembling.

When we make fun of your friends and your family, it’s because our hearts are wrenching with jealously for that kind of love.

When we nag, criticize, and point out your every weakness, it’s only because we’re petrified you’ll get a taste of your true goodness – and realize how much better you are than us.

We are paranoid because we know we deserve the worst, and we assume everyone else sees it too.

We don’t hate you; we hate how much we love you.

We hate how much we need you.

We hate how ugly we are, how weak we are, how broken we are, how lost and desperate we are.

We hate how scared we are.

So we spend our life in a state of constant self-defense.  

Until, if we’re lucky, we get to the point where we can’t defend anymore, and we give up – even if only long enough to murmur the plea, “Lord, help me.”

The only cure to the bully’s ill is love. Not just any love, certainly not human love, but only Perfect Love can cast out the fear that strangles and entangles the bully’s heart.

Love that never abandons, never fails, never lies, never takes advantage, never controls, never abuses, and never disappoints – but rather Love that comforts, heals, saves, forgives, and endures forever.

Day by day, grace by grace, and “Lord, help me” by “Lord, help me,” Jesus Christ is taking my fear and insecurity -- and turning this born-again bully into a person who is free to love without fear.

The only way to win the fight... is to quit fighting. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Success is Service


The word has haunted me much of my life. It has caused me to strive and agonize for years in an attempt to obtain it. I thought I needed it to prove my worth and make my family proud. 

Whether it was in the military, politics, law school, as a writer, or even just as a wife and mother, the desire to be SUCCESSFUL has often enslaved me. 

But, Christ set me free of that. 


I learned the true meaning of success. 

"Whoever wants to be great – must become a servant." Matthew 20:26

I feel more successful when I, with gratitude, scrub the toilets, wash the dishes, scratch my husband's back, or call up a lonely friend, than I ever had in all my former so-called accomplishments. 

Sure, service to Christ can take us places that the world would also consider successful. Christians may be called to serve as doctors, lawyers, or politicians -- and that is wonderful. But, God may call you, as He has me, to scrubbing your family's toilets -- and that is just as wonderful.  

As I raise my kids, I remind them every day that they are called to be successful. Not necessarily college grads, businessmen, or athletes....but successful, faithful servants, wherever that may lead them.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Messy Grace for a Messy Life

This pic is from last night at Secret Keeper Live Pajama Party! 
When she was only 5 years old, I meet this beautiful little blonde doing cartwheels at her brother’s little league football practice. Sure, she was adorable, but admittedly, I was more interested in her Dad, the coach! He was a recently divorced single Dad and I was a single Mom. We hit it off immediately. Our relationship was not “ideal.” After all, God never plans divorce. He never intends for m
arriages to fail. In fact, God hates divorce.

But....(and remember, with God there is always a ‘but’!) God will never waste a hurt in the lives of those who love Him. Despite our sin and mistakes, God has blessed us! He took our failures and made them examples of his amazing power and ability to restore a life! So, even though in a perfect world, I shouldn’t have ever met Kaylynne, and even though no one should ever have a step-parent, God can take ugly situations, and make them beautiful. It’s what He is best at.

As you probably know, me and that single Dad married -- and today, my step-daughter and I have a great relationship. I am beyond grateful that God has entrusted me with the care of her.

Last night, I was blessed with the opportunity to have the most important conversation with her that she will ever have. We talked for 45 minutes or more about Jesus. We talked about who He is, what He has done for us, and how we can respond to Him. She asked questions, I answered, and back and forth until she said, “I think this is something I should do.”

So, last night, on highway 64-E in Louisville, Kentucky at about 9:20PM, Kaylynne and I prayed together and she accepted Christ into her life as her Lord and Savior! Sure, she is only 10 years old, but I don’t take child confessions lightly. I was only 7 years old when I accepted Christ and, well, it stuck! :-)

After we prayed, I leaned over and put my arm around her – and suddenly a great weight hit me! It was the weight of responsibility. The reality that I am the chief female Christian influence in her life hit me...and I was scared.

“How am I ever going to live up, Lord? I’m such a mess!”

The Lord quickly replied, “...but my Grace is even messier, and I’ve got you covered in it.”  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Giving What They Don't Deserve

The other day, God prompted me to give my bracelet away to a child who complimented me on it. I didn't do it. I justified my decision by telling myself how spoiled that child is and how they probably have triple the amount of bracelets I have and how I just bought this bracelet and how it means more to me than it would to them because they have so many already.

Even as I justified my decision I could hear God telling me, "It has nothing to do with the other person, or what they deserve -- and you know it; it has everything to do with you being a slave to that bracelet."

Sometimes, probably most of the time, when God prompts us to give, it has nothing to do with the other person, (God will provide for that person with or without our giving) but it is an opportunity for us strengthen our spirit by denying our flesh. 

You see, I don't think God is necessarily "mad" at me for not giving away the bracelet. I am the one who missed out, not God. I missed an opportunity to be free; free from selfishness and greed. But I let it slip away -- and now the bracelet remains on my arm, serving more as a handcuff than a stylish accessory. 

I should have given that bracelet away the moment the child complimented me on it, regardless of how much the child "deserved" it, or how spoiled they are, or how many bracelets they already own. 

God doesn't give according to us according to what we deserve, and we shouldn't give that way either.

Is the Lord prompting *you* to give something away?

I will give this bracelet away the next chance I get, and in doing so, I will become a little more free. :-) Thank you, Lord, for another chance.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breathing the Name of God

I’m so prideful.

I’m so angry.

I’m so desperate.

I mock my husband.

I yell at my children.

I can’t even take five minutes out of my self-centered day to call my grandfather who lives alone – and lonely.

I spend my money unwisely and speak even less wisely.

Even as I write these words, I should be cleaning, or playing with my son. On the other hand, I probably should have written more lately, but I’ve been too lazy and managed my time too poorly to fit it in. 

But, I love the Lord. I love Him deeply, and sincerely, and totally.

I love Him, and I yearn for Him to be proud of me, but how---

How could He ever be?

I’m gross. I’m pathetic. I can’t even stand myself, so how could a most perfect and Holy God possibly stand even the mere sight of me?

I can’t fathom it.

It’s unfathomable.

I drop to my knees.

“Tell me who I am to you, Lord. Tell me…again.”

I know all the right words, the scriptures, and the songs, but what do I know of Holy?

“That’s just it, Morgan. You don’t comprehend Holy. You think you are making me big and you small by belittling yourself, but you are doing the exact opposite. You are underestimating ME, you are calling ME a liar, and you believe that your weaknesses are more than I can overcome." the Lord speaks to my spirit, "And, you know, it really is true, my grace is enough. More than enough.”

This revelation only makes me feel worse. Apparently, I can’t even demean myself properly –geez. My own thoughts irritate and embarrass me, and the thought that my thoughts embarrass me, embarrasses me even more. It’s maddening. 

All the while, Satan loves this; I’m sure of it.

I wish I could just shut up. I just need to try harder. I…I…I…

Ugh, that word! That letter!


I hate it. I’m sick of it.

I don’t remember who said this to me, but when I was maybe five-years-old, someone told me that Satan was thrown out of heaven for saying the word, “I” too much. For years, as a little kid, I tried to avoid speaking the word whenever possible because I literally thought we weren’t supposed to say the word, “I.” Ha!

Of course, I understand now that this isn’t literally the case, but is there something to it? When we look to ourselves, to I, our world becomes so small, and thus, our shortcomings appear larger, more daunting, more hopeless.

I inhale as the weight of guilt pushes down on my chest; I exhale as my burdens press all the air back out. 

As I struggle to breathe beneath the heaviness, I’m reminded of something I recently heard singer Jason Gray say in an interview. He explained that the letters YHWH, which is usually written in English as Yahweh, sound just like breathing when properly pronounced in the original Hebrew. 

Yah (inhale) Weh (exhale). Remarkable thought, huh?

Especially given that for centuries people believed that God’s name dare not be spoken allowed because it is so Holy and we are so unworthy. Yet, all along, every human, with every breath ever taken, was speaking the name of God – over and over and over. God, in his mightiness, made our every breath dependent on His name; yet, at the same time, lowered himself to such intimacy with us, as to place His name in our every breath. Wow.

Tears fall from my eyes, making me breathe harder, faster, and deeper.

Yah-weh, yah-weh, yah-weh. Inhale-Exhale. Inhale-Exhale.

Even in my crying, I can’t help but breathe the name of God. In fact, I only live by saying the name of God, over and over and over. The second I stop breathing, I die. The second His name leaves our lips, we die.

Even the atheist is living breath to breath; Yahweh to Yahweh.

I feel like the rug was just pulled out from underneath me, but this time I don’t try to catch myself from falling. I free-fall into grace. What choice do I have? What choice do any of us have?

From a baby’s first cry to an old man’s last breathe we are living Yahweh to Yahweh, grace to grace, mercy to mercy.

David Crowder Band puts my current feelings so beautifully into song when they sing these lyrics:

“He is jealous for me. Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of the sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections are for me.”

What a beautiful lyric. Our afflictions are eclipsed by glory.

Once again, worship becomes the salve for my wounds. The song goes on to say, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way He loves me.” How true.

He loved us so much that he even does our praying for us. 


Every breathe, whether intentional or not, we call out His name and He is intercessing on our behalf.

In The Message, Romans 8:28 is translated like this, “He is praying in us and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs.”

As I set my mind on Him, and I breathe his name in and out, my shortcomings and failures that, merely an hour ago, appeared so vast and so representative of who I really am, have now faded away -- eclipsed by His glory.

And for this moment, I know who I am, and it is not anything I said in the first nine sentences of this article. Rather, I am His beloved -- and it’s all grace.

Inhale, exhale, Yahweh, Yahweh…

Jason Gray wrote a short song about how we breathe the name of God and I think it is just incredible. You can listen to it here: 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Home-school Mother Beatitudes

Blessed are you when you're at the end of your rope and don't think you can do this one moment longer. Once you've realized you can't control anything, God has a chance to takeover everything.

Blessed are you when you've given up your comfort, your tidy house, privacy in your own bathroom, and a glamorous career. Without those false identities and comforts, you can now fully embrace the Lord.

Blessed are you when you realize your kids may never speak three languages by age ten like Susan's kids can, may never be the star player, that you may never complete all those lesson plans by May and your house may never be Pinterst-worthy -- and that's OK. This is the moment you find yourself only wanting exactly what you already have.

Blessed are you when you desperately hope that your hours of devotion and bible study and crying out to God will pay off. You will not go unsatisfied.

Blessed are you when you don't even mention to your husband the dirty socks he left in the living room floor (again) or lose your patience with the child who struggled for two hours to learn fractions with tears in his eyes; at this moment you will also experience the gentleness of the Lord towards you.

Blessed are you when, even in this mess of a world, you set your heart on thankfulness and gratitude. You will begin to see God in even the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry, and the boys roughhousing in the hallway.

Blessed are you when you've calmly said, "Honey, be kind to your brother, please," for the fiftieth time today. You know that you are reflecting your Heavenly Father.

Blessed are you when your family members demean your decision to leave you career and home-school your children, or when other parents and school officials turn their noses up at your lifestyle. This only drives you closer to the Lord; and when the Lord is all you have, you discover that he is all you need!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Waiting to See the Masterpiece

Last night on "America's Got Talent" I watched this awesome performance. (Skip to minute 1:15

Then, this morning I decided to go on a sunrise run. It was 6AM sharp and the sun was just beginning to rise over my neighborhood. 
  I ran, but found myself captivated by the could patterns. As the sun rose higher the clouds started to appear like brush strokes across the sky. 

Brush, swoosh, swipe....

I couldn't take my eyes off the creation -- His creation. I was running right through the middle of a masterpiece...
But I couldn't see the big picture, only seemingly random strokes here and there...
Some moments the painting looked dark and gloomy...
Other times bright and radiant...

Out of breath from running, but still praying aloud, I asked, "Oh, Lord, what are you painting? Where do I fit in? Why can't I see the whole picture?"

I was reminded of the painters on TV last night. I couldn't see what was going on in their painting either. It looked disconnected, messy, meaningless, and right before the reveal, it went black. 

It wasn't until I saw the other side, that I had full knowledge and clarity. 

God tells us the same about His masterpiece. Today we can see brush strokes, corners, and partial images. Sometimes it looks messy, disconnected, and eerily dark; but soon we will see the other side.

 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

From Independence to Bondage

Brilliant lights explode in the night’s sky; lighting up my children’s laughing faces. The air is warm and the grass is cool.

It’s the night before Independence Day.

The families around me look celebratory and happy, but this year, I’m not feeling it.

Please understand that I am very grateful for the freedoms I currently enjoy as an American. I can worship on Sunday mornings – aboveground. I can homeschool my children; I can pray in most public places; and I can lay down my head at night without much fear of being arrested for my Christian faith.  Many Christians around the world are not afforded these luxuries.

Yet, with all these things to be grateful for, why aren’t I in the Fourth-of-July mood?

As much as I love Independence Day and all that it represents, it is also a harsh reminder of how far we have strayed from this country’s original intent. Most Americans today, including most Christians, have replaced their God-centered worldview with a man-centered worldview.  

Our founders were not sinless, but this modern humanistic mindset is one of the starkest differences between America then and America now – and its influence is destroying the very freedoms that our founders fought so hard to obtain.

Rosalie Slater describes it well, “For the first one hundred and fifty years or so, we maintained our Christian character as a nation. Then began our period of ‘falling away’ when we worshipped the ‘effect’ of our great success and forgot the ‘cause.’ This vacuum was readily filled with man-centered philosophies which replaced the internal battles of conscience with social, economic, and political struggles of society.”

“Thus,” she goes on, “we veered from a period when even our governmental proclamations were filled with the language of salvation and the recognition that Christ alone could change the hearts of men, to a pre-occupation with educational, social, economic, and eventually political arrangements, which claimed to insure progress and improvement for society, and hence for man.”

I could write countless pages repeating quotes of our founding fathers’ recognition that Jesus Christ is Lord and the ultimate authority of our lives, and we ought to keep Him in that proper place if we hope to succeed.

But today, God is not only being pushed out of our lives’ center, but our schools, capitols, courthouses, and banking system.

Our founders understood that God created earth and everything in it, that He is the master and absolute authority of our lives, and that from the overflow of what He has given to us, we should give to others. But today, even the mention of God as creator is banned from public education, morality is now relative, and the government, through involuntary compulsion, has attempted to replace the tithing church.

The responsibility to teach our children, feed the poor, and help the sick has been taken from the parent, the church, and the individual; and is now the expected role of the government. This switch combined with our humanistic mentality has bred attitudes of ungratefulness and entitlement. 

At a conference earlier this year, I listened to Dave Meyer speak these eye-opening words, “The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations is 200 years. They all take this path: spiritual Faith to great courage, great courage to liberty, liberty to abundance, abundance to selfishness, selfishness to complacency, complacency to apathy, apathy to dependency, and dependency back to bondage.”

I would argue that America is currently between dependency and bondage.

But there is always hope.

Today over fifty percent of people are registered to vote, but less than five percent participate in precinct level politics, which is where the nominees are selected. Consequently, Christians are left in November to choose the “lesser of two evils.”

If you are a Christian, you have a moral obligation to research the candidates and choose leaders whom are Godly -- and whose track records can prove it. Without Christian political leaders, even our Constitution is worthless. As John Adams said, “The Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

 In other words, no matter how perfect the system, it will always fail, unless the hearts of the people are turned towards Christ.

The only hope for our nation is not a more perfect system, a new social program, or any other external remedy, but rather a renewed mindset – a mindset that once again puts God in his proper place – and a group of bold believers who are willing to act. After all, throughout history God has always used a holy remnant, not a majority, to change the course of events.

This Independence Day is bittersweet.

I smile because I live in a country that has seen the amazing, providential hand of God move, and a nation whose leaders once recognized that true liberation comes first from Jesus Christ. Yet, I mourn because most have forgotten this, and it is leading us away from Independence and back to bondage. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

God Loves Sandusky

Sexually molesting ten innocent children: if there is one crime for which I can hardly fathom forgiveness, it is most certainly this one.

Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to life in prison yesterday -- and justly so.  He deserved to be punished severely, and if he is murdered in prison, he most likely deserves that as well.

However, in the midst of my celebration of “justice being served,” a still small voice rose up inside of me.

“I love him.”

I knew it was the Lord.

He came again, but louder this time, “I love him.”

I was speechless. Yeah, sure, I know that God loves everyone, but never before had it shaken me to the core like this. Here was man whom abused ten innocent children, and probably more, and God is telling me he loves him. I just couldn’t swallow it.

As I watched one Facebook status after another pop up in celebration of Sandusky’s demise, the Lord’s words played on repeat, “I love him. I love him...”

I don’t understand.

And that’s just it, as humans we have such a difficult time fully understanding the height and depth  and width of God’s unconditional love because it is, well, so un-human.

God loves Sandusky as much as He loves you, your children, and your grandchildren; and even as much as he loves those hurting, aching, and wounded little boys that Sandusky abused.

It’s not fair.

It’s not fair!

“Grace is not fair,” the Holy Spirit interjected unwaveringly.  

I guess that’s the mystery of grace; you just can’t get God to quit loving you.

It’s crazy love, way beyond my comfort zone – yet, for it, I’m forever grateful. If grace can be extended to man like Sandusky, then there is hope for us all, and that is good news.

And as for the victims, I mourn for them, but I don’t put anything past my God. I know that out of this horrendous tragedy, He will bring about healing, peace, transformation, and a beautiful display of forgiveness and the ability to overcome all things through Christ.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom

Protestants, we ought to join the Catholic Church in this cause. We can't allow Washington to assume the role of the church or family. Please join me in saying this prayer everyday until July 4th, Independence Day! 

O God our Creator,

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Expectancy vs. Expectation

Soon after my youngest son, Colt, was born, my husband and I began to struggle in our marriage. I had been loading the anger, jealously, and resentment filled bullets for quite some time, but the hormonal imbalances of post-partum-hood finally cocked the gun and pulled the trigger.  

I’d always been too prideful to seek professional help but I felt, we felt, it was time. I contacted my pastor and asked him for a referral to a trustworthy, Christian therapist. I only went to one session, partly because it was too expensive and partly because I was too lazy to return. We continued to struggle for another six months or so before God really started working in our lives, but that’s another story.

In this article, I want to discuss something the therapist said to me, which never really started sinking in until now, years later. At the end of our 90-minute session she gave me a homework assignment.

“For the next week,” she explained, “I want you to completely eliminate the words, 'should,' 'ought,' and 'must,' from your vocabulary. These expectations you’re creating are killing all your relationships.”

I shrugged off the assignment and never returned to her office.

Yet, every so often, over the next couple years, her words would replay in my mind as I’d listen to myself grumbling over how, “He should of have shown me more respect,” or “It’s just what people ought to do,” or “If you really care about me, then you must...”

Should, ought, must; should, ought, must.

This was my life mantra and it continually left me feeling offended, shortchanged, and disappointed.

I lived my life based on expectations. Expecting others, myself, and God to behave in whatever particular way I deemed as good or reasonable; and when they didn’t live up, I would be hurt, disappointed, angry or all of the above.

Not only would I be chagrined in that moment of offense, but I would hold on to the grudge, letting one resentment pile on top of the other.

Countless times I nagged my husband for not doing whatever I felt he ought to do. Worse still, when someone else would fail to treat me how I assumed they should treat me, I would not only attack them, but also my husband for not responding to their wrongdoing in the way I felt he should respond to it.

Shwew! Talk about exhausting. Expectations on top of expectations – and it was making me miserable.

“But,” I would protest, “as my husband, he should do certain things for me! I mean, isn’t that kind of part of the job description!? The marriage vows?!”

No, it isn’t.

Marriage vows are what we promise to do for the other person – regardless of the situation we are in and without a promise of getting anything in return.  Problems arise later when we “expect” our partner to respond in the way we want.

Instead of living a life of expectation, I’ve started living a life of expectancy. What’s the difference?  Well, expectation sets up exact terms for how something should happen, or a particular way someone must respond to us or illustrate their love. We bring these expectations into our friendships, marriages, and our relationship with God.

The major problem with these expectations is that no one, not even God, ever lives up to them. And because we are so focused on whether or not they have done what we think they ought to do, we overlook all the other good things they are doing.

Let me explain.

When I married my husband, one way in which I felt that he should demonstrate his love for me is by cutting off all communication with his ex-girlfriends. If I saw him talking to one of them I would become so irate, so offended and oh, so heartbroken. His insistence on noncompliance became the only thing I could focus on and I was convinced that since he wouldn’t stop talking to these other girls, he must not truly love me.  And, since I was so focused on his failure to meet my particular expectation of how he should demonstrate his love, I was missing all the other ways that he was communicating his love for me, i.e. spending time with me, loving my child, being affectionate, supporting me in anything I do, gift giving, and helping me in times of need.

We do the exact same thing in our relationship with God.

We go into the relationship with expectations; expectations of how God should display his love for us, and when he doesn’t, we become hurt, disappointed, and lose faith.  Yet, just like in our earthly relationships, when we focus solely on our own preconceived notions of how God should communicate, love, or respond, we miss all the ways that he actually is loving us, communicating with us, and responding to us.

This is why, if we want any real joy or true relationship, we must quit living with these expectations, and instead, live with expectancy.

Expectancy is simply the state of thinking that something pleasant will happen. Expectation sets standards for what, when, or how it should happen.

Expectancy allows for freedom. Expectation boxes God in and limits the ways He can move in our lives.

Just think about it. The Pharisee’s would have seen Jesus if it wasn’t for all their looking. That’s right, their expectations of what the Messiah should be like, look like, etc., blinded them to the true Messiah.

And remember those disciples on the road to Emmaus, bemoaning the absence of the very one present with them? They sighed, “...but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Their expectation of what Jesus should do blinded them to the cross, the resurrection, and to a deeper redemption than they could ever imagine – and our expectations are doing the same to us today.

In one of my favorite books, The Shack, God is talking to the main character, Mack, and God explains expectancy versus expectations like this:

“Mack, if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. The expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ into ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do...”              
“But,” argued Mack, “if you didn’t have expectations and responsibilities wouldn’t everything just fall apart?”             
“Only if you are of the world, apart from me, and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis or identity and value....The idea behind expectations requires that someone does not know the future or outcome and is trying to control behavior to get the desired result. Humans try to control behavior largely through expectations... I already know you and everything about you...I have no expectations of you, what I do have is a constant and living expectancy in our relationship, and I give you an ability to respond in any situation and circumstance in which you find yourself. To the degree that you resort to expectations and responsibilities, to that extent you neither know me nor trust me...”

Did you catch that? God said, if we truly know and trust Him, we will have a constant and living expectancy in our relationship, not expectations.

When I finally began to let go my expectations and preconceived notions of how God or other people should respond to me, I began to experience relationship with God and with others in a way I never imagined possible. Instead of the disappointment associated with looking for God in certain places, and not finding Him there, I began to experience the joy and gratitude of discovering him in the most unimaginable places!

Instead of experiencing the pain and frustration of my husband and my friends not treating me in the way I felt they ought to, I began to experience the contentment, satisfaction, and freedom of receiving their love in whatever way they most enjoy expressing it.

When we let go of our terms, guidelines, ultimatums and control -- in other words -- our expectations, and we replace them with a simple, childlike expectancy, we will frequently find ourselves, as C.S. Lewis puts it, “surprised by joy.” And really, isn’t that the only way to experience joy? Through surprise?

Just watch a child’s face light up in the presence of something as modest as a firefly’s glow. Why so much joy over something so ordinary? Because they didn’t expect it, and thus, because they had no expectation, they had no disappointment -- only joy and gratitude for the bug’s little yellow light.  

As I began removing the “you should’s, you ought to’s, and you must’s” from my vocabulary, and replaced them all with, "have Your way,"  my life changed – and it changed for the better.

Let go of your expectations, they are stealing your joy, killing your relationships, and holding you back from truly living. As you replace those expectations with expectancy, you will begin to see, know, and feel God, and the all the people around you, in a way you never knew possible.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Hurt and The Healer Collide

I’m passing mile marker 106 on I-64, eastbound, when I start mulling over my to-do list.

Let’s see, I've got to pick Jon up from basketball camp at noon, take Nate to Subway as I promised him, get Jon changed and to rehearsals by 1:30 p.m. -- and somewhere in between all that I need to get supper figured out and when on earth is Colt going to squeeze in his nap? And, darnet, this Saturday is Travis’ birthday and I haven't finished his gift.

It’s only 11:23 in the morning but my mind is already somewhere around noon, 1:30 p.m., and this coming Saturday.

In the midst of my ruminating, I roll down the driver’s side window. The Holy Spirit comes blowing in, reminding me of a question I recently read, “Where do you think I intended for you to live: in the past, the present, or the future?”

I remember the book, I know the answer, so I reply quickly, “The present.”

“Correct, and where are you living now?”

“The future,” I say just above a whisper, as to not let my step-son, sitting passenger side, hear me.

 “Correct again,” the Holy Spirit nods, “and you know, I’ll be there too, in your future - but right now I am here, in the now. Experience me here. After all, you’re the big writer, eh? Don’t you know that “I AM’ is present tense?”   

I laugh aloud. Guess I see where I get my sarcastic sense of humor from. Ha.

“Ok, Lord, I got it. You’re here now. I’ll pay attention.”

I take a deep breathe. The air feels warmer than it did before. 

I roll down all four windows, letting the air violently whip in and out. Here I am, driving down the interstate, in a silver, 2001 Ford Windstar; an eleven-year-old beside me, fist pumping at every semi-truck that passes, hoping to get a honk; a two-year-old behind me, kicking my seat while steadily throwing french fries all over my already fast food covered floor boards; and I’m still twenty miles out from my nine-year-old son’s basketball camp. 

Everything, in the physical, screams boring, suburban, typical, mom.

As the wind whips blonde strands of hair across my shades, it sticks to my lip gloss. I use two fingers to gently pull the hair away and attempt to tuck it behind my ear. It flies right back. I run my hand up the side, then the back of my neck, and on up through my hair. I extend my hand out the window as far as I can. In this moment, I feel like no weary soccer mom. No, no, no. I feel free, adventurous...alive. Like I’ve been transformed into a young girl again, two-days shy of eighteen, running off with the "bad-boy" in his rag-top convertible, rocking out to Springsteen, not worried about what’s to come, and not caring, as long as he is with me.

 Bordering the highway is every shade of green imaginable, in every shape, and every size, and they all have a species name.  Dancing among the greens are yellows – no, more like golds – and lavenders and fiery oranges. They all point in one direction: higher. 

The sun must have heard me, because it rose up as if to say, “Ahem, I am the fieriest orange He made! look at me!” So, I look, but not for long. Even at ninety-three-million miles away, its brilliance is too much for my eyes to fixate on.

As it hangs there in the sky, awaiting dusk, I can hear the hosts of heaven applauding its act, and shouting, “Encore, encore, rise again another day.” I applaud with them.

It’s not just nature reflecting the divine. It’s also the road hard motorcycle gang closing in on my rear view mirror. As they zip past me I think, “How dangerous!”

I’m dangerous,” the Lord winks back.

Aha, no wonder I feel eighteen again. Why, I.... I bite my bottom lip, trying not to smile, a little embarrassed, and not sure if I’m ready to accept such an out-of-the-box view of God, but I finish my thought anyway....why, I am running off with the ultimate bad boy.
Photo by: Jason Lee Perry

Oh, how I wish I could’ve seen the look on those Pharisees’ faces. And with that image, my lower lip slides out from my top teeth’s pressure and my half smile turns full. 

The car behind me begins to tailgate, inching closer and closer. I get the impression this driver isn’t as interested in “experiencing God here and now” as I am. His mind is in the future, and I’m holding him back from getting there. I move over to the right lane and let him pass. I toss a smile his way as he drives past; he smiles back, except with his middle finger. I can’t help but giggle when I see the handicap parking permit hanging from his rear view mirror. “Yeah, handicapped, alright -- on several levels,” I think to myself. I send a quick prayer up for him, and shrug it off; just another one of God’s angry kids.

“Hey, Morgan, do you think I can make this one honk?” My step-son, Nate, interrupts, leaning his head towards the window in order to direct my attention to the approaching tractor-trailer.

“I know you can,” I answer with a smile awkwardly large for his simple question. You can do so much more than you even know, son. We all can – through Him.

The truck passes silently. Nate sinks into his seat, disappointed that the driver didn’t even look his way. I watch the semi-truck pass. It’s hauling giant equipment that I can’t identify, but whatever it is, I’m sure it’s headed somewhere, to become a part of something greater than itself – and I know the feeling. 

The wind and pollution spiraling around the car irritates my contacts, but I've never seen so clearly in all my life. 

This must be what Thomas Merton felt when he, too, wrote about experiencing God: “I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet. 

I feel the fire, and the music, too. 

My knees have that weak feeling you get after barely dodging a wreck, my heart pounds in my stomach, and right there, at mile marker 111, I experience God here, and now.

I turn up the radio, and the Holy Spirit couldn’t have been singing any more clearly: 
"I’m alive, even though a part of me has died.You take my heart and bring it back to life, I’ve fallen into your arms open wide. The hurt and the Healer collide...."
Don't worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will care for itself.
Fall into His arms now. Lean into Him as much as you need to today. Draw near to Him in this moment, and He will draw near to you -- but buckle up, cause peace hits hard when the hurt and the Healer collide.