Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Halloween Sugar Pumpkin

A tiny little sugar pumpkin sat in the bin. "Oh my, is anyone going to pick me? Tomorrow is Halloween!" A nice lady came over. She was looking at all the little sugar pumpkins. Holding them up and looking at their shapes. And then she reached down and lifted me up then twisting me this way and that.

"My, my. You're a nice little pumpkin. I think you're just perfect." And, that's how I got to go home with her.
She cut me a top and then cleaned out my insides. The lady told me she was going to make me into a personality. My face began to take shape once she finished my eyes. She whispered to me, "You need to have a smile." It took a bit of time and hurt a little but soon I looked real cool. She lit a white taper candle and dripped some wax inside of me and pressed a candle into the warm wax. "Now, let's see how you look." She put my top on, re-lit the candle. This time we both smiled. She at me and me at her.

"But, we're not done yet. You'll see why I wanted a nice shaped pumpkin on both sides." The lady began to carve again. Soon I had a cross-shape on the back side of me. Now, for a heart. "The cross wouldn't be finished without a heart of love. The Father gave His son for all of us because of His great love. That's why you have a cross. The candle is like the light of God shining out from within you, my sweet little pumpkin. I want everyone to know that Jesus gives us light and love. Everyone who looks at you will notice your cross."

I felt all snuggly inside when she said that to me. 

We went to church that night and she talked about me with the children. They liked it when she lit my candle. I glowed right nicely for them.

Tonight is my grand performance. I get to shine when the the trick-or-treaters come to the lady's house. I can't wait to see all their fancy costumes. I think they will be surprised when they see my cross.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." That's what I like to sing (when nobody is looking at me).

#pumpkin, #Halloween #jack-o-lantern

Monday, October 28, 2013

Introducing Author Jo Ann Fore & Her Book

#When A Woman Finds Her Voice by #Jo Ann Fore
"When A Woman Finds Her Voice" by Jo Ann Fore
Jo Ann Fore
THERE are times in life when we just know something significant is about to happen. I have that feeling about Jo Ann Fore and her book, "When A Woman Finds Her Voice: Overcoming Life's Hurts & Using Your Story to Make a Difference." For two months I have been working with Jo Ann and a team of women she has assembled. I know from our many interactions that she is serious about this venture and it's not just about writing a book.

 Jo Ann is passionate about seeing lives changed, turned around, and then, when ready, to give back so that more lives can be changed, turned around, and then when ready, to give back so that more lives can be changed, turned around, and then when ready, to give back ... and the snowball will gather momentum and force and THERE WILL BE REAL LIFE VICTORIES for women--women who could really use a hand-up--the real reason for her writing the book. ... She's a woman on a mission. And so am I. She speaks for the same reason I speak. We both have something to say. We want others to capture our excitement ... and the truth that will set them free.

THE PERSON who has been there, who has the scars to prove it, and has emerged as a lovely witness of the transforming grace of God; this person has in-effect gone through a metamorphosis.  This transformation can be likened to the life stages of the butterfly. An ordinary caterpillar intent on living life as it must be lived but only partially the creature it is meant to be, not particularly attractive, in time enters into its cocoon. While in its cocoon a time of waiting takes place. For us, it is in the wait-time that something begins to happen, it is where one heals and transforms in the inside-you where no one except God can see as a miracle of transformation is making something new out of the old. At just the right time, a remarkable you re-enters life, a much-different looking and acting creature altogether, with a beauty that shimmers like an elegant glistening butterfly. Like our friend the butterfly, one of the loveliest of all creations, one has to go through a process to get there.  

The tragedy would be to never complete the metamorphosis. 

A COUPLE of years ago, my teenage daughter and I were in the middle of collecting insects for a science class project. She had to identify insects, preserve and mount them. Having been through this same assignment with her four older siblings, I wasn't looking forward to it. Some insects refuse to be caught. One Saturday, she and I took our handmade butterfly net and collecting supplies to the walking trails by the Sacramento River. It was such a lovely warm fall day. Every time we circled the loop on the north trail we would see two swallowtail butterflies flying in and out of the hanging vines. The butterflies were black with neon blue markings. Gorgeous creatures. It took us many attempts before we finally managed to capture one. It was exceptionally beautiful. Next, we scrambled over the creek banks at Bidwell Park. There we found a yellow swallowtail butterfly and many moths. Some were canary yellow, others orange striped, and there were several tiny white moths with eye-ball-looking dots on the wing tips. It ended up being an adventure. The poison oak found me, too! I am sure that those moths and butterflies delighted in not being caterpillars once they found their wings.

AS ONE woman who has had some difficult steps in my metamorphosis to become a butterfly, I can tell you that it's pretty wonderful once you emerge out of the cocoon of pain and into who you were always meant to be. Not that the problems all subside, they don't, but the problems no longer own you. A healthier you can face them down. One must have a few tools in the toolkit, recognize the obstacles for what they are, and know you have a God big enough for the job. And some praying friends. It doesn't get easier.  None of it is easy. Easy isn't the right word. But, what it is is freeing. My path was different than Jo Ann's but I can tell that her and my healing have many of the same components. It took us to decide to be willing, to want it, the courage, tenacity, stick-to-it-tive-ness to see it through, and a work of God within us. Some other people came in and out of our lives to guide us on the journey. 

WE WOMEN are as different at the many butterflies. Like them, WE ARE MEANT TO FLY. For me, my hurts were emotional in nature. The wounding was deep enough that it was hijacking my enjoyment of life. Of course, I didn't know this for a long time. I just wondered why I wasn't able to be happy or feel joy in the inner me. God used his clean clear mirror to show me my hidden places so that I could recognize the issues for what they were. You see, we can't always see ourselves correctly especially when we are sincere Christians living good lives. The void isn't always recognizable. But, if you have inner hurts, and they haven't been healed or purified, they reside behind the mask no matter your spiritual depth. When push comes to shove, this inner pressure  of unresolved issues and unhealed hurts can make a person harsh or irritable, uptight, and for some, explosive and controlling, or depressed and withdrawn.  

Cleanse my heart, O God, make it ever pure. You are the potter, I am the clay.

During my "wait" cocoon that took a couple of years, I gave up my inner hurts to God while He revealed them to me one by one. I asked Him to help me. He came in and gave me a new identity in those areas, removing their strangle-hold.  Many of the areas had to do with loss. God had to free me from the inner anguish that had lain dormant in me.  Slowly it died. Joy began to bubble up. The pain rarely surfaces now. Most of it is gone, cleansed by our Savior's healing touch. Willingly I share my lessons-learned and hope-found. I ask God to send people over my way who need what I have to offer. Then I ask Him to give me the words. He always does. What a beautiful God-sized miracle of His grace.

I THINK you should buy Jo Ann's book. Whether you have internal hurt or not, it is an excellent book to show what other people go through, and how God works in their lives to bring them to wholeness and healthier lives. I'm following its message, that it is time for we as women to open up, to begin talking and sharing what God has done in our lives.                                                                                                                             Blessings to you all,
                                                                                                          Norma L. Brumbaugh

Amazon Book Link is Here

All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Impossible made Possible

When God moves-
   things begin to happen
God makes the impossible 
   become possible

We call what God does-
    a miracle

A miracle comes from God-
   a result of faith and belief

When God moves-
   he uses our infirmity

God makes the infirmity
   into a possibility 

God makes a possibility
   into an opportunity

God makes an opportunity
   into a miracle 

God takes our limitations
   and makes them into opportunities

We are miracles
   of his divine grace

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Listening to a Christian Turned to Atheist, My Thoughts

The creek behind the property I farm. Looking east.
I was doing some research when I came across a video of an atheist who used to be an evangelical preacher, a traveling evangelist in fundamentalist circles. He was telling his personal story of losing faith and how it happened to a group of skeptics in the city where I live. He spoke by formal invitation from this atheistic assembly. So they appreciated his comments. It was like a reverse of someone coming to faith. I listened intently thinking it would be good for me to learn why and how he had come to leave his former beliefs to his current position of non-belief in God, and also, his reason for becoming an active voice to the opposite, a person on a mission to inform and expose the inconsistencies of formal and private religion. He has become a professional debater at university forums, going toe-to-toe with learned Christian scholars, pitting his atheistic conclusions against formal religionists' beliefs.

 His talk was a testimonial, his story, very personal and kind in tone, not angry and defensive. His arguments against belief in God were the usual ones. What about "evil" and "suffering"? His faith in non-faith was well reasoned. I watched him and found myself fascinated in a sad sort of way. Some things he said were absolutely true of Christendom, the ugly stuff, and I had to agree with some of his rationale. In fact, as he talked it became evident that he totally understood Christianity and had experienced much gifting during his years of ministry in the Church. His walk with God had been vital. He had been used to bring people to faith. His written music in Christian venues is still paying him royalties. Irony at its worst. Through a series of small moments that became one huge doubt in the accuracy of the truths in scripture and the viability of God as a real persona, this preacher man realized that he no longer believed in the truth of that in which he preached. He was totally turned off by the right-wrong (black/white) viewpoint. I found him decent. Interesting. Calm. Passionate. Quietly sarcastic--in a smooth delivery. I looked at his eyes. Were they empty? I thought, yes. Intelligent? yes. Convincing? yes, if one is undecided or wavering in their faith. I wondered if some day he would return to faith, if God has not given up on him.
It comes down to two things. Repeatedly. It's about faith/belief, and it's also about the whole idea of God. And, I think it is the idea of God's goodness. Is God really good? The problem of sin. How can we be damned because of one man? How fair is that? A set-up by a God we're supposed to love and is supposed to love us? That's the argument against God, asking the thought, would a good God do that to the people he made and loves? Those were some of his objections which started with a seed of doubt that grew until it bloomed into a choice to not believe. His leaving the faith was a deeply personal decision, not from external forces, and, apparently, not from a desire to live differently. It caused his marriage to break up, four children involved. Many of his family, including his parents and two children, are now atheists, leaving Christianity behind. As I listened to him, I kept thinking about the dynamic of belief. My pastor contends that salvation is more to do with belief than anything else, believing what Christ has completed on the cross. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. I am coming to the point of agreeing with him. It's not just about sin and salvation from our sins, it's much more than an escape, much, much more.

In a strange way, little parts of this man's story I can identify with in my own life, although in a much opposite way. When I left the formal way I had been taught, to live the way I now understand Christ lived in His ministry, it was to leave my system of religious security. I became different than I had been taught. I began to think for myself. I remember when I came to the place of choosing how I believed about God. I left a more rigid narrow belief system to follow the way I believe Christ lived out his life. My focus changed. I held to the same tenants of the faith but the outworking was in a new way. I embraced the Christ of the cross instead of the Christ of the religion. I believe one must know why you believe what you believe, the theology and doctrines of the faith, but, being right theologically is not what matters most to me. In fact, I read Christian writers who come from a different viewpoint, position, and I learn from them. They have something to say because Christ is real to them. I don't have to agree with everything they believe. It takes an openness within me to do this. Living Christ-centered is my focus. Because of my adherence to Christ-following, there has been a separation, an isolation, though. I do feel alone at times.  Leaving the negativity and unbending spiritual-superiority complex, a rampant infection in Christian circles, was a choice I had to make.  I keep out of the angry talk, politically as well. There is no room for that in being broken bread and poured out wine.  I believe it is offensive and is not in the spirit of Christ. I choose to follow the way God teaches me through His word and through Christ's example, and the spirit of God who lives within me. I also have decided to no longer look for who is "in the faith" and who "is out" or who is following exactly the way I believe. Instead, I ask myself, do they know my Jesus? And, if they don't, how can I be of help to them and love them like he did? Many people, both of faith and not of faith, rarely look at the big picture. I've thought about it all day. God is so real to me. I can't look at something beautiful without thinking of the God who made it. I believe He is as real as real can be. I don't doubt His existence nor His interest in me and in others. But, I do understand why some stumble in this regard. At some point, the arguments must be silenced. You either believe or you don't. That simple. That hard. 
Just a side note, I believe that God is not silent. If you seek for Him, and ask Him to reveal His presence to you, I believe He will do this. He wants to be known and to be loved. He wants to love. I believe this with my whole heart.

To turn away from a belief in God may feel like you are now free from constraints. This happens when you don't really agree with it any longer. But, I contend, it would also feel like a huge gargantuan loss. The stars would lose their brightness, the reason for living with its form of right and wrong---fair treatment of others, would be gone, and, the sense of being close to God as His beloved child, would be nonexistent. This man spoke of looking out at the night sky, that the realization dawned on him, now it was just him and the stars---and no God. He said it was a bitter-sweet realization. I can imagine that moment. He must have been feeling loss and also a sense of being freed. Is it freedom? When I look out at the night sky, I am ablaze with a heart of light, a sense awe at the magnificence of the heavenlies which display my God's design and order. God means too much and has been too real for me to consider my belief in Him as a misconception or an untruth, something pretend. To not have faith in God any longer, for me, would be like to stop breathing. It would be death in my spirit.
Over the years I have known many who have come to faith and I've known a few who have left the faith. People gain and lose faith for an a sundry of reasons. I could tell you their stories. Yet, this blog is long enough already.  I do know that belief cannot be a form of worship. It must be personal---in the heart, mind and soul---for it to be genuine faith. True belief with its faith component, is, in a sense, like a spiritual transfusion. A new life from God flowing in our veins. I would wish this for everyone. I want to say to the atheist, you missed it, brother. Somehow you missed the most beautiful thing that life has to offer. I know he wouldn't believe me, though. But, he just might see it in me, the inner energy and external glow that comes from a love-relation and belief in the Real.
Blessings to you, Norma

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interactive Spiritual Communication

Interactive Spiritual Communication
Meridian Minute  no. 20

Do you know Jesus?
If you invite him in, he will come in.

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”                                     
                                                                                          John 10:25-30

God wants us to recognize his voice.
God wants us to follow him as children.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. God is in the business of restoring us into a right relationship with him. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. Unbelief has cut humans off from God. Belief on the Lord Jesus Christ is what saves us. It is the way of salvation for all who believe. When we become as sheep following the Shepherd, we are able to begin discerning spiritual truth and the Shepherd's voice. Within us, as children of God, we are given a helper, The Helper, the Holy Spirit. Baby Christians will notice an awakening within them, it is as if their conscience has come alive. No longer is sinning or rebellion as comfortable a place to live. If there is no spiritual "awakening" then it is doubtful that there has been a rebirth in the spirit life of the individual. To know God is to know His ways and to follow them. Even after the point of salvation, one makes a choice. We are always given a choice. Each day is a choice, to follow the Shepherd's voice or to follow our own individualistic voice.

In the seeking you will find -- God's voice is what you hear after you chase the other stuff away.
In the finding you will know -- God's voice is quiet, calm, assertive, and definite.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Believers in God who have put their faith in Christ, may struggle with this concept. Why? I think it is because it is hard for us to stop and be silent, to actively listen without interjecting our own thoughts, assumptions or biases. When I became serious about desiring change in my spiritual life, it wasn't too far into before I realized I was battling the spirit realm in this area. There were three forms of thoughts that seemed to be at war with my mind. When I went to prayer, it became apparent that when I was listening for God during meditating on His Word and praying, could be hijacked by the Liar saying a counterfeit message in my thoughts (even while in prayer). This would happen if  I wasn't employing correct spiritual discernment. I noticed that the thoughts that entered my mind while in prayer could be one of any of these three: God, Satan, or Me. I started tracking the end results of my prayers, to figure out if something was of God or me or a counterfeit lie by the Enemy. I started looking for confirmation by a "peace" factor. Something from God has a sense of peace, strength, and weight (a knowing). My minister was helpful. He said, when seeking God's leading or will in something, look for confirmation in three areas: 1. God's Word  2. Holy Spirit  3. Wise Christians.

I have found the following to be true. Hearing God's voice also comes after there has been a time of seeking and active repentance. It does not come quickly. Sometimes it takes me minutes or even hours of going deeper and deeper, asking God for insight into my own heart, to reveal the error of my thinking, to expose my hidden sins, and to see the reflection of God's mirror into my heart and mind. Once I hear my Shepherd's voice I find that I am changed. I have supped at his table, been nourished by his truth, and refreshed by his love.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Saturday, October 19, 2013



"Beep." Oh man, what was that? One beep? That's weird, must not have been my alarm.

I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. My mind was working. One beep?, hmmm ... my alarm always beeps three times. I glanced over at the clock. Yes, 60 minutes early. Sleep wouldn't come.

Lord, is it you? Do you want me to pray? ...  Yes.  Okay. I'll get up. A friend was on my mind. She was the one that needed prayer, who I would pray for first. I was concerned for her.

I crawled out of bed and went into the living room. I glanced at my Ipad, a private message from this same long-distant friend, someone who I'd never met but I'd been trying to support in some way. By reading some of her comments, I had sensed her anguish and tried to reach out by sending her a private message once in awhile. I didn't think she was all that much receptive to my contact. The offer was there if she wanted it. At times she would respond in small bites of text. I felt inadequate. I'm not very social or adept at dispensing advice and she was much younger than myself. Her comments to me were brief, and almost always with some level of despondency, saying things like, "why bother." Her frustration with life and the hurts from the past were overwhelming her. Memories and pain were swirling around her, robbing her of much-needed sleep. She'd never opened up, but I sensed some of her past had been brutal. I learned bits and pieces but not enough to know how or if I should respond. I found myself worrying about her. She was struggling. I wondered if she was suicidal. I didn't want to pry or over-reach, or to push her away. After reading her message I knew why I'd been summoned so early. I began to pray for her. I asked God to take charge. I prayed for her emotional, physical, and spiritual needs and God's hand of protection on her life. I sent a message. She responded. The words began to flow as God began to lead our conversation.
Her opening message--
"I'm scared.
Scared to ask for help.
Scared to go to God.
Scared to be alone right now thru this. 
Just plain scared....
 (she goes on to say that while at work she felt someone tap her shoulder, but no-one was there.)

...And scared I'm going crazy!
Would you please pray? 
Right now I'm panicking and anxiety has gone through the roof. ...
... Is this what crazy feels like?"

My response--
"Dear ______, I had something weird too, it happened at 5:30 a.m. My alarm went off, one beep...not usual, it's usually three beeps. I started to get up and then I looked at the clock. It was an hour before it's set time. Well, I lay back in bed and tried to sleep, but was wide awake. I asked God if He wanted me to pray. "Yes." I go in the living room and there's my Ipad. I read your message and respond. Then I start praying FOR YOU. Then I get a little sleepy and fall back asleep there on the couch. God has your name today. Don't be scared. It's fruitless. Could be the enemy's whispers. Claim "When I am afraid I will trust in God." Chase Satan away by quoting the Word. He has no power when you claim truth. Next, ask God to help you trust. Do it in HIS strength. When you are weak, HE becomes strong. He waits to be invited. YOU will make it. I see victory in your future. There will be a watershed moment. I'm praying for it. Great will be the release. Remember, you are not alone. You aren't. That is also the lie Elijah believed. You just feel alone. We will pray this one through. Be brave in HIS strength. It's possible "I can't do it but You can." Say it to God. (now I'm preaching!)
God has not abandoned you. He is waiting until you are ready. We think we're waiting for Him, when in reality, He is waiting for us (most times). (If this truly is a spiritual battle, not depression or a medical condition)"

Her response--
Yes. ...I know he's waiting on me ... 
The conversation continues on. . .for days on and off ...
For three mornings in a row a "ding" awakened me at the same early hour, each time with one solitary "beep." Every time I entered in prayer for this young woman. The communication became much deeper. I found myself sharing with her some of the ways I've learned to fight spiritual battles. Our conversations became more real, intense, honest, and helpful. It's surprised me, the freedom I've had to say the things I've shared with her. I've wondered if it's sinking in, if she's applying some of what I say. I know we're getting somewhere. A few days later, she is the first one to make contact, this time without the pain, "How are you?" she says to me via the internet. It sounds happier, it makes me feel happy. She's doing better, her tone is less despondent.

The battle isn't won yet. I still pray. Often.  It is interesting to me that this young woman's needs surfaced during the time I was writing a blog about losing my sister, when I was remembering the sad loss of her life, one which could have been prevented if only we had known. It felt like I was giving back, almost doing it for my sister Lois' sake. The more we talked the more it seemed as if this woman was holding onto life by a thread and I had to help someway, keep her treading water, to not give up. She feels so alone in her pain. Pain isolates. God seemed to want to use me. I followed His lead, did what seemed right to do by sending a tiny lifeline her way. Not much, but it helped. Just yesterday this same friend sent me a message.

Her - "Without your prayers and so many others, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't still be here for you to talk to."

Me - "I've grown quite fond of you, like a grown daughter. I think we are quite different in personality and I often don't know what to say. But, it's not because I don't want to help. Three mornings in a row I was awakened early by the Lord to pray for you. There is a big spiritual battle going on. You can't fight it alone."

Her - "I totally agree and yet I feel so all alone." ....

The conversation is still continuing. In fact, I'm sending this to her to preview before I make it public. Her trust in me is something I don't presume. We are in this together. I think of all the times my praying friends have supported me during those times when my own prayers were bleeding confused utterances, the darkness surrounding me making it hard to pray. We need each other in the brother- and sister-hood of the Christian community of Believers.

-Please pray for someone you know who needs some help.  Don't be afraid to show you care. Thank you.
* * * * *
Written in connection with book, "When a Woman Finds Her Voice," by JoAnn Fore.
To purchase book:
Amazon Book Link is HERE

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What is it about Shame, Acceptance, and Self-Perception?

It was a small incident compared to some things, but it had given me a negative message. My pastor called me into his office to talk about something. I had no idea what was up. It sounded like I was in trouble. I was nervous. My mother came with me, she had taken the call and seemed to think it was something not good. I suppose he asked her to come with me. I was in my early twenties, a first-year teacher. My infraction? "That dress you wore last week when you sang your solo in church was way out of line, way too short!" My pastor looked up from behind his desk, his eyes piercing me, waiting for me to speak. I couldn't say anything. I was surprised by his words. I began to cry.  Inside I felt humiliated, especially now as a school teacher in a Christian school and graduate from a Christian college.  It was like I had no standing or reputation with him. On the way home I rehashed my reaction, embarrassed by how I'd responded by crying like a school girl instead of being collected. Always a good-girl, it was the first time ever for me to be called on the carpet for something. I didn't even think was quite true, my dress was knee length. Yet, I respected his position and authority, keeping my upset feelings to myself. I had a lot to learn. 

I recalled that event while I was washing dishes and preparing a meal for luncheon guests earlier today. As I thought about it and my inward reaction, that unpleasant unworthy feeling, I understood it's meaning for what it was, like a light bulb turning on, what that emotion had been that had transmitted a negative feeling into my psyche. I felt "shamed," and that it was an undeserved scolding, an unnecessary confrontation.  The dress that had gotten me into trouble had been a favorite of mine, a jersey print of turquoise, looking great with my bronzed tan. I'd sewn the dress myself. Thinking back on it, quite possibly if my pastor had approached it from a different angle it wouldn't have been so humiliating or embarrassing to me. We know someone cares when they care. It was the only time while under his ministry that he ever talked to me in a one-to-one conversation other than a greeting. If you can call that a conversation. A positive context would have balanced and evened it out.

As a teacher, I've seen many children shamed by teachers, principals, and parents. I've even had to take action when I've seen it go too far, over the top with the punishments and demeaning actions of an adult to a child, that of a bully with the cornered defenseless weaker subject. One year I took it to the top, to the superintendent, wondering if I was witnessing emotional abuse on my school campus. I spoke up for the children, fearing job repercussions. After much inner debate, doing it anyway. Why? Someone had to--children were not being treated with dignity and respect--I had wondered who would do something about it, and that someone ended up being me. Un-pleasable out-of-line adults can destroy self-concepts quick-like in public shamings. I figured I was seeing this adult as someone who once was shamed by the demons in her past. I'm glad to say, my actions did make a difference. This adult began to manage her behavior with a less-aggressive attitude toward the students. I assumed that the-powers-that-be had a talk with her. Everyone on campus noticed a difference.

When my pastor called me in, I felt like a little kid going to the principal's office. After hearing my misdeed, it felt like I wasn't spiritual enough. Outward conformity to a set of rules was how the people in that church were judged, a formula that we adhered to in order to participate in the spiritual realm (I'm not speaking of moral or biblical mandates). Today such thinking is still happening in many churches, schools, and homes. Many times I find myself redirecting a conversation when I see the darts being thrown at the absent person, the one who is being disapproved of in some way. I saw it last week in two conversations with people who are dear Christians.  They are unaware of their attitudes, the lack of true love and acceptance. The performance checklist that keeps track of behaviors. The link of "performance" to "spirituality" is often a "log" in the eye. This should not be. Sometimes I find myself doing it as well. My thinking darts tend to be thrown at the self-righteous who are so rigid that they forget to love unconditionally, keeping score, ignoring that it really is God who does the work in another's spiritual life, that we are called to be faithful to the task. This pious attitude irks me. But, it isn't right either. Love, true love, has acceptance and caring in its base. Standards do matter, holiness is to be desired and lived out, but God is the one who is the righteous judge. We are the servants, the proclaimers of the message, the believers in the truth that sets men and women free.

How does it happen? The list is long and hurtful. We've all felt some of these.
Pain . Shame . Dislike . Guilt . Hurt . Sorrow . Unfair treatment . Put-downs . Mistreatment . Harsh words . Abuse . Anger . Unloved . Unwanted . Neglect . Ignored . Bullied . Conflicts . distance . criticisms . disrespect . ???
NEGATIVE SELF PERCEPTION=>not good enough, faulty, unworthy, deficient, undesirable

~Feelings of being unwanted and unloved are a destructive force within the heart and soul of a person. 
~Feelings of being unaccepted and excluded are a destructive force within the heart and soul of a person.
Approval and acceptance for who and what we are is essential in creating a dynamic that asserts value to our person. Last Sunday in my church, a man who is thirty years of age, spoke about his childhood. He was raised in a city that has a negative reputation. His first time in trouble was when he harmed another child when he was a third-grader. As the years progressed, he became more and more violent, getting expelled from school. When he was in high school, two different adults took an interest in him. Because of them, he started seeing himself differently, seeing that he had worth and value, that he could have a future. During his junior year in high school, he gave his life to the Lord. The change was dramatic. He was brought into the admin office. They asked him what had happened, what had made him change so much. He said that he now had God in his life. The school asked him to share what had changed his life before three thousand public school students. He said he probably wouldn't have changed if someone hadn't seen his potential and valued him for who he was, seeing who he was and could be rather than his violent ways. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found. T'was blind but now I see.

Our emotional life needs the positive energy that comes from being valued. If it is lacking, there is little reason to go on. Life is too hard without the sense of worth. So often, people who have messed up will turn around when given a reason from someone else who sees their potential. Sometimes it wasn't much but it was enough. I've read the stories. To God, we ALL are of GREAT value. We were worth His son coming to earth to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.
Hope . Love . Acceptance . Health . Fair treatment . Built-up . Good treatment . Kind words . Courtesy . Calm . Wanted . Cared for . Listened to . Inclusion . Peace . Liked . Resolution . Cherished . Honored . ???
POSITIVE SELF PERCEPTION=>good enough, acceptable, worthy, capable, desirable

~Feelings of being wanted and loved are a positive force within the heart and soul of a person.
~Feelings of being accepted and included are a positive force within the heart and soul of a person.
There are some people in my life who approve of me. They are the ones I go to when I'm down. Why? They love me unconditionally. I don't have to perform for them. They like me for me even when I fail or do things in a different way than they do. And, it's enough. I want my children and grandchildren to know I love them this way. It can be hard with family. There is an expectation-factor. In Christian families it can be quite pronounced. So, family members who are struggling in some way tend to hide who they really are because it is easier than disappointing their parents and feeling the disapproval. It's painful. I understand the hidden expectation. As a parent, I have them, and they mean a lot to me. BUT.  I must put my hopes, wishes, and performance expectations aside when it comes to deep down really really caring and loving without conditions, caring about the person more than the deed. I don't want my family to think that they must earn my affection. My personal pride can't or shouldn't be tied to their performance. They already know what I think anyway. Is it easy? No. It's not. Barriers or conditions prevent open honesty.

The other day I saw a man  around my age walking with his father in a store parking lot. His father was telling this man how he needed to park his car a certain way, his voice had that solicitous patient sound like you use with a little kid when they should be paying attention. I found myself feeling sorry for the son, that as a grown man he is not given the respect he deserves by a father who has failed to bring the dignity of adulthood into the conversation, a lack of equality in the relationship. Sometimes, it is as simple as not giving your opinion when it's not solicited. I have learned to pray instead of preach. To love instead of condemn. To acknowledge my stuff instead of acting like I'm perfect. When God provides the opportunities, I jump in and speak because I know He provided them. There is a big difference between the two. Much more gets accomplished when I do it God's way.

Look for ways to transmit positives into other lives. When you see pain in someone's life, be there for them. Help if you can. Even those in error need to be listened to without being argued under the table. Silence is often a greater communicator than unwelcome advice.
* * * * *
Written in connection with, "When a Woman Finds Her Voice," by JoAnn Fore

Available for purchase:  Amazon Book Link is HERE

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice
All Rights Reserved  

Friday, October 11, 2013

POEM ~ A Desert Bloom

A Desert Bloom

I saw you today, as a little flower,
Long you were there, a lone seed in the desert sand.
The winds came, parching the ground.
You waited, someday … someday … someday.
The sun beat down, mercilessly sucking the moisture away.
You waited … you listened … you said, “When Lord?”

Year after year the desert landscape moved.
The sand blew this way and that, a restless shifting.
Desert creatures slithered and crawled,
Giving life to the dry barren lands most majestic.
Their cries and movement in contrast to the ever-present pause.
Time stood still, an endless strangeness, a cunning wildness.

And then one day the rain came … and came.
In torrents it flooded the land, strong, masterful in command,
Gushing here and there, the sand grew refreshingly wet.
“Finally,” you said, “Oh yes,” the thirsty soul quenched … satisfied.
Joyfully you sprang up to greet the new day, stirred to radiant life,
Beautiful, serene, lovely to behold, a real desert trophy.

Your Maker said, “Why, there you are, my sweet princess?
The wait was long, but just look at you!
Petals exquisite, the color, deep and rich,
The grandeur of much-anticipated new birth.
Yes, your hue is remarkable, you have intricate lines,
Such a delicate reminder of the grace of my touch.”

I saw you today as a little flower,
Most beauteous to behold,
With a pure loveliness that comes when much suffering is borne,
A rare find in this timeless desert plain.
One who has trusted, believed with a steadfast heart, in the unseen,
For you are a reflection of the Maker’s glory, a rare bloom divine.

Written for a friend
N. L. Brumbaugh

~Excerpt from my book "The Meeting Place."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

God makes things brand new

Made Brand New

"How Do You Repair Something?" I asked myself one day.

I was thinking about broken people and broken relationships.  As I tried to envision the repair and what it could be, all I could think of was failed efforts and wasted energy that at times has made me feel a bit foolish. I was praying and meditating along these lines when a picture came to my mind of a broken teacup.

"How do you repair something? I asked my heavenly Father.
Piece by piece the answering thought came to me.  I pictured the tedious process of a broken china cup being glued and mended with meticulous care.

"But it will never be like it used to be," I complained. 

No, it bears the marks and it is more fragile.

I thought to myself how all of us are broken people.  How God puts us back together.  He is the glue.  With loving gentle hands He restores us.  We may not look so lovely but He makes us new.  "He makes things new, God makes things brand new."

Though not as beautiful as the original, it is functional, useful, re-made, and restored.
  • The scars--a symbol of the fracture. 
  • The glue--a symbol of His restorative love. 
It's a good deal, no matter how you look at it. What most would have thrown away, God painstakingly restores, evidence that it is His work. No, we can't do it. We need Him.
 Based on a snippet from a journal writing - May 2012 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I Write what I Write and Speak what I Speak

I have so much to say. That is because God has done so much for me. Lately I've been writing a series of articles related to "When A Woman Finds Her Voice," for a book launch. The topics are predetermined by the author, and then we write something from our personal experiences that relate to the topic. What this has done for me is that is has made me think about the process God used to help me become the woman He has wanted me to be. It has taken several things in my life to bring me to that place: God, Scripture, People, Seeking, Praying, Meditating, Writing, Learning. All have been important.  
Reviewing the impact of these things on my life has validated my purpose, my calling.

The most recent assignment for the book launch was to make a short video clip of why each of us will use our voice. For me, it's all about God, what He offers to others by using me as a messenger of the message.  Yesterday, I self-recorded my video in the early evening while standing out in the walnut orchard that I farm. It was my desire to make an analogy by comparing growing trees to God growing us. Careful nurture goes into the caring of humans and plants. Many people are damaged by harsh realities, that is why we share what God has done in helping us. My video needs one clarification. I mention abuse because many, many women have been abused. I was in pain from emotional wounds but I did not suffer from sexual or physical abuse. My wounds were emotional in nature, I had internalized pain of a different sort.  
But I do relate.

Within every area of pain there is some area of loss. Loss occurs through many forms: Loss of innocence, love, security, a relative, child, mate, pet, standing, freedom, independence, reputation, job, health, marriage, financs, employment, friendship, dignity, respect, peace, trust, fidelity, wholeness and so forth. Each sad moment pierces deeply and stays inside our inner selves causing destructive damage to our personalities and sense of well-being. When we access Him, God comes along and sets us of the path of freedom. He helps us deal with our neediness and issues, even our silent guilt, shame, wounds, and wrong-beliefs about ourselves. I'm so glad God can and will meet us where we're at to forgive, heal, transform, and renew.
That is why I write what I write, and I speak what I speak.

God has blessed me. He healed me. He set me free. He made me new.
God removed my pain. He removed my hurt. He put something new in place of the sadness.
God is my everything. He is the reason for living. He is my hope and my peace.
God loves me. His love is better than anyone can imagine. It is unfathomable.
God gives me a reason for moving forward. He shows me new things to embrace every day.
God asks me to bind my will to the will of the father. I am glad to do so.
God asks me to bind my mind to the mind of Christ. I would be foolish not to.
God asks me to bind my seat of my emotions to the Holy Spirit. This keeps me balanced.
God is the one who makes life worth living. I'm so thankful that He is my heavenly Father.
 A video that speaks from the heart. I am in the walnut orchard that I farm. October 2013

Ready to use your voice? I have a book for you.

This book is a stepping stone to healing.
This book is a guide to finding you have a voice.
This book is the stuff of real life.
This book will not disappoint.
This book has a message endorsed by the faith community.
This book takes the reader to the hurting place.
Then leads to the healing place.

Available for purchase: Amazon Book Link is HERE

#When a Woman Finds Her Voice

All Rights Reserved