Kisses & Band-Aids

I’m determined to believe there is something magical about ‘Mommy kisses’ and ‘band-aids’.
1

They are like small, daily miracles God gives moms to make the little traumas of life a bit easier to bear. It’s an amazing thing to watch a crying child with a ‘boo boo’ suddenly smile after one brief kiss to the ‘wounded area’ and a quick slap of a band-aid.

Whether you choose a colorful Dora or Cars band-aid or just the plain tan kind, either seem to do the trick with the same amount of powerful healing abilities :-)  Why do you think that is? I know there is nothing particularly miraculous about “Plastic comfort-flex bandages”, but a kiss….? Isn’t a ‘kiss just a kiss’?

 

100_0347

It seems to me, these little ‘miracles’ fix the minor problems because the child realizes somebody cares about her. That brief moment of love, shared in the tangible form of a kiss, soothes the temporary ache or shock of pain.

 

So often I forget that God’s little kisses and band-aids come on a daily basis too. Through ‘touches’ from others around me. His hands and feet are made evident in the smiles, hugs, words of encouragement, and laughter of friends and family – to help soothe away the daily cares of life.
Whether it’s a surprise offer of a neighbor to watch your child, an unexpected hug, a listening ear, a call at just the right time…they’re not accidental – those are little bits of Heaven on Earth. God’s ‘handiwork’ in action.

 

2

I’m increasingly humbled by His beautiful love made evident through the love of others – His Body. I’m reminded that He’s always with me…ready to give me His band-aids and kisses through the comfort and love of His hands and feet on this earth.
Pepper

Magic Eraser and the Desperate Leper

Magic Eraser.pngAs a parent, I’m sure you can commiserate with me. Permanent marker is not a 3 year old’s friend, and especially not a mother’s. In less time than in takes for my seventy pound dog to eat his breakfast, a 3 year old can make quick artwork on any item within a home. Permanent.
If you can guess, I’ve had it happen – except, it was on my wall in my office at work. Worse. Much worse. The only thing scarier than permanent marker at work is getting it on the in-laws walls. Yikes!

So, besides freaking out and melting into a embarrassing state of hysteria, I searched for every possible cleaning agent known to man. Greased Lightening (which can take off paint, but not permanent marker), Bleach (yeah, crazy), even The Magic Eraser. Nothing worked.

So the only thing to be done was…repaint the wall. After that, I got rid of all my permanent markers.

MarkerThe wall looked perfect – the evidence removed. Only memory kept the marks clear in my head.

There’s a story in the Bible that reminds me of this. It takes place in Matthew 8 and revolves around some of the most ostracized people in the world. Lepers. The diagnosis of leprosy was catastrophic. It meant the person was removed from his family, friends, and all ‘polite’ society, so to speak, and had to live outside the camp of God’s people. It was humiliating to the point that anytime someone came close to them, they had to yell out “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn the approaching people. Even touching a person with leprosy made the uninfected person ‘unclean’ for a while.

A few amazing things about this story…

1. Jesus TOUCHED the leper. Now, did Jesus need to touch him to heal him? No, but he did this to prove to the doubters and others that he would take the uncleanness of this outcast on himself (as He would do on the cross).
2. Jesus did it ALL. The leper could do nothing to clean himself – no Magic Eraser could take the sores and scars away, but the Great Physician wiped him clean with one touch. Jesus willingly took on the ‘stigma’ of unclean by touching the leper. He was…and is willing. We can never keep the law in any way that completely satisfies God’s requirements. We MUST have grace. Our healing is all about Jesus.
3. We all have a type of leprosy. We are lepers of the heart. Our hearts are infected by the debilitating, corrosive evil of sin. With such an infectious heart, we cannot do good or even ‘see’ clearly. No amount of praying, working, boasting, giving, helping, singing, or learning will clean our hearts. It takes Jesus. For our impure, leprous hearts, he gives the ultimate cleaning. His grace. His sacrifice. His love. As with the leper from Matthew, he looks at us with an ageless, eternal love and says, “I am willing. Be clean.”
Pepper

In Pieces

christmas2016It’s Christmas!

So, of course, my family is enjoying the process of pulling out ornaments we’ve collected through the years and safeguarded for posterity’s sake 🙂 These are special treasures of time – a preschool craft, a specially designed momento, a uniquely-perfect gift.

So….it is ironic that just this morning one of my favorite ornaments fell from the top of our gorgeous tree and smattered into seven different pieces. It’s a sphere-shaped ornament, hand-crafted to display amatuer representations of each member of my family in-piecesfrom 2011. It’s personal. It shows our family. I MADE it.

And now it’s broken.

As I worked to piece back the ornament, which will clearly not go back together into its original form, I was reminded of my upcoming release, The Thorn Healer.

Why?

Because it’s all about healing.

But unlike my ability to get this ornament back into perfect shape, God is able to make things new.

Completely restored….or even better.

piecing-back-togetherBy the use of my own skills, I can only do so much to fix this keepsake. It will still look cracked and damaged, and I’m certain it will still have a hole in the back because some of the pieces were crushed too small to replace, however God (through Christ) restores our brokenness of soul and spirit to even better than what it was before.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come.”

Ultimately, God is out to set things right in his vast creation. In Revelation 21:5, he says “I am making all things new.”

We are in a world of broken people and broken things. Many times the wounds and scars of others spill over to wound and scar us. And, let’s face it, we’re pretty good at bringing pain on ourselves too.

Our own works, strength, smarts…whatever, will never be enough to ‘make us new’ and completely heal our hearts and lives.
But Christ can do much better than my shattered ornament and man-made glue can do.

He can take the most broken heart

the most shattered spirit

the most confused mind

and make them new

Because of His great love.

My character, Jessica Ross, learns this lesson and God continues to teach it to me on a daily basis.

May His healing arms of love take our brokeness and make us new by His grace. 

tth-quote1

Stirring a Child’s Dream to Life

meandgranny1forwebWords are powerful things – and words forged into encouragement produce remarkable results.

I think that’s why I’ve always wanted to provide positive influences into my kids lives through words. I’m not saying that we don’t have hard conversations, that I don’t lose my temper, or that I fail to use ‘no’ or ‘wrong’ in my vocabulary, I’m simply stating that the power of encouragement soaks deep in children.

Can you think of someone who spoke into your life at an early age? Someone you respected who took the time to help rustle your dreams to life?

I do.

I’ve mentioned before about the influence my Granny Spencer has had on my life and writing. She exuded a gentle charm, kind of like a welcome fire on a chilly night complete with a cup of hot chocolate. Just sitting by her brought a comfort and warmth all the way through your skin to your heart. She had the ability to draw stories out of people and spark your thinker without you even knowing.

When I was almost ten, she bought me a second-hand type writer because she said “A writer needs one.” WRITER. That’s what she called me. She spoke into my dream and breathed another breath of life into it.

movitaWhen I started middle school, I was not only introduced to a new school and new kids, but I met a new teacher. Mrs. Utt. From the first class with her to my last, she encouraged my love for writing by constantly urging me to stretch myself. She believed in me. She told me “I plan to see your books in the bookstore some day.” And another breath of life swelled my little dream.

There are others who, in large quantities or small, breathed into this dream to bring it to life – and it took a lot of breathing, because there were years when all that kept this dream alive was the faith of others and the raw belief that God wanted this dream to come true one day.

But it took a whole lot more than me. It took others taking time to not only to look, but SEE a gift and then use words to give that encouragement power.

Have you done this for a child? Have you had someone in your childhood breathe a dream to life in you?

Fairytales, Faith, and the Wonder of a Child

IMG_0233One of my favorite quotes by author C.S. Lewis is “some day you will be old enough to read fairytales again” because I think it encompasses a gallon of truth in its simplicity.
When we’re young, there is a genuineness to us. Our focus is intense and raw. Our faith pure and powerful. Our dreams bigger than the sky. We have no problem feeding the imagination with dragons, knights, magic, and princesses, because, even if we know those things aren’t real, a piece of us knows something greater lives beyond our current time and world.
We don’t have to see the ‘science’ or learn the arguments. A deeper ‘something’ within us knows and grasps it with both hands. Stories of courage, self-sacrifice, harrowing battles, impossible odds, and unbelievable wonder… children crave, accept, and find joy within the heart of these stories. Why?
Because it takes the wonder and faith of a child to see and believe in the impossible.
As we grow, life and circumstances can tend to blur our vision. Our wounds may harden our hearts and daily demands narrow our imaginations. Our minds become busy with the every-dayness, which is a part of growing up – but in many cases we lose sight of the wonder that is still evident around us and it takes a moment with a child to remind us….
The beauty of believing is still alive and well.
And it gives them hope…and the ability to dream big.
IMG_2943Jesus is recorded in 3 of the 4 Gospels to have encouraged the little children to come to him – even rebuking the disciples from hindering the children to approach. He says “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Why? Oh there are many reasons, and some a theologian might answer much better than me, but I believe one of the reasons is imagination.
God created imagination. In fact, he displayed his remarkable imagination in the act of creation and then made us in his image. If we are ‘like’ God through creation, then we have imaginations too – limited, of course, by the Fall and our humanity, but shadows of the Creators imagination nonetheless.
Imagination gives us the ability to not only create, but ‘see’ impossible things without fear of limits. Children believe. In their smallness, they haven’t grown too big to see themselves as having all the answers or becoming their own gods.
They accept the ‘impossible’ because it makes sense that Someone much larger than them, much grander, can do amazing things. Miracles.
There are moments in my life when I ‘glimpse’ for a few seconds into another world. A sense of the awesomeness of a greater plan or see the ‘impossible’ strength that comes dancefrom something beyond our comprehension. Even miracles.
It’s in those glimpses, God reminds me what it’s like to dance in wonder of who He is, His amazing love, and the beauty of just believing. Unhindered.
I’ll end my child-like post today with another of my FAVORITE CS Lewis quote:
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

I Once Was Blind But Now I See

Oh I love how the Bible is one BIG story with lots of little stories inside. It’s kind of like a ‘picture’ of our lives.

One BIG life with lots of little stories sprinkled throughout. A compilation, I guess 🙂

Let’s look at the Man Born Blind story in John 9 – but SOOOO many things were going on inside of this one little story.
I won’t go into them all, but I wanted to mention The Blind Man’s Story.

He was born blind. That was his beginning.
Jesus said he was born blind so that God could be glorified in his blindness (boy, did he mean that at so many levels)

In one day, this blind man has two miracles occur in his life.
Jesus gives him sight. Wow. For the first time in his life, he can see. His eyes are opened to the beauties of the world around him. The faces of his mother and father, the blue of the sky, the food he’d eaten all his life. His entire place in society has changed too. He doesn’t have to be a beggar anymore – no longer lead a shameful existence as a nonproductive member of society. He has hope.
Jesus gives him sight. Wait, did I just say that? I meant it. Jesus gave the man sight twice. First physically, then spiritually.
We watch the man’s progression toward faith.

    1. Jesus initiated the healing. He put the putty on the man’s eyes and sent him to wash. He’s healed. When asked about his healing, the blind man says “The man they call Jesus” healed him.
    2. Later when asked, the man tells the Pharisees a ‘prophet’ healed him.
    3. When interrogated by the Pharisees a secondvtime, then cast out of the synagogue as a liar, Jesus comes to find the man. I LOVE that. Jesus had compassion on this man AGAIN, and seeks him out. Here is where the most amazing part of the story happens. The climax! Jesus reveals
      himself as the “Son of Man” to this blind man. In fact, Jesus says it like this:
      – “You have seen him.” Then the man falls at Jesus feet and calls him, “Lord”, because Jesus opened his spiritual eyes to the truth.

Isn’t that amazing? A full and beautiful short story.
Beginning, middle, end. Conflict. Characters. Villains. And all summed up in a
few words.

But what’s at the heart of the blind man’s story?

It’s the same truth that is at the heart of all of us who call Jesus “Lord”. It’s the same faith statement we all cling to. The same heart’s cry we all give.

It’s what spurned John Newton to pen the words to his classic hymn Amazing Grace.

Your story.

My story.

The blind man’s story.

“One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

********************************************************************

photo courtesy of http://www.gerhardy.id.au/lent4_08.htm

Frozen….and the Beauty of Self-Sacrifice

Frozen4I will admit it. I’m getting a little tired of watching Frozen. It’s not because the movie isn’t cute, or the characters aren’t adorable, or the music isn’t….catchy. In fact, it’s a little TOO catchy. After having two daughters who are borderline obsessed with it, I feel like I know the characters and the songs fairly intimately. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could make facial expressions like Sven at this point 😉

But one thing of which I’ll never tire is the theme of the movie. Fear leads to isolation and conflict, while love leads to family and healing.

The biggest way this is shone is through self-sacrifice.

I’m probably going to wrinkle a few die-hard Elsa fans here, but hear me out.

Ana is my favorite character in Frozen. (she’s so charming and ‘real’ – ever hopeful and determined…and yes, an incurable optimist) I adore Olaf, for certain, and Kristoff is a cutie –and though Elsa is our anti-hero, she’s still memorable for her plight…not to mention her song, but here’s what hit me as most poignant.

Ana continues to pursue her sister, even though her sister rejects her…and ends up mortally wounding her. (even if that is unintentionally) Ana will NOT let Elsa remain alone as an outcast and rejected. She embarks on this journey in bad weather, through perils of wolves and cliffs, and even at the risk of her own life, to justify her sister before the people of their kingdom.

And in the end, when the easier answer presents itself in the form of Kristoff running toward her across an icy fjord, Ana makes the harder choice. The self-sacrifical choice. The choice which displays, as the movie states, ‘an act of true love’.

In fact, it’s true love that ‘thaws a frozen heart’ 🙂

I know Disney didn’t mean it as a great redemptive story synonymous of Christ’s love for his people – but it doesn’t get more parallel than this! Ana and her sister are separated (by her parents’ fear and Elsa’s fear) when they are younger. Ana continues to seek out Elsa. Elsa rejects her. Ana seeks her approval at the party. Elsa rejects it (because of fear). Ana seeks Elsa’s return from the Ice Castle. Elsa rejects her (and mortally wounds her sister). Elsa is captured and escapes her prison….but doesn’t return to find Ana – instead she tries to run away until Hans tells Elsa that Ana is dead. Then, as Ana sees her sister in mortal danger, she turns away from her ‘chance at freedom’ and gives up her life for her sister.

Yep – it’s there. Jesus pursues us with his ever-faithful love. At some point, in His perfect timing, His cost for freedom from our fears materializes in the picture of the cross. That self-sacrifical love, a story frozen in time, thaws our frozen, fearful hearts – our hearts that crave our own ‘freedom’ with our own ‘rules’ to be kings and queens of our own ‘futures’ and ‘kingdoms’. He shows us the awesome power of true love, the only power that provides REAL freedom from fear.

It’s definitely a story with a happy ending….Disney style.

Magic in the Real World

childrenandmagic

People like C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle, Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss and so many others have a very special mind-set. They still ‘see’ the world from the magical perspective of a child.

And the world is still filled with magic.

I stand amazed on a daily basis at the wonder of simple magic and the grandeur of unusual magic. Do you? The beauty of forgiveness between my children – that’s amazing. The awe of the lights in their eyes as they stare up at our Christmas tree. The marvelous swell of the miraculous in the vast landscape of the world around me.

The sweet warmth of tender memories not lost in the past. The tickle of joy in a baby’s laughter. The hug of a dear friend. The tingle of the perfect kiss.

Magic? If we look for it, we can still find it. I might refer to it as God’s fingerprints in our world, but it doesn’t lose it’s glimmer or mystery.

What magic have you seen in your world?

The Grand Canyon and a GREAT LOVE

ImageI’ve never been to the Grand Canyon but I really want to go some day. From all accounts I’ve heard or read, it’s pretty breath-taking.

Here are a few: “the most stunning sight in the world”,  “nothing prepared me for it”, “unbelievable”, “unforgettable”, “awestruck”, “spectacular”, “words can’t really do it justice”,

“Everyone takes something away from it.”

Sounds pretty amazing to me. Most people I’ve talked to who have visited seem to have the picture of it (especially at sunset) burned into their memories with a surprising clarity. They can give details and even in the description their gazes get foggy as they recall the magnificence of what they saw.

Even more than seeing the Grand Canyon, I want my awareness of God’s love to be like that. So utterly clear to my mind that I can draw upon it, marinate in it, and bathe in the beauty of it even when it isn’t clearly right in front of me.

All those descriptions of the Grand Canyon fit God’s love – and His love is even more amazing, more life-changing, more eternal….as crazy at that sounds for those of you who’ve actually SEEN the Canyon.

I wonder what it would be like if we could hold the ‘picture’ of His love, grasp it, for a little longer than 10 seconds. I wonder how it would change how we view the little and big things that happen in our lives.

In light of His great love, we recognize how much He takes care of us – how much He’s given us, how secure His hold is on our souls, and how little we need to worry about the disappointments of today or fears of tomorrow.

Oh, how I pray we have the view Paul wrote about in Ephesians:

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17a-19

Superman – The Salvation of a Vulnerable Hero

ImageMy oldest kids and I watched Man of Steel this weekend – and it produced a whole slew of thoughts in my head. I won’t get too crazy in all the Christian themes I saw waving around in it, (from the “remarkable” birth to the 33 years to the ‘giving himself’ up for the world’s good) but one of the key themes hits at a core of our humanity.

Vulnerability.

A key heroic quality is making oneself vulnerable for the good of someone else. It’s an act of love – and a soul-marker of honor.

No one likes to be vulnerable. In fact, when I’m writing stories, the one thing my characters cling to like the ring of power is their shield against vulnerability. Their personal vulnerability. That’s why true love is so beautiful. We become vulnerable to someone else and trust them to take care of that tender piece of ourselves that few others know about. Our ‘kryptonite’, so to speak.

In Man of Steel, it is very clear that Superman’s greatest vulnerability (even stated outright by the bad guys) is his compassion for the humans. His love for them. He became vulnerable to his enemies by getting on the enemy spaceship for the good of humans. He became vulnerable to death….

Get my drift?

Jesus never wore a red cape or fist-slammed General Zod. In fact, Jesus didn’t fight back….he gave himself up! Became vulnerable to death, the Bible says, ‘Even death on a cross’ (which was beyond-horrible and carried a nasty stigma along with it)

The God-man who walked among us, otherworldly, still felt the barbs, stings, and rejection as any human. He knew loss, deception, agony, fear…everything that makes us vulnerable.

Yet, his sheer act of love turned the tables on Death and the grave.

Image
http://www.relevantchildrensministry.com/2013/06/should-you-use-superman-movie-in-your.html

The power in that love crushed the head of the Devil.

And once the time is right, the eternal potency in that love will complete its purpose of sending death, hell, and the devil into a “black hole” for all eternity.

Puts a whole new spin on Philippians 2:4-11, doesn’t it?

 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.

 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Because of HIS love, we are rescued. Because he ‘saved the world’, we are made right with God.

sWe are no longer vulnerable to God’s wrath toward sin, because Christ’s love (through his perfect life and selfless death) smashed the kryptonite!

Living with the knowledge of being loved like this gives power to our lives and hope (the ‘S’, if you’re a kryptonian) to our futures.

We are loved!

In a super-human kind of way 🙂