Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Why I Choose to not Burn The Shack Up or Down

Faith is a Journey
As a writer, I know how difficult it is to write from my Christian worldview—from a faith that is ever growing in truth and grace.

As a Christian, I know how hard we can be on one another.

As a Caring for the Heart coach, I know how damaging emotional pain is to our ability to give and receive love, even the perfect love of our Triune God. When someone touches our pain, we react.

Those three perspectives motivate my thoughts.

In deciding whether to enter the fray over the merits/demerits of William Paul Young’s novel The Shack and the recently released movie The Shack Official Movie Trailer, I wondered if anything I had to say could enhance the discussion. I don’t like controversy, but I do enjoy an amicable debate. Most of what I’ve seen written surrounding the movie’s release qualifies as highly contentious in my book—though I admit my meter tends to run on the sensitive side.

I almost kept silent on this one. The ruckus is just too loud for my liking. I don’t like name calling. I don’t want to be called names. So can we agree to not do that here?

I’ve read Young’s book more than once and went to see the movie on opening weekend. I’ve read many of the reviews written by the pros and my Facebook friends. I’d say if I took a poll, it’s about a 50/50 split. Both sides adamant they are right.

But then I heard Paul Young tell his own story. Those who know me know I love to hear personal stories and love them even more if the storyteller includes God’s activity in the story. I don’t ordinarily watch TBN, but tuned in when I saw that Paul Young would be telling the story behind The Shack. Restoring the Shack  

As Mr. Young spoke, I tried to understand his heart. I listened to him relate his story of childhood sexual abuse and spiritual abuse as a son of missionaries. My Caring for the Heart training and experience heightens my awareness of how what happened to us as children influences our relationships as adults—with our spouse, our children, and especially our God.

Young acknowledged being the victim as a child; I can respect that. But he didn’t stop there. He continued by confessing his own sinful behavior as an adult and the explanation of his process of repentance and reconciliation. He was clear to point out that he had been the perpetrator; I respect that. I listened to his heart yearning for redemption of the pain from his past.

I will not condemn this man, his work of fiction, or the resulting movie. What I see is a man who is trying to explore difficult topics, sharing with others how God met him where he was and loved him through the hard places. I can’t cast the first stone, because I walk this same path. Sometimes failing. Other times succeeding. Nonetheless, walking with my God who is forever faithful in helping His children unlearn the lies we have believed and teaching us His truth.

It is my prayer that the Lord will use the message of The Shack to start dialogues with Him in the midst. He is perfectly capable of correcting any misconceptions. Mine. Yours. We don’t have to defend God, but we do need to allow space for Him to speak. And for us to listen.

I want to be a part of the healing conversations. How about you? Can we agree to not use words as weapons?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Does healing always have to hurt?

I've gotten kind of used to going to doctors these days and hearing them say, "It's part of the aging process" or "Now that you're getting older . . ." So when I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist for my first cancer screening, I was prepared to hear the same.
But I was not prepared to hear his recommendation. I knew I had some age sports. Just part of getting older, right?  I didn't have any areas I was concerned about. Yes, family members have had to have spots removed and biopsied. Thankfully, those were never the "bad" kind of cancer.
The good news was he completed the examination without finding any major problems. Then came the not so good news. He presented me with a choice.
He wanted me to be proactive and complete a four-week regimen to attack any precancerous cells on my face. He warned I would need to be brave and once I started it, I needed to complete it. He also warned the medication was expensive and some insurance would not cover it. The choice was mine.
I prefer to meet challenges head on. I'm not much of a gambler. I've learned it is better to catch things early and nip them in the bud, rather than ignore warning signs and hope they go away. However, I also like to know what to expect before I say, I'm all in.
I left his office with the prescription in hand and went to my pharmacy to start the process. My insurance did cover the cost, so that wasn't a game changer. They didn't have it in stock, but I could pick it up the next day.
That bought me some time to do some research.
I found many blogs and vlogs of others who had taken this journey. The pictures and descriptions matched my doctor's words.
So with my eyes wide open, I chose to follow this course of treatment.
Two weeks into it I wanted out.
My face looked exactly like the online pictures. No surprises there. What I wasn't prepared for was the pain. I'm not a wimp. I've given birth twice without an epidural. My first was over eight pounds and the second was butt-first breech. Those same children each talked me into getting a matching tattoo. Both times I was warned  the spot I selected was one of the more painful locations, might I want to reconsider? No.
It wasn't the threshold of pain that bothered me, it was the duration of this treatment that messed with me. Neither of my pregnancies required a long labor. Both tattoos were small. (The design matched, but I chose the miniature versions.)
Two weeks into the treatment, I contacted my doctor to see if maybe my case was special and I wouldn't need to go the whole distance. I'd read other people's accounts of their doctor allowing them to stop after two weeks. The medication insert even stated that the normal treatment was 2-4 weeks. Surely two weeks would be enough for me.
I called his office to speak to a nurse. The receptionist put me on hold and I was surprised when the doctor came on the line. He listened to my plea and reasoning for stopping early. Then he explained that studies have shown that stopping too soon can cause the precancerous cells to come back stronger.
Once again the choice was mine.
He continued by encouraging me that once I stopped applying the cream the recovery period was relatively short. I knew this to be true from the internet testimonies. They also claimed that the skin not only healed quickly, but also healthier than before. Younger in fact.
Hmmmmm, I liked the sound of that. Enduring would reap rewards.
I decided to continue.
I'm now in the final stretch. Twenty-one days down and only seven to go. I'm setting my sights on the goal and pressing forward. Precancerous cells eradicated. Cancer avoided. Not to mention a younger looking me!
Five Lessons Learned
  1. Sometimes problems can go undetected unless you allow someone else to take a look. The medication only attacks precancerous cells; healthy cells are not affected. I had more dangerous cells under the surface than I suspected
  2. Short cutting the process may make things worse. Stopping early might have caused me to either start all over again later or deal with the full blown skin cancer resulting in visible scarring.
  3. My previous poor decisions put me in this place. My earlier choices to soak up the sun and visit tanning salons were not wise.
  4. I now have an opportunity to  make different choices. What will I do now? One blogger was undergoing this for the second time--admitting she drove a convertible with the top down for ten years after her first treatment. I don't want a do over.
  5. Damage--whether physical, emotional, or spiritual--hurts when it is healing. I tried to think of a time in my own life when additional pain was not required for a wound to heal. I couldn't.
Ironically, the most soothing part of my treatment during the final stages was when I first applied the cream. What caused the pain, also brought the healing and offered momentary relief in the midst of the process.
I wonder if the same is true when the damage is emotional. What brings the healing may cause the pain. Deep wounds must heal from the inside out. Unless the root cause is addressed it festers underneath the surface like a cancer.
Cancer is a threat to our  bodies, while relationships can damage our emotions. How healthy are your relationships? Has time taken its toll?
Over time have you accumulated some warning signs from poor choices that either you or someone else has made? Would it be wise to ask someone else to take a look?
I might be able to help. I've recently started working with a ministry that cares for the emotional pain in our hearts. I'd love to tell you more about it. Just ask.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

to my unborn granddaughter

To: Nora who remains in the womb
From: Nana who remains in the world

From one who has gone before…

Dear Nora,

Beautiful baby girl, you will soon be joining us here in your new world. Our current world.  I know that must sound odd. You probably have so many questions. What is it like? How will I get there? Why do I have to leave what I know for the unknown? Is the next place better? Is it the final place?
Please don’t ever think that Nana is unkind for not answering every question. It is not because I do not love you, but because I do that I answer your questions only in part at this time.

Don’t get me wrong, I could answer your questions with many details. I have words to describe the world you are about to enter. I have lived here for many years and have seen many things. The challenge is how do I describe it to one who has never seen?
So I will answer your questions in part. As one who has gone before, I will try to help you understand what is to come by associating it to what you currently know.

Now you experience our world through the filter of the womb. In your new world you will still hear heartbeats and feel warmth. Voices will still speak and sing to you. You will feel the touch of your father and the encompassing embrace of your mother.
And more.

In our world your ears will hear more clearly. Your skin will register a direct yet tender touch. Light will enable your eyes to focus on many splendid things. And your body will be free to venture and explore.

Do not fear the passing over from your world into ours. The process actually prepares you for what is to come. There are many who love you, anxiously waiting your arrival. Eager to care for you and train you in your new surroundings. Excited to share with you the many sights, sounds, and sensations. It will take a lifetime to explore all the vastness of this place!

Yes, precious one, you must leave your current home in order to experience the next. In so many ways it is better than your current environment. If given the option, would I return to the womb? No. Not after experiencing this world.
Is it your final place? No. There is one other world awaiting you. It has a special name. Heaven. Can I describe it to you? No.

I have not been there. I know in part because God has mentioned it in His book. In this, Nora girl, I am like you. Trusting the One who has gone before. Accepting what little He tells me. Believing that even though I don’t know, One who loves me does. I choose to trust Him to fill in the details when I arrive.
With much love and great anticipation,


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Armor Across the Ages--a writer dressing for battle

I don’t know what to wear! I must have repeated that refrain a dozen times while packing, unpacking, and then repacking for the weekend. Fashion is not my forte and the weather forecast was changing faster than my whims. Finally on the morning of the event, I threw a few mix-n-match sweaters and leggings in my luggage and zipped it. I hoped I hadn’t forgotten any of the essentials. Like underwear.
I was on my way to the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. The writing workshop theme was a Boot Camp. Participants were challenged to advance—not retreat--
to boldly follow the LORD in our individual assignments. It got me thinking about being adequately dressed for battle .

As a literature teacher and avid reader, I love tales from other times. One of my favorites is Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. He dressed for battle in the kind of armor displayed in castles and museums.

I did some research and found some interesting facts about a knight’s protective clothing that I think can be applied to those of us who write.
      • It was designed for warriors.
      • It was tailor-made
      • It came at a cost.
      • It required a support team.
      • It required training.
      • It was restrictive.
Armor was made for warriors. Writing the next chapter or even the next sentence can be a battle. Distractions and doubt are formidable foes.

A knight’s suit was tailor-made. The metal was fitted specifically for that warrior. As writers for God’s kingdom, He calls and equips each of us for our individual assignments.

It comes at a cost. Writing well is hard work and the time required to complete the task seems ever elusive.

 A knight needed others. A warrior submitted to extensive training and putting on that gear was a group activity. Writers are wise to surround themselves with a support team and seek training.

Finally, the gear was both protective and restrictive. It was not designed for running. A hasty retreat was not possible, but a knight could advance as ground was gained. He couldn’t sit down or fall asleep on the job. The only comfortable position was to stand.

As Christian writers we are to put on the full protection of God, purchased by the blood of Christ, custom-made for each of us. Trained and supported, we can stand our ground.
The next time you sit down to write, dress appropriately for the battle, Mighty Warrior!
A final word: Be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11 NLT


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Uphill Journey

"But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill" Psalm 3:3-4 ESV.

I choose to run--not because I want to--because I need to. It's the most time- efficient way I've found to burn calories.
I live in the Piedmont Region of the Carolinas. Rock Hill is my current home, so my course involves inclines.
As I ran up that long hill in my neighborhood for the fourth time, I considered stopping. It was hard. My mantra has always been "three miles or it doesn't count." Recently most of my runs fell short. I wanted this one to count, so I continued.
I set my sights on the summit. The tree-topped hills were beautiful. Tiered to display their array, set against a brilliant blue backdrop, the trees flaunted their flaming foliage. I was tempted to just park myself at the bottom and gaze up at them. However, few calories get burned when I rest on my haunches.
I thought about my current journey with God. It's pretty much uphill these days. I've lived in three different states in three years. In the midst of the moves, I cared for my husband through surgeries and cancer treatments, welcomed children back into my once empty nest, and bid farewell to my earthly father.
Some days I'm tempted to quit.
It occurred to me the same principle of choice applies in my spiritual journey. I can be content to gaze upward, or accept God's invitation to journey with Him. I don't want to settle for gazing at Him. I want to be with Him. I decided to continue to travel this road--even when it's uphill--because He travels with me.
So I stood and started taking steps.

It is during our uphill journeys that our eyes naturally incline toward heaven.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Called to Comfort

 “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 MSG
Autumn is in the air! Even here in the South the heat and humidity are reluctantly retreating. As I anticipate the entrance of an array of fall foliage, I envision evenings around a fire, see myself sporting sweats and sweaters, and contemplate sleeping, snuggled under a downy comforter.

I love how God designs seasons. A season for everything. The previous ushers in the next, encouraging us to leave the old and welcome the new. Summer sun strengthens, while heat and humidity heighten. Then autumn announces its arrival with a soothing sigh.
We all experience seasons. Granted, some are subtle, others outlandish. Yet each season has a purpose. Nature illustrates this through cycles of life, death, rest, and rebirth.  So, also, our seasons of life have purpose. God prepares us for our calling by counseling us in our most challenging seasons.

He calls His people to be comforters. We provide comfort when we share our seasons and show compassion to those experiencing hard times.
SHARE YOUR SEASONS—Authentic Christianity requires us to honestly address the reality of our own lives. Human nature likes to take a highlighter to the deficiency in others while covering our own in correction fluid. Yet a Comforter will cover another with a layer of love to shelter them. Exposing our own seasons of failures and fears creates a safe place for courageous confession, not condemnation.

SHOW COMPASSION TO OTHERS—Vulnerability on our part creates a conduit for compassion. There is no opportunity for self-promotion when we expose our own faults and highlight the compassion our God provides.
So let’s not cower under the comfort God has provided, but be courageous comforters who cover others in love.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Relish the Response

what response do you hunger for?

God extends a personal invitation to each of us to enter into a dialogue with Him. The God who created the universe desires to talk to us. How amazing is that?

He invites you to call on Him. He knows you and listens as you speak. He is eager to respond.

What kind of response are you yearning for today? Are you facing overwhelming circumstances and pray for rescue? Maybe you need His help to relinquish yourself from guilt or release forgiveness on someone else. Is your plea that He will redeem a situation that has caused pain? Reconciliation in a relationship? Perhaps a reminder of who you are or whose you are. A review of His promises? Could it be that you are feeling numb and only He can refresh and bring revival to a weary soul. Do you long for a deeper relationship with Him?
Listen for His voice and follow. He is a God who speaks. Whatever it is that you request, His reply will comfort you.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27