Courage

courage4“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”  – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Costume Party That Wasn’t

I remember the day I dressed up for a party that wasn’t a costume party; on purpose.  It was back in the early years when we lived in Huntington Beach, California.  My husband, Brad, worked at a computer account in downtown LA, and I was a young stay home mom with our first child Jake.

Our neighbors, Jack and Sunny, had invited us to an evening party.  I’m pretty sure it was St. Patty’s day.  “You guys should come.  It’ll be fun.”  We knew it would be.  Jack and Sunny always did things top rate.

We’d planned on going, though we were a little intimidated as the young ones on the block.  Jack was a handsome, successful contractor on his second marriage to a beautiful and bubbly, but intelligent younger woman.  Sunny’s signature was her brightly colored lipstick and laugh.  She laughed a lot but it wasn’t nervous laughter; she was just happy.

They’d befriended us taking us under their wing by helping on occasion with Jake. Sunny would say she wanted her “baby fix”.  They got us out of the apartment and drew us back into the fun of life.

The party promised to be entertaining, though we wouldn’t know anyone beyond Jack and Sunny.  With Brad at my side and Jake on my hip, we’d blend into the crowd nicely.

Unfortunately, Brad’s account had a problem that kept him after hours.  By the time he got home, it was late and he was exhausted.  Socializing was not his cup of tea anyways.  I didn’t feel comfortable going solo and thought it strange to go alone with a baby.  Besides, Jake had finally gotten on to a routine and I didn’t want to disrupt his schedule.

Jake was down for the night and I kept thinking about the party.  I wasn’t tired, but I was bored.  I wanted to get out.  I remembered the old hag mask we’d gotten at a costume shop in Long Beach. It was on sale after Halloween and we thought we’d use it for next year’s neighborhood party.  “Hey Brad, I think I’m gonna go to the party after all.”

“Really?” he’d just changed, checked on Jake sleeping in his crib, and was settling in on the couch.

“Yeh, I just need a few minutes.”

I went into the bedroom and found the old rain coat that had been Brad’s dads.  I donned a pair of knee high hoes and the mask.  I carefully tucked my hair under the hag’s scarf attached to the mask.  I put on a pair of oxford shoes with the knee highs rolled down.  I walked in front of the full length mirror dragging my foot with a hitch in my step.  Yeh, this’ll work.

I emerged out of the bedroom and tried on a crackly old woman voice, “Well hello there young man.  So you’re gonna let this old lady go to a party herself are ya now?”

One eye squinting, the other raised, he turned towards me with a look of question.  In a second he was falling off the couch laughing.  “What are you doing?!”oldhagshoes - Copy

I advanced toward him in a slow shuffle, working my hitch.  “Well now honey, it would appear that I’m a goin to a party now wouldn’t it?”

I wanted to laugh but kept the act up.  “You sure you wanna let this hot thing go it alone?”   I cocked my head and poked his side.

He laughed.  “Oh my…  You’re really gonna go?  Like that?”

“Why yes I am sonny boy.”  I was having fun now.  Yeh, I’m doing this.

“Don’t pucker up just yet.  You can kiss me all you want when I get home.”

I lifted the rain coat revealing a knee.  Loosing the crackly voice, “I’ll even take off  the coat.”

I limped the short walk around the block to Jack and Sunny’s practicing my little hitch.

You could hear music and laughter a few houses before there house.  I stepped up 3 steps to the door; butterflies rose in my stomach.

What am I doing?!”  I rang the doorbell.  “No turning back now”.

A man 12 years my senior opened the door with a drink in his hand.  “Hello?”

He sobered quickly, “Oh h-e-(double hockey sticks).  What have we here?”

My thoughts spit fired; “Okay, sister, game on.  You better kick it in gear or you’re really gonna look like a fool.”

Thru my nerves, excitement flickered.

Continuing in my best crackly voice, “HeLO there young man,”  “I hear there’s a PARty going on here.  Yaah mind if I come in?”

He was laughing, “Uh, yeh. Okay.  WHO ARE YOU?”

“Well w-o-u-l-d-n’t you like to know now sonny?”  Did I really just say that?  Sonny?

Sunny!  Where was Sunny?   I’m sure I offered a made up name, but I don’t remember what it was.

I don’t remember the “young” —older man’s name, but we’ll call him Mark.

Realizing I’d better qualify myself before someone called the police, I patted his arm (in retrospect, no one at that party would have called the police).

“Mark, would you be so kind to EScort an old woman to the owners of this fine house?”  “I want Jack and Sunny to know I’m here.”  What are they gonna think? 

I moved slow, exaggerating my movements to amplify affect.  The house was full.  The crowd was loud and lively.  IMusic played in the background.

We stopped a couple times as we made our way to the back patio where Jack and Sunny mingled.  Mark introduced me to his friends.  I was quick witted, surprising myself more than any one.

Once we found Jack and Sunny, they rolled with the masquerade as if they’d expected an old hag.  Jack gently took my arm and introduced me to his adult son and offered me a drink.

“Oh Jack, you know I gave up on the drinkin years ago.”  “Don’t be tempting me now.  That’s just not good manners.”

Jack leaned down, whispering to my checkered scarf “Linda?”  Linda was a neighbor 2 blocks the other direction.

I was beginning to wonder who I was as well.  “No dear, I’ll tell ya tomorrow.”  I whispered back thru the rubbery mask.  It was getting sweaty now.

“I best be getting on home.  I need all the beauty sleep I can get now-a-days don’t ya think?”

I squeezed Jack’s arm and faced Sunny. “Bye dearie, great party” she smiled but was obviously still trying to figure out who I was.

Jack asked if I needed help getting home.  “Oh I live very close.  Won’t take me long, and no one’s gonna mess with a little old lady now, will they?”

I could have gone thru the garden and garage that faced our own; above which lay our apartment.  Instead, I went to the front sidewalk, maintaining my disguise until I made it back to the alley.

Entering the alley, I removed the mask and lost my limp.  It was only five houses to the steps of our 2nd floor apartment.  I couldn’t wait to tell Brad.  Laughing, I took the steps two at a time.  I did it! 

Jack and Sunny were tickled the next day when I placed Jake in Sunny’s arms and said, “He’s getting heavy now isn’t he dearie?” in my old woman voice.

Sunny laughed, “It was YOU!”  Jack winked.  We went to several more parties, but never did see the old woman again.

Looking back I’m still surprised I actually did that.  Brad was as stumped as I.  I remember feeling free as I hide beneath the costume.  I was accepted as bold and funny by the men, and a non-threat to the women.

We had that mask for years.  In fact, I’m pretty sure Jake used it in junior high.   I wish we still had it.  I’m sure I could have fun at another party.   If an old hag shows up to your party –just roll with it!

 

More Like David

I want to be more like King David of the old testament.  Known as the man after God’s own heart, David kept God at the center of his vision in everything he did.  He was a man more concerned with his relationship to God then any post he held.  Because David knew God, he confidently welcomed the future.  As I look to the second half of my life, that’s exactly how I aim to approach each day; I want to know God more than anything else I know.

How does that play out in the practical?  I believe it’s time and focus spent on God.  We see that demonstrated in the life of David.

David honored God above the threat of man as he faced off with Goliath.  He trusted God when he was chased in the desert by Saul.  David only went where the Lord led him, when He led him.  One can only be led by hearing the one they follow.  David knew he was in God’s care because he spent time waiting on God and listening for direction from Him.

For us that could mean maintaining our beliefs, not compromising to be “politically correct” appeasing others.  Are we courageous enough to stand firm in the face of defiance against God on foundational issues?  Do we spend time alone with Jesus, listening or do we rely on getting the word second hand from others who hear from God?

We see that David pursued God, writing songs of Him in his lonely hours of exile.  He respected the ways of God and the timing of God; resting with God in the desert.

We all have times of trials and hardships.  How do we respond in the midst of these challenges?  Are we turning to God seeking His will, His wisdom, His peace?  Are we thanking Him for LIFE and goodness in the midst of the trials?  Like David, are we looking past our discomfort for ways to honor Him in our desert experiences?

As years passed and battles continued, David didn’t loose sight; he didn’t give up.  David kept his eyes fixed on God, turning to him again and again.  Though our battles drag on, sometimes for years -even decades, do we press on faithfully following God with unconditional adoration? psalm 9.10 2

When the time came to celebrate, it was the Lord who David danced wildly unto, not the jeers of man. His own wife mocked him.  What about us?  Are we so taken with God that we’re more mindful of Him than we are of what others think of us?

Even in his time of shame and failure with Bathsheba, it was God whom David sought.  We all mess up.  When we do, does it drive us to our knees seeking God more; accepting just consequences?

At the end of his reign, David was still more concerned with his relationship to God than any other person or even the kingdom he’d ruled.  His vision remained fixed on God with a perspective that the greater Kingdom was yet to be revealed.

What drives us?  If you summarized your life in a couple sentences what would your life be about?  Would it have an eternal value with Kingdom purpose?

God is the main point.  God seeks us.  He is purposed to have relationships with us.  It began in the garden and was completed at the cross.  Our lives are HIS STORY continuing.

To know God is to keep Him at the center of our vision -our lives.  Like David we can know God and proceed with confidence.  God is the very purpose for your presence!!

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.  Psalm 9:10

Step into Your Dream

Are you a risk taker?  Do you like to venture out without a plan or agenda?

Not me.  I like security.  I want to know what the plan is.  Even as a runner, I want to know what route to take, how far I will be going and what the conditions are.

I’ve found that where plans are concerned, God has a sense of humor.

A year ago during a time of earnestly seeking Him for direction of my future I had a vivid dream.  It was about my church and my relationship to it.  Our church is a huge part of our family’s life.  It was deeply personal, so I wrote it down.

The dream stirred in me an expectation that something new and fresh was awaiting.  I have revisited the dream many times over the last year.  A year later, almost to the day, I was telling the dream to a friend when it hit me that I had missed one very obvious point.  In fact, I’d missed the main point of the dream.

First, a little about me and my people -our church:

I LOVE our church. It has been our family for the past 18 years.  It’s the people we do life with.    This is our home and our people.  It’s where we have grown as individuals.

It’s also where I happen to “work”.  I love the people I work with.  My role on staff has caused me grow in knowledge, understanding and care for others. I could not have asked for a better opportunity than I have lived the last 2 decades.

So… the dream.

I was in the company of my people.  Many good, Godly things were happening.  For some unexplainable reason I was compelled to leave.  I was perplexed.  Why leave?  These are my people, great things were happening.

I began to suffocate as I delayed.    It didn’t make sense.  I resisted, not knowing why or where I was to go.

Finally, out of desperation, I surrendered and stepped out.  At once, my lungs filled with fresh air.  I looked around me, and my vision sharpened.  I saw things in color. I realized I hadn’t seen color in a while.  Everything around me was fresh and new.  There were things I had lost sight of.   I understood it was not about the place itself, but I myself had come to a state of familiarity and ambiguity.

Then, immediately beside me, I found a carpet like apparatus floating inches about the ground.  Something like an Aladdin carpet (for lack of better wording, I’ll refer to it as the wing of faith).  Curious, I stepped onto the wing. It was a strange sensation, but so exciting!  Right way, I found that anywhere I set my vision, I went. I set out for the ocean, ready to explore the places I longed to go.  com.tinilab.afterphotowatchyourstep - Copy

Freedom.  Mobility.  Adventure.  I was no longer stagnant.

However, I realized that I needed to use caution where I set my sights, for I soon encountered dangerous places and people.  Not acknowledging the inner caution, I stepped off the wing onto the shore to feel the water on the sand.  I didn’t heed the signs.  Darkness came quickly with a stifling stillness.

Without warning, the tide quickly pulled me down and out.  I flung about gasping for air, no match for the great pull of the sea.  I’d lost sight of all but the dark water swallowing me.  In desperation, and on the verge of drowning, I let out a wordless cry.  The silent wing was at once there extracting me out.  I set my feet once again on the safety of faith.

Seeking wisdom, I returned to the point at which I first set out.

Upon returning, I found my husband, who was ready to set out as well.  Momentarily tempted to go back into the comfortable place; we resisted.  We understood we had entered a season of journey.  Direction was revealed outside -in the light of clarity.

We united, committing ourselves to the journey.  We spent a short time becoming familiar with this “faith”.  At this point, faith took on a different form.  We each had a packet.  Later, I recognized it to be the word of God.

Holding on to our packets, we could hold nothing else.

We set out, this time soaring far above the comfort of the land.  No longer could I step off and walk on my own.  As we continued upward it was increasingly more difficult to maintain our vision of where we thought we ought to go.

It was as if the packets were the driving force, directing our course. Despite all our unanswered questions, there was absolute peace and fantastic joy, freedom and mobility.  We knew we were on the correct path.  High above the land we continued, tightly holding on to the Word nestled at our chests.  We were swept into the jet stream.  It was then I understood; this was about the journey far more than the destination.

A loud beeping interrupted this amazing journey.  My alarm.  No! I willed myself back into the dream, to no avail.

I would like to say the dream ended with a disclosure of where we were to go, or even why.  For a whole year, I have done nothing.

I revisited the dream numerous times over the last year. In a year of many changes, reflecting on the dream brought me comfort.

One night I was telling a friend about the dream.  When I finished, my friend Vickie tilted her head, raised her eyebrows pleasantly, and matter-of-factly asked, “Oh.  So you mean you didn’t know what to do or where to go until you stepped out, huh?”.

In that instant, it was as if the entire dream crystalized within me.

Faith invites you to step out from the gray fog of familiarity and ambiguity before you can see clearly and proceed on the journey of faith.  Only after you take that first step do you gain clarity and direction to take further steps.  You must take initial steps to gain vision.  Faith is the vehicle by which you otherwise cannot go.

Even as I write, it sounds risky to step out unto unfamiliar territory.  I want a plan.  A specific place to go to; a role to fulfill, a means to get there.  Or …I can choose to trust in God and recognize that to date; every place He has led me, I would not have gone on my own left to my own logic and reasoning.

Planning and preparation are good, but sometimes we are called to step outside of all that we have known to embrace that which we are called to.  A good season must end before a better one begins.

In due season, you just know that it’s time, and it’s right.  For me, the time is now, and to hesitate is to suffocate and miss the invitation to the journey by faith thru surrender and obedience.

I am being stretched.   It’s one thing to experience this these truths in a dream, but quite another to walk in out.

Abraham was called from a land that he and his family had prospered in to an unknown land by an unnamed God whom he couldn’t see or audibly hear.  On the journey, they settled for a season in Haran, a place of abundance where He prospered greatly.  Surely he was tempted to remain in that good place.

By faith he picked up his family and pursued God’s call to further follow Him to the place he did not know that God would show him.

What about you?  In what ways are you taking steps of faith?  Have you become stagnant like me?  Are you hungry enough to take a bold step?  What does that look like for you?

What was the last thing God put on your heart to do, and have you done it?  Is there a business or ministry you are called to serve in or even start?  Do you have a skill or talent that is not being utilized? Have you withheld forgiveness?  Maybe there’s someone you know, whom you need to reach out too.

Be bold!  The Word says, “and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

Don’t get stuck in safety and comfort. Go explore something new.  Nothing ventured truly is nothing gained.  Do something todayAnything, just do something.

Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear what God is stirring in you!!

Attitudes and Impact

The other day an intern asked if I could talk to the lady waiting in the reception area.  “She needs to talk to someone about gas money.”  I was short on time, in the middle of a project.  This was not convenient.

Frequently, we have people come in asking for money.  We often see the same people come back with the same story, “My sister cousin’s sick and I don’t have enough money to get to Houston.”  They don’t come back except to ask for the same thing, repeating the same story.  It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.

Her name was Betty.  She smiled gently as I entered the room.chipped paint - Copy

The sight of her took my breath away.  She must have been in her late 70’s.  A tiny thing, she couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds.  She was at least a foot shorter than me, but it was difficult to gauge her true height -her back was so severely hunched.  With her long, stick like limbs she resembled a spider walking upright on two legs, except for her curly white hair.

I asked if she’d like some water.  “Oh no dear, I’m fine thanks.”  She wore a simple flowered shirt and polyester pants; outdated and well worn, but clean nonetheless. I touched her arm in a gesture of kindness as I sat near her.  I almost gasped, she was so frail.

Betty’s mouth was sunken in. Most of her teeth were missing, save for one lonesome tooth sticking out over her lip.

There remained a trace of beauty in her deep blue crystal eyes all but hidden beneath layers of leathery wrinkles.  Surprisingly, her eyes danced happily as I spoke with her.  Fragile and tiny in frame, she was lively and had a sense of humor.

I listened to Betty.  She was easy going and confident though humble.  Usually the teller will speak of hardship focusing on their woe.  Always, it ends with, “All I need is money for gas to get to —–.”

Betty, went on about how her momma and daddy raised her in church and how they’d loved her well.  She told me how good her life was and how happy she was.  Her face lit up as she spoke of Jesus.

In the end, she still was in need.  I went to my office to get a gas card thinking, “Wow, she’s really going to use it for gas.”  Betty was legit.

Of all times, this was the exception that we were out.  I returned, “Betty I’m so sorry.  We don’t have anything”.   We usually have $20 in petty cash, but even that was empty.

She looked at me, raised her eyebrows beneath worn rimmed glasses, and granted me a big smile, “Oh honey, that’s okay.  It was good just to talk.”

I walked her to the door and remembered I had cash for my daughter’s class project.  “Wait!”

Betty was so thankful for that $16.  She tucked the cash in a little hand bag with fingers misshaped I would guess from arthritis.

We prayed together thanking Jesus for “being so good to us.”  With a squeeze of my hand and a wave with her gnarly hand she left.

Her gratefulness made a lasting impression on me.

Whether you realize it or not, you are impacting others around you.  What kind of impact to do you have?  Is it positive?

Do you have something to give?  Wisdom to share?  Kindness to extend?  A smile for a stranger?  A helping hand to a friend in need?  A simple thank you.

It doesn’t take much to make a lasting impact, if your eyes are fixed on Jesus.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.  -Winston Churchill