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Full Circle

It was our last day in Ireland.  We would be spending most of it driving back to Dublin, where we were planning to stay with the same friends that we met for the first time when we arrived.  We had a lot of things to talk about and savor, and since we are both big into nature, we usually ended up on subjects involving trees, horses, and birds.  Three of our favorite topics.  The long chats were marked by pockets of silence when we were both lost in our own thoughts and worlds.

We made one stop along the way, at a castle ruins called The Rock of Cashel.  The ruins are one of the things I love about Ireland, or any country that has enough history to have ruins.  In Ireland, however, there is something magical about them.  When I am in a ruins there is something mysterious that happens to time.  The stark contrast between time that has stopped and time that is still moving causes me to feel the force of it more strongly, and I am gripped with fascination about the story.  I could spend a lot of time in old ruins and abandoned buildings.

And I got my wish at the Rock of Cashel, thanks to an eternally clueless tourist.  Joanna was trying to get a picture of a view across the vestibule and this tourist planted himself at other end and simply would not budge.  I looked in from time to time and she was still crouched at her end, waiting, while Mr. Tourist stood there and looked touristy.  I never did figure out what he was actually doing, other than disrupting a perfectly good picture.  I offered to throw rocks at him, but Joanna wouldn’t let me.

Our plan was to arrive at the house around dinner time, knowing that no-one would be there to greet us.  They had given us a set of keys before we left, so apparently we did a good job of convincing our new friends that we were the harmless kinds of nuts.

I would be flying out early the next morning, but Joanna decided to stay a few more days and take a ferry over to the Isle of Man.  Her ferry was going to leave late that night.

We arrived well at the house and even found the little driveway on the first try.  I had only been there a couple of days in the beginning, mostly in a sleep deprived stupor, but it still felt like coming home.  We did a little shopping for some grub for dinner and then settled in for a few hours until we needed to leave for the docks.

We left the house around 10:30 PM.  Not the best hour for the two of us to be driving around downtown Dublin, but we found the docks with minimal fuss.  Once we got there, I decided I would rather have downtown Dublin.  The docks may have been perfectly innocent during the day, but they were rather ominous at night.  Too many looming ships and stacks of containers and shadowy places for thugs to hide.  Was I going to leave Joanna there all by herself?  I don’t think so!  Well, she wasn’t very impressed by my concerns so we kept driving to the terminal for her ferry.

I was vastly relieved to see that at her ferry line there was a nice lighted terminal and waiting room with other passengers and vending machines.  There is something comforting about vending machines.  So, I pulled into the drop-off area and we said our goodbyes.  It was the end of our travels together.  We had done it.  We two nuts had not only survived the trip, we developed a friendship and had many rich experiences along the way.

God had given so much on this trip.  It was not always where I expected and definitely not always what I expected.  But encounter Him we did – richly, deeply, overwhelmingly so.  This Mercy was about as overloaded as any one person can be.

I drove back to the house – successfully and in one piece, I might add!  One last night in Dublin.  I was ending where we began.  We came full circle.  Nothing could have been more fitting for an adventure in Ireland.

And so is the end … of this blog … and the beginning of all that lies beyond!

 

 

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To See or Not to See

There were many nights where I would run in a panic upstairs to sleep on the couch in the living room.  I had another nightmare or was startled awake by audible voices.  I was known by my family for being very sensitive and imaginative.  It didn’t take much to scare me.  And those nights running up the two flights of stairs to the living room were especially scary because I was sure something was following me.

Neither my parents nor I knew what to do with my experiences.  We didn’t know anything about defilement on land or how to deal with critters or any of the many things that we now understand about the spiritual realm.  So, I opted for an alternative solution, which was to turn off the sensitivity as much as I could.

Things did settle down for me quite a bit, though it took many more years before we did enough spiritual work to put an end to the nightmares.  But I did an excellent job (unfortunately) of disconnecting the nighttime experiences from the rest of my life.  I willingly embraced the idea that I didn’t really have that kind of discernment and so I didn’t see or hear things.

Yet, as I continued to grow in my spiritual journey, I felt more and more the sense that something wasn’t right.  The desire to see the spiritual realm started to grow.  My spirit knew I was made for it, and all my attempts to shut it down couldn’t completely silence the voice.  I carried that longing and sense of “I am supposed to be able to do this” for a couple of years until recently when I listened to the teaching by Arthur Burk called Developing Discernment.

The teaching gives a framework for different kinds of discernment and throughout the presentation Arthur validates those who operate in any of the five areas.  What stood out to me the most were the practical tools he shared for developing discernment in your everyday life.  It was at this point that I realized that now was the time to redeem and unpack this part of my design.

So, I went for it … with some amount of trepidation!  But one of the things that has been special in my relationship with God in this process is the building of trust.  I began with an act of my will to acknowledge that His design was good, and now I am beginning to believe it with my heart.

The tools work.  Over the last few months, my discernment has sharpened considerably.  I have been practicing discernment in a variety of ways and I am seeing and sensing things again.  I am building confidence that the gift does exist and it is not something to be afraid of.  One really fun point is that God is unpacking a particular niche of discernment that parallels a major part of my design.  And there is more peace in my spirit because I am not fighting a part of who God made me to be.

And frankly, I don’t know exactly where this road will lead!  I am the kind of person who has one foot in this world and the other across the threshold in another world.  I have a feeling that I am only scratching the surface so far.  But I am ON the journey now instead of refusing to take that bend in the road, and I know that God knows His business.

I wanted to share this story for anyone else who has had a negative experience with the gift of discernment.  For me, it has been a process of first accepting the good of what God has made and then actively pursuing the development.   The material presented in the album on discernment was a huge boost forward.  Arthur helped me see the value to the Kingdom and gave me a path to walk on to unpack it.

If you have not listened to the album before, I highly recommend it.  You can find it on the Sapphire Leadership Group website as a CD album or audio download.

Be free to be you!

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A God I Don’t Understand

Each of us has different areas of God’s nature that we connect with deeply.  Whether it is from our experiential walk or some pre-programming in our spirits, we resonate to that facet of Who He is.  The other day I had a conversation with a friend where I saw one of those areas clearly.

The topic of conversation was grief and suffering in our lives.  My friend made a comment about how can people survive in a world without God.  I agreed that it was a nightmarish proposition, but for me, it went beyond the comfort, hope, and strength He brings to our lives.  I simply can’t imagine, or perhaps, don’t want to imagine, a world where I am the biggest mind that exists.

I don’t understand God and I know I never will.  And somehow,  that is a huge source of joy and stability.  It is not intimidating to me, it is liberating.  The universe is far too complex and mysterious for my mind to grasp.  Why on earth would I want to grasp the God who made it?  That seems absolutely backwards and upside down; a cosmic proposition that is precarious to the max.

Still more horrifying is an incomprehensible universe with no God at all.  It feels like it would be the worst prison any spirit has ever known.  How many things about life must you deny and ignore?  How small must you shrink your mind?  Trapped inside of a world that has turned in on itself until you can only see your own reflection.  There is no freedom to revel in the awe of unexplainable and mysterious things.  They are dangerous.  They beg an explanation and explanations threaten to let the light shine on the prison walls.  What grieves me so deeply is that many people who have embraced this world view are deceived into thinking they are free.

I worship the God that is too big for me to understand.  It is one of the things I love the most about Him.  It is comforting to know He is in control, but even more so, to know that He is bigger than everything I can see.  That means I have the freedom to expand as big as I possibly can go in pondering the mysteries and I will never, ever, ever, find the end.

My friend and I began by discussing the grief and suffering in life.  And it is, indeed, pain and fear that usually cause us to reduce God or reject Him entirely.  But at the end of the day, would it not be better to accept that we are too small to understand than to have an understandable God, or worse yet, no God, in a world that doesn’t make sense?

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Be Nice to My Baby!

Anyone who has submitted a creative work for critique can understand the emotional tug of war.  You have this precious creation you’ve poured yourself into.  Probably has some expressions of you that people don’t normally see.  Vulnerable.  It is your own creative flair.  A very personal thing.  And then comes the time when you hand your precious Mini-You over to someone to tell you what they like … or dislike about it.

You do it on purpose, believe it or not!  You know you’ve gotten too deep into it and a fresh perspective could inspire you to something great.  You need to hear how an idea lands on other ears, what you missed, where the holes are and which word you used 300 times too many.  You know you want to hear that stuff.  Sort of.

But how fickle we creative types are!  If someone comes back with TOO good of a report, we are immediately suspicious.  We look at them out of the corner of our eyes, not really believing that they liked it that much.  Surely there must be something wrong.  Did you actually READ it?

Thankfully, there are longsuffering friends and family, and heck, even strangers who are willing to put up with the bipolar nature of the creative mind, ignore our funny looks or groans of agony and tell us exactly what works and what doesn’t.  The Lord bless and prosper their tribe.

I am grateful to say that I have access to some members of this editorial tribe (otherwise known as people who are willing to share their opinion) and have embarked on the critiquing process for my book.  So far I have received some good input – particularly one idea that I had not even considered.  Right now it is in the hands of the next round of critiquers, one of whom has some professional editing experience.  That was a God thing!  I did not know it originally and God set it all up.  I am so grateful.  So far nobody has said that my book is “nice”.  That is encouraging.

What is also exciting about this stage in the process is that it means the manuscript is complete … well, loosely speaking.  I suspect there will be some more additions and subtractions before it goes to press.  But it is a big milestone to be this far in the process.

There is one person of the editorial tribe who will see the book next who has already told me what they will be looking for.  That could be the Week of Chocolate.  Lots and lots and lots of chocolate.

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Things to Give

There are those moments in life when something you know in your head sinks down into your heart and lands with a “whump!” that reverberates throughout your whole being.  What you knew to be true, or what you repeated to yourself over and over again is suddenly something you can feel.  Many times these transitions sneak up on you, quiet, like the still small voice of God.  That’s how it was for me the other day.

My framework for life has been to respond to needs and desires.  So, you tell me what it is you need from me, and I will do my best to achieve it.  In more recent years I have come to see that there are design pieces wired in there and I do try to function in those areas.  But even so, I wait for a request.  The impetus comes from outside of me.  In my head I know that God made me with a specific set of gifts and I am to live according to that design, not to need.  That was all fine and good, but in my emotional view of life, it all still hinged on people outside of me.

Well, the pot has been boiling lately, thanks to a recent album release from Sapphire.  The teaching is called “Office of Personhood” and it is a gem.  This teaching addresses the issue of emotionally embracing that you are a Person, not just an entity that accomplishes things.  In Arthur’s words, a commodity.  Like a bar of soap.  Or a garden hose.

So, I have all these ideas stewing in my cooker, and something bubbled to the surface that I didn’t quite expect.  I went to the car wash the other day and stopped to vacuum all of Philip’s mess out of my back seat.  In the slot next to me was a Dad and his young daughter working on their SUV.  I caught the eye of the daughter a couple of times and smiled at her.  I started wondering what her life might be like, if she had good parents, what kinds of ideas were forming in her mind, and that sort of thing.  Then something strange began to happen.  I started thinking about what I could give her.  What do I have as an adult Christian woman?  What questions burning in her mind could I answer?  How could I give her a role model of what womanhood could be like?  What kind of fragrance could she pick up being around me?

WHOA, NELLY.

What on earth?  Nobody had asked me for anything.  She certainly wasn’t!  Now, maybe her spirit was.  I can’t deny the possibility.  But not a single word passed between us and she was more shy about my smiling at her than anything.  And here I was, all eager to give her gifts she hadn’t even dreamed of wanting.

Then came that little voice, slipping a crazy new thought into my head.  It was deceptively simple.  “I have things to give.”

Wait.  I have things to give.  Ok.  This is going deep, way deeper than it should for a sentence that seems to bear little difference to the concept I already had.  If I didn’t have something to give, then no-one would want anything, right?

Oh, but the difference is monumental.  Not only was a shift from head to heart, it was a massive emotional paradigm shift.  The impetus was no longer someone else.  It was me.  Intrinsically, in my essence, at my core, in all of my life’s experiences, I HAVE THINGS TO GIVE.

In the past, I waited for a request.  But it was even worse than that.  It also meant that I was continually trying to synchronize to the outside world of needs and wants.  Not that I tried to satisfy everything that came my way, but let me tell you, it is tiring to look outside first instead of inside first.  And it is awfully hard to maintain a stable sense of legitimacy in that context.  Like trying to tap dance in an earthquake.

It doesn’t matter if anyone needs what I have to give.  It doesn’t matter if they know about it or even want it.  It is wonderful to pair up need with design, but the status of the need doesn’t determine the status of the design.  That was the huge shift for me.  If I was stranded on a slab of volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean without even a shrub to sing to, I would still have things to give.

I know the shift is something that God has been building behind my back.   The teaching on personhood got the circuits crackling with more thoughts of freedom to enjoy being who God made me to be.  Now I can enjoy giving what He made me to give, in any size context He arranges.

At the end of the day, this has let off a geyser of joy in my spirit.  There is still lots to learn and develop in terms of the “how to”, but fundamentally, I now feel the truth of living out of design.  I think there is something of the joy of God that we can partake of here.  He gave massively out of His own essence to create a universe.  Nobody needed it.  There was nobody there TO need it!  He did it because He had things to give and it was His nature to give them.

So, I share this for all of you who are on this journey too.  Is your framework like mine was?  If you look at the “why” behind living out your design, is it because of what is in you or because of what people need?  Do you know this in your head or your heart too?  Do you have joy because you know you have something to give?

May you be blessed on the road of discovery and truth.  You, too, have things to give!

 

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Bungee Cords

When I was growing up, there was always a bungee cord or two somewhere near by.  My Dad kept a supply of them in his shop – some of them regularly used and some of them on standby.  We always had a handful in the car.  You never knew when you might need one.  They were like duct tape.  Almost as versatile as your imagination.

In more recent years, I have seen them put to far broader use than I could have thought of as a kid.  Like jumping off of bridges.  Or old water towers.  Or other crazy things that people do when they have an empty space in their brain where their good sense ought to be.  But the one that interests me the most is actually a spiritual bungee cord.  It is invisible to the naked eye, but let me tell you that the hook and the “boing!” are really there!

This is how it works.

Somewhere in your past you went through a painful event.  At the time you didn’t have a big enough frame for what went wrong, so you made a judgment or an inner vow or two about what was or wasn’t going to happen in the future.  This is especially an issue when the judgment is against God.  Somehow or another He didn’t do what He was supposed to do, therefore, you are going to step in and do the job for Him next time.  Pretty cheeky when you look at it like that, but it’s exactly what we do.  Sometimes we don’t even realize just how cheeky we’ve been.  It can be a knee jerk reaction to say, “well, I will NEVER put myself in that kind of situation again” (God, you aren’t trustworthy in this kind of scenario) or “I WILL do this or that to prevent this from happening ever again” (God, you can’t take care of me so I will take care of myself).  On the list goes.

Well, the judgments come with a price tag.  Sometimes God will let us get away with the new path we are determined to cut, but what we don’t realize is that the judgment acts just like a bungee cord.  Those hooks go into our back and the cord starts to stretch.  We might get a ways down the road and it will seem fine.  But sooner or later, we will run into a situation similar to the original event and “boing!” we are right back in the old emotions again.

You see, most of us want to heal and grow.  Right?  I am going to assume that is one of your goals in life.  So, after you emerge from your original painful event and patch up the pieces of you that are left, you try to get on with life.  You even heal up the wounds.  You think that you have gotten on down the road pretty well.  But then …

BOING!

You are in a situation where you think you should respond differently, and you can’t.  All you feel is the old emotions boiling to the top again.  Hadn’t you gotten past all of that?  Didn’t you spend hours and hours of inner healing to drop that baggage off at the dump?

Just recently I had this exact experience.  Probably the most uncanny version of this spiritual dynamic I have experienced yet.  Felt like I was time traveling, but not the fun kind.  Several years ago I had a “crash and burn” that left me pretty trashed for a while.  I was so determined not to have that happen again that I made inner vows in my sleep.  Well, it has become apparent in recent weeks that there was a treasure that got slimed in the midst of that season.  I have been making intentional strides towards unpacking that treasure.  And guess what comes gurgling up from the sewer?  Yeah.

Fear.  Dread.  Loneliness.  Depression.  Fear of loneliness and depression.  Anxiety.  Instability.  Did I mention fear?

It was like I was right back there again.

And trust me, I have done a LOT of inner healing.  A bit of deliverance too.

It took me a little while to figure out what was going on because the emotions felt so close and in the present.  But eventually – by the grace of God – I realized I had felt this way before.

In all of the work I had done to clean up the mess, I had not dealt specifically with judgments against God for what had happened.  Those judgments were the bungee cords that kept me stuck in the past.  My emotions could not advance to meet my present level of growth and that’s why I was feeling so much of what I felt then.

Bungee cords are great in the shop and for holding down the tarp on your car.  And hey, if you want to jump off an old water tower, be my guest.  But they are not so nice when they keep you stuck in the past when God wants you to walk boldly into the future.  If you’ve got a couple of them hooked in your back, why don’t you drop them off at the dump with the baggage.

 

There is a full teaching on this topic called “Trauma Bonds to Time”.  It is available on the Sapphire website at http://www.TheSLG.com.  It is an excellent teaching and I highly recommend it!

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Sometime towards the end of last year I hit a wall with the book I have been writing on our relationship to time.  A good friend of mine told me that I needed to walk away from the manuscript for a while.  Probably saved the book’s life.  Even though I knew it was needed and I welcomed the chance to recharge my “I like writing this book” batteries, it was a hard transition.  I had wound myself up pretty tight with my goals and to set it aside completely felt like a big let down.

Enter Philip.

Philip is a parrot.  A Congo African Grey parrot, to be exact.  I met him the first time when he was only a few weeks old.  He had just been brought to the pet store from the breeder and was a shivering bundle of nerves.  I wasn’t much better, but my shivering was from excitement, not fear.  This was the moment I had been waiting months for – well, actually years.  Owning an African Grey parrot has been a dream for a long time.  The months of waiting were for the next baby to be available at that pet store.  And here I was, holding my dream in my hands.

For the next two months I literally haunted the pet store.  I was there nearly every weekday after work for an hour and more on the weekends.  He was still being hand fed, so he had to stay in the nursery.  philipIn the early weeks he was such a cuddle bug.  They’d give him his evening feeding and then he’d stagger over to me, nuzzle into my neck and fall into a food induced coma.  As he grew, he stayed alert longer and longer and then began the fun of learning what he liked to eat and chew on … other than my fingers.  We still have a little heart to heart about that from time to time.

Then he came home!  What a weekend that was.  I don’t have kids, and I know that children are in a league of their own.  But maybe I had some small taste of what it will be like someday.  The first night was awful.  I don’t think either of us slept.  He may have slept more if I hadn’t been checking on him every five minutes.  I tell you what, maternal love does some weird things to you.  I suspect he navigated those first couple of weeks a whole lot better than I did.  If he could have talked, I imagine I may have heard something like, “MOM!  I sneezed.  That’s it.  I’m not dying.  You didn’t poison me.  I haven’t been eating carpet.  I had a fluff in my nose and it tickled.  Will you chill out, PLEASE?”

And then there were (and are) the triumphant learning moments that sometimes have a bittersweet flavor to them.  I bought him a ladder that sits on the side of his cage so that he can tromp up and down from the ground to his heart’s content.  It’s good exercise and it is a way for him to get himself back up to his cage.  The first few times he flew off (generally when something scares him), he came right to me and I picked him up.  But then I started training him to go to the ladder.  First I put him on it, and he climbed the rest of the way up.  Then I put him on the ground next to it.  Then I stood by it so he would come over.  Now, he doesn’t even look at me.  He goes straight to his ladder.  YAY!  But wait.  He doesn’t need me anymore!  The triumph of a good parent.  That is the point.  But the first experience of that independence kinda stings a little too …

So, he and I are bumbling our way along, just like any first-time parent and bird.  I think I am doing more of the bumbling than he is, since he is pretty willing to just be himself.  I am the one with the neurotic mommyness, legitimacy issues and beginner parenting skills (believe me, parrots need it!  They are like having a 3-year-old.).  And I think that God revealed His wisdom in causing this to be the time for the dream to begin.  I HAVE an African Grey now, after all these years, but it is not like getting an expensive piece of jewelry or the dream home or vacation.  It is an ongoing, developing relationship.  God has already been busy healing, growing, and unpacking things inside of me.  Things that add color and depth to my spirit and soul.  Things that will do the same for my book.

And I am writing again.

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