Tag Archives: Storms of life

Calico’s Corner III

Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important.  They don’t mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them – TS Eliot

Psalm 37 tells us: Never envy the wicked!  2 Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. 3 Trust in the Lord instead.  Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety.  4 Be delighted with the Lord.  Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.  5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.  Trust him to help you do it, and he will.  6 Your innocence will be clear to everyone.  He will vindicate you with the blazing light of justice shining down as from the noonday sun.  7 Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for him to act.  Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper.  8 Stop your anger! Turn off your wrath.  Don’t fret and worry—it only leads to harm. 9 For the wicked shall be destroyed, but those who trust the Lord shall be given every blessing.  10 Only a little while and the wicked shall disappear.  You will look for them in vain.  11 But all who humble themselves before the Lord shall be given every blessing and shall have wonderful peace.  12-13 The Lord is laughing at those who plot against the godly, for he knows their judgment day is coming.  14 Evil men take aim to slay the poor; they are ready to butcher those who do right.  15 But their swords will be plunged into their own hearts, and all their weapons will be broken.  16 It is better to have little and be godly than to own an evil man’s wealth; 17 for the strength of evil men shall be broken, but the Lord takes care of those he has forgiven.  18 Day by day the Lord observes the good deeds done by godly men, and gives them eternal rewards.  19 He cares for them when times are hard; even in famine, they will have enough.  20 But evil men shall perish.  These enemies of God will wither like grass and disappear like smoke.  21 Evil men borrow and ‘cannot pay it back’!  But the good man returns what he owes with some extra besides.  22 Those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the earth, but those cursed by him shall die.  23 The steps of good men are directed by the Lord.  He delights in each step they take.  24 If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand.  25 I have been young and now I am old.  And in all my years I have never seen the Lord forsake a man who loves him; nor have I seen the children of the godly go hungry.  26 Instead, the godly are able to be generous with their gifts and loans to others, and their children are a blessing.  27 So if you want an eternal home, leave your evil, low-down ways and live good lives.  28 For the Lord loves justice and fairness; he will never abandon his people.  They will be kept safe forever; but all who love wickedness shall perish.  29 The godly shall be firmly planted in the land and live there forever.  30-31 The godly man is a good counselor because he is just and fair and knows right from wrong.  32 Evil men spy on the godly, waiting for an excuse to accuse them and then demanding their death.  33 But the Lord will not let these evil men succeed, nor let the godly be condemned when they are brought before the judge.  34 Don’t be impatient for the Lord to act!  Keep traveling steadily along his pathway and in due season he will honor you with every blessing, and you will see the wicked destroyed.  35-36 I myself have seen it happen: a proud and evil man, towering like a cedar of Lebanon, but when I looked again, he was gone!  I searched but could not find him!  37 But the good man—what a different story!  For the good man—the blameless, the upright, the man of peace—he has a wonderful future ahead of him.  For him there is a happy ending.  38 But evil men shall be destroyed, and their posterity shall be cut off.  39 The Lord saves the godly!  He is their salvation and their refuge when trouble comes.  40 Because they trust in him, he helps them and delivers them from the plots of evil men.

Calico was an Irishman who moved to Italy and found a job in the shipping industry.  He set out in life with good intentions but strictly relied upon himself as the singular source of information to guide his decisions.  As he rose in rank to captain on his ship, his lack of intimacy with the Lord, his inability to be reflective, and his sense of entitlement prevented him from leading in a Godly way.  Over time, his character and his ways led him from rising prominence to a fall into fury, something many of us have seen or experienced.  Calico may have good in him but his hubris is contemptible and offends the very fibers our morals are made of.  “O Lord, deliver me from the man of excellent intention and impure heart: for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” – TS Eliot

His officers too were interesting people, ranging from empty-suited sailors to altruistic mariners.  At last glance, the seamen had successfully mounted a mutiny and subdued the captain.  The ship was five miles from the Italian coast on the Mediterranean.  She had a fire in her engine room and a hole in her hull.  With one functioning life boat that held 48 passengers, the three officers on deck were faced with the critical decision of how to save the remaining 84 sailors on board.

The flares had been set off and the beacons had been activated, but the Silk Utopia continued to toss and turn in the eye of the storm, without even radio recognition of their distress calls.  As the ship rocked nearly parallel to the sea on her port side, the second officer ordered the first officer to drive the life boat to shore with 45 of the sailors, the bound captain, and the third officer standing guard over him.  The second officer made this move because something had to be done immediately, she trusted the first officer to return with the life boat for the remaining sailors and she had faith in the third officer’s ability deliver the captain to the proper authorities unharmed.  The second officer remained aboard the ship with the remaining sailors to fight the fire and bail water.  When the first officer returned, he fished 12 life-jacketed sailors from the sea.  The other 23 sailors and the second officer then made it safely onto the life boat.

My reflection on this story reminded me that in the midst of the storms of life, the waves will bash and thrash about without regard for goodness, fairness, or righteousness.  When we stand under the weight of the problem alone, the pressure can seem crushing.  But prayer is the pressure release valve.  Calling upon The One who makes all things possible is the answer to any outstanding question.  Also:

  1. Our God inhabits every place
  2. He builds us each for a specific purpose in His kingdom
  3. 28 We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. Romans 8
  4. 7 Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you will knock, the door will open. – Matthew 7
  5. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything” – Malcolm X

In What It’s Like, Everlast illustrates the complexities under the squall with, I’ve seen a rich man beg.  I’ve seen a good man sin.  I’ve seen a tough man cry.  I’ve seen a loser win and a sad man grin.  I heard an honest man lie.  I’ve seen the good side of bad and the down side of up, and everything between.  God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes, ’cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues… to have to choose…to have to lose.

As my final thought on these characters, Matthew 6:12-13 says pray like this…12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.  (NLT)

A Road Less Traveled

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; let me walk upon the waters wherever you may call me.”Oceans by Hillsong United

At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to have a quarterly spiritual recharge.  For me, that means taking a weekend every few months to come together with women in His name.  For two days, in an extremely intimate and God-honoring way, we shuck our normal rituals, pray together, love each other, learn the word, and lean into Him.  Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending two days at the Women of Faith conference.

Leading up to the respite, I had traveled half way around the world and back, with only one day off before entering a four-day trial-like hearing that ended only sixteen hours before the start of the conference.  Needless to say, I deeply contemplated giving away my ticket and just going to bed for two days.  However, in an act of obedience, I followed the spirit’s guidance.  He urged me to go because He said there would be something there I desperately needed.  The Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth—Jehovah is his name—says this: Ask me and I will tell you some remarkable secrets about what is going to happen here.  Jeremiah 33:2-3 (TLB)

I walked through the doors emotionally drained, morally bankrupt, severely jet-lagged, and exhausted beyond belief.  The evening was filled with music, spiritual comedy, and hard lessons to swallow.  It didn’t take long before the messages began to penetrate my rugged exterior.  Sheila Walsh started it off with a talk about the storms of life that wash up things that have been buried for a long time.  Things such as shame, guilt, anger, insecurity, disappointment, and un-forgiveness are items that we bury and are sometimes dredged up from the depths during tumultuous times.  Ouch!  What’s that?  Oh yeah, the sting of conviction.  You see, the lightening of a dying relative, the thunder of another dissipating relationship, the gale force wind of extreme travel, the rain of my second adolescence and flood of emotions attached to my emptying nest – has created this large and slow-moving storm in my life.  Recognition that I am in it is the first step to weathering through it though.  The bright side of the experience is that He has given me the strength to make it this far and He will continue to carry me through.  Sheila ended by reminding us to stay the course of faith, one that few follow.  It leads to the foot of the cross; the place where we lay our burdens down and find rest in Him.  She then sang Kim Walker’s song Spirit Break Out.  The chorus, “Spirit break out; break our walls down.  Spirit break out; heaven come down” resonated with me.

Feeling more bound and less free when I left the venue than when I entered it made my soul extremely unsettled.  The tightness constricted the four corners of my being and pushed against the callouses formed as protection around my heart.  The part of me that had been agitated by the snug seating in the arena, the part that was unwilling to be open and engaging with those around me in a loving way, the part that wondered how much I really had in common with the women next to me, and the part that questioned my decision to come at all – began to melt as the application of the salve of the spirit began to penetrate those once hardened areas.  Before I completed the walk across the parking lot to my car, there was a revelation that the real issue is that I was in PAIN.  With all that was going on in my life, instead of stopping the madness and sitting still for a moment to gain balance and perspective, I pressed on as though the distance would annihilate the emotion.  All along, I was feeling the Pressure of precision performance in my job, the Anger of abandonment by another friend, the Insecurity from the uncertainty of what my future holds, and Neglect of my spiritual needs.  With each step, one thing after another was tucked and buried as if I was moving it out of the way to prevent it from impeding my progress.  As a mentor once taught me, “that which you repress comes back to the party in another dress, just at a time and place not of your choosing.”  In that moment, I realized I was in the middle of a grand masquerade ball that I had not planned to attend.

After a few hours of sleep, I woke up and was unable to coax myself back into slumber.  I read a few scriptures and then began working through the issues from the previous evening.  My thoughts cascaded from feelings to spirit to flow to water.  It was then that I realized that my life is a living body much like a river.  You see, a river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river.  In some rare cases a river can flow into the ground and dry up completely at the end of its course, without reaching another body of water.  A river begins at a source and ends at a mouth following a path called a course.  The term upstream refers to the direction towards the source of the river, i.e. against the direction of flow.  Likewise, the term downstream describes the direction towards the mouth of the river in which the current flows.

The river’s water moving along its course is analogous with life and its events that occur on this living journey.  Like the river, life has a beginning and an end.  They both also flow to and with other bodies, pushing the limits of their banks, in pursuit of something bigger that gives them real purpose.  They are driven by the current that moves quickly within them, continuously and forever changing their faces and spaces within the confines of the path in which they flow.

So frequently, we develop methods of dealing with issues that seem to be successful, such as containing them within narrowly scripted margins.  As we mature and flourish, we meet challenges and overcome them by utilizing those seemingly infallible problem-solving ways within those borders.  When they no longer work, we either dry up at the end of our course or rely on the strength of the current that flows within us to swell beyond our banks, pushing us into new territory and extending us past what we thought was possible.

Leading up to the conference, I was in pain because I lost my way.  I got caught up in the duties and plans of life and had forgotten my purpose.  I was out of energy because I was swimming upstream and back to what was once familiar to me.  I was drying up or flowing straight into the ground.  Only by letting go and letting God determine my direction am I able to travel the natural path he has set forth for me, towards something bigger and for His glory.  He is the current that guides me downstream, changes me, and gives me direction even in the storms.  However, familiarity with Him is what allows me to recognize Him and to know where He is even in the midst of a raging squall.  As Sheila recounted God’s message to her, “You are more than you know because I am more than you can imagine.”

On the path of faith, there is no need to bury anything and there is no reason to swim upstream.  Although His ways are not conventional, they are what we are called to.  On His path, His love dulls the daggers of disappointment and deceit, the shanks of shame, the anvils of anger, the guillotine of guilt, and the priapism of pain.  Running to His arms for respite is where we find the comfort of peace and the courage to continue.  The spirit led me downstream to that conference because it was exactly what I needed to address those things I had repressed.

And so now I ask you: What storms are brewing in your life?  What path are you on?  What are you seeking? Are you pursuing your purpose?  Have you lost your way?  What are you burying?  Are you willing to follow the flow into unchartered territory to those uncomfortable places of unfamiliarity?  Where is your faith leading you?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  So if you are feeling uncomfortable right now, know that the change taking place in your life is a beginning, not an ending.”  (Neal Donald Walsh)  12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made.  But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.  I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. – Philippians 3:12-14 MSG


Storms of Life

“Life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic.” (Cesare Pavese)

The past week was a fast-paced, energy intensive, dynamic ride that oscillated between the immediacy of now and the aloofness of the distant past.  It was filled with continuous meetings and phone calls related to the perpetual alignment of allies, positioning of and listening to opponents, identification of friends and enemies, while measuring the strength and direction of the wind gusts to gain perspective on a predictable landing strip of the lukewarm and irresolute.  There were moments in the days that required enough quickness and acuity to shoot down incoming rounds just to create a limited lane of penetration, a place inside the paint where suppression fire could be laid down in intervals not to exceed three seconds.  In this instance, there was an unpredicted shift from visionary strategic governance to tactical survival.  Immediately, the Switchfoot questions of, This is your life.  Are you who you want to be?  This is your life.  Is it everything you’ve dreamed it would be, when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?”  This Is Your Life.

The experience required an extensive examination of me against the back drop of my desired transition from transactions to relationships.  Initially, I became upset with myself because even though I have worked really hard, I did not do as well as I believe I could have.  The experience exposed my root ball and uncovered the core of who I am – a work in progress.  God reminded me that He has something bigger in store for me; something much larger that He is grooming me for.  In a riveted split second, He whispered, “Relax my child!  It didn’t have to be you; it happened to be you that was chosen by Me for this specific and precious mission. I could have selected one of several billion other souls.  But I didn’t.  I chose you.  This is not about the physical realm.  Your body is only temporary anyway.  This is a spiritual battle.  We are talking about eternity here.  I have always delivered on my promises and this time will be no different.  I must equip you with what you need.  Your job right now is to keep your faith.  Remember, it makes things possible, not easy or perfect.  I am merely taking you through a few dry-runs to illuminate your developmental deficiencies and to hone the skills it will take to conquer modern-day Jericho when it is time.  You see, when my children are under stress, they cannot rise to the occasion, but will only revert back to their highest level of training.  Your training begins with spending time with Me every day and is practiced by remaining focused on Me throughout the day.  No matter what is thrown at you or what hits you, I am there with you and for you.  Put a prisoner in a suit and he is still an inmate.  I have released you from the cell block of your thoughts that tell you, ‘If I don’t, no one else will’.  Walk proudly and fearlessly in your freedom.  Your orange jumper is gone.  Jump with quickness into my arms and find rest while you are with me.  Be still and know that I am God.

His specific and personal words to me were electrifying.  They left me seized, dazed, and speechless.  The only option was to bow my head as if nodding to express “yes sir” and to otherwise be still because He is God.  Once I gathered my thoughts and wrapped my mind around what just happened, he said, “here I am!  I am with you.  Go!  Do my work, accomplish this mission, and live out your purpose.  Remember, you play like you practice.”  At that precise moment, I found respite in the divinely arranged encounter with a wonderful, kind-spirited, nurturing gentleman.  Even though exhaustion had set in, He pointed out this lovely soul and asked me to throw half of what I had left as light to his feet.  I dug deep, and the spirit handed me what was left at the bottom of the tank.  He handed me a heart with H.O.N.E.S.T. written across it.  God then gently said, “yep.  Now be yourself and get it done.”  As I began to engage with the brother, the message was revealed to me.  I was supposed to have an H.O.N.E.S.T.  heart attitude.  Be: Humble, Open, Nice, Eager, Strong, and Trusting in this engagement.  This is the toe lamp I was called to be.

The brother shared intriguing tidbits about his journey.  I could easily relate to many of his experiences in and sentiments about life.  Even though he let go of God long ago, we made a connection that created an aura that hope is alive even though life can be a bear.  The encounter reminded me of where I was when I started on my journey and made me smile about where He has called me to be today.  I smiled because I was able to suspend judgment against my brother as well as against me, my blunders, and unconventional lessons.  I was able to accept this as the place He has us now without reasoning about where He may want us next.  Sidewalk Prophets says it so well with, “If there’s a road I should walk, help me find it If I need to be still, give me peace for the moment.  Whatever Your will, whatever Your will, can you help me find it?  Can you help me find it?” – Help Me Find It.  Psalm 121 says, “I look up to the hills, but where will my help really come from?  2My help will come from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.  3He will not let you fall.  Your Protector will not fall asleep.  4Israel’s protector does not get tired.  He never sleeps.  5The Lord is your Protector.  The Lord stands by your side, shading and protecting you.  6The sun cannot harm you during the day, and the moon cannot harm you at night.  7The Lord will protect you from every danger.  He will protect your soul.  8The Lord will protect you as you come and go, both now and forever!”  (ERV)

I realize now that my disappointment with myself was from fear that I had lost ground with exploiting these always present, but only recently utilized, relational qualities.  Before, life was a tiger that I had caught by the tail with the intention of looking him in the eye before taming and laying him down.  Living on the adrenaline of my own energy, I was that self-made woman turned warrior who vanquished the forward deployed obstacles.  As Survivor says,   Risin’ up, back on the street.  Did my time, took my chances.  Went the distance now I’m back on my feet; Just a man and his will to survive.  So many times it happens too fast.  You trade your passion for glory.  Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past.  You must fight just to keep them alive”Eye of the Tiger.  Now, I am clay in the potter’s hands, being molded as my Maker sees fit.  Johnny Diaz gives the current truth with,There could never be a more beautiful you.  Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through.  You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do.  So there could never be a more beautiful you”More Beautiful You.

My reflection on the week has me here:  I used to be a strong wind that could make a flag stand stiff.  He is training me to be the rising tide that raises all things.  He has given me His spirit, as my everyday companion, to lead and guide me through the uncertain waters to the other shore.  When exhaustion sets in from the battering of the wake of the change, the analgesic of His love and presence sedates my discomfort.  As it pleases Him, He may quiet the storm as I make this transition, or not.  Regardless, in the storms of my life, whatever they may be, He is there with me.  Falling on my knees in worship, giving all I am to seek your face.  Lord all I am is yours.  My whole life I placed in your hands.  God of mercy, humbled I bow down in your presence, at your throne.  I call.  You answer and you came to my rescue and I want to be where you are.  My life be lifted high…”  Hillsong United, Came To My Rescue

Thank you Lord for the storms, growth, redemption, presence and change.  May I always desire to be clay in Your hands.  Mold me as You will.

Shaken (Not Stirred)

Have you ever shown up, rearing to go – with an agenda in hand, prepared to predict others’ next moves and control the outcome of the experience you’ve just entered – only to encounter others who seem to be ill-prepared, slow on the uptake, or just flat-out lost? All too often, we start our days with a clean slate that we quickly fill up with our “to do” lists. We draw a small square and write the task next to it. Once the task is complete, we mark it off by placing an X inside the square. The object is to have as many boxes with Xs as possible at the end of the day. On those days, accomplishments mean the most. We don’t even consider the miniscule effort it would take to initiate an exchange with those running, seemingly stuck, in first gear. What does it take…a little patience.

What about the souls impacted by the pursuit of results that ignores their present day experience and lacks the attention, compassion, and kindness needed to embrace them into this moment? In that instance, what we don’t know may not hurt us but it could feel crushing to them. What we don’t know is what it took for them just to show up and be physically present in the situation that you and I are hurriedly moving and check-listing our way through. We think that slowing down and connecting causes us to lose time; when in fact, it more likely causes us to gain connection with the fragile souls around us. A sixty-second conversation, a slight touch of the hand, a smile, a soft-spoken “hello”… What does it take…a little kindness and attention.

Instead of listening and being a witness, we act… as the final arbiter. What we see, we label. What we hear, we snicker at. What we think we know, we judge. The reality is typically a deprivation of some sort resulting in a fog of confusion that consumes the rocky path that is this person’s journey right now. Our insensitivity can create storms of fear and shame of colossal proportion that causes greater withdrawal into the internal killing fields of doubt and regret located in their empty or broken hearts. Our harsh words sound like the echo of thunder. Our insensitive tone scorches like a bolt of lightning – feeling like the swell of misery or a flood of destruction. Some hide the pain behind good manners with a smile while others change colors and lose affect. Some resiliently snap back. Others, well…not so much. What does it take…a little sensitivity.

Job 16:3-5 tells us, “3 Your long speeches never end! Why do you continue arguing? 4 I also could say the same things you say, if you had my troubles. I could say wise things against you and shake my head at you. 5 But I would say things to encourage you and give you hope. (ERV)

MercyMe captures the thoughts of the resilient with faith, praying for escape, but who were blessed with the upbringing in His teachings in I can Only Imagine:

I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see when your face is before me. I can only imagine… Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still? Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine…

Oh how blessed we are when we encounter the resilient. They are the faces of God’s grace. Because of the single set of footprints in the sand, we are able to push the restart button; the one that allows us to say, “I’m sorry! Let me try this again”; one that allows the tape to replay carols of compassion instead of chords of criticism, the harmony of forgiveness instead of the sharpness of fear, or melodies of stillness instead of the staccato of shame. Psalm 37:24-26 tells us, 24 If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand. 25 I have been young and now I am old. And in all my years I have never seen the Lord forsake a man who loves him; nor have I seen the children of the godly go hungry. 26 Instead, the godly are able to be generous with their gifts and loans to others, and their children are a blessing. (TLB) What does it take…a little compassion.

I dare not mention the frail. We have not walked a mile in their moccasins and therefore do not know their circuitous, tumultuous journey or their condition upon arrival. Third Day illustrates this point in I Need A Miracle when they sing: He lost his job and all he had in the fall of ’09. Now he feared the worst, that he would lose his children and his wife. So he drove down deep into the woods and thought he’d end it all and prayed, “Lord above, I need a miracle”. Through love, we can be that miracle. Our requirement is to refrain from placing His children in boxes and to put away the Xs. They are His essence, not inane objects bristled between tasks. We all have hearts that pump blood and chambers that long for trust-filled loving connections. A little warmth, kind words, and a smile may serve to obscure the shelves that house permanent solutions when temporary problems are all that are on the table. Hebrews 12:14-15 calls us to: “14 Pursue the goal of peace along with everyone… 15 Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace…” (CEB) What does it take…a little love.

This recent revelation has led me to understand that we are called to:

  1. Serve as guiding lights to one another; not to serve as driving rains that obscure the vision of others and make their paths slick
  2. Serve with patience, kindness, compassion and sensitivity
  3. Pave the road according to His will, not our agenda
  4. Recognize that we each have different talents and separate challenges And
  5. Remember to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace

Storms will blow in with gale force winds that lift the covers of certainty off our circumstances. The driving rains will spin our schedules into a whirlpool that drains our best laid plans. Hurricanes will blow ashore and knock out our power for long periods. Torrential downpours will cause landslides that we may never fully recover from. With capacity, faith, and other followers, weathering the storms is merely a foot race. Without the capacity to have faith, followers must be the candlelight for others from the edges to the eye.

Whether this seems sobering or intoxicating, a cocktail of one part forgiveness, one part faith, and two parts love, shaken (not stirred) over cubes of His grace, creates a smooth thirst-quencher that is easy for any consumer to swallow. Psalm 107:28-30 says 28 Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he saves them. 29 He calms the storm and stills the waves. 30 What a blessing is that stillness as he brings them safely into harbor! (TLB)