Miracles Fueled by Love and Light

A few weeks ago, the weather was warm with the promise of Spring in the air. I get giddy about gardening so I seized that warm day and put some great potting soil into egg crate containers, added a bunch of seeds, watered these babies and set them out in the sunshine to grow.

They started sprouting right away and I thought we were off to a great start…until the weather turned too wet, cool and gloomy for these babies to thrive. In short order, it looked like my tender seedlings might not make it.

So I brought them inside to the living room where we get TONS of natural light, even on cloudy days. I laid my struggling seedlings out on my piano next to the windows. I wanted to give them a little extra boost so I grabbed one of my kids’ dorm room reading lamps that was collecting dust in the garage and put it to good use. I plugged that previously useless light in and let its bright spotlight shine directly on the struggling baby plants.

The turnaround was almost immediate.  My existing seedlings perked right up and a bunch of new seeds started to sprout virtually overnight. ALL the baby plants were straining towards the light as though they were reaching for that last vital element necessary for sustenance and growth.

My little seedlings aren’t much different than we are, especially our children. We need to be in a container that is just the right size to promote growth. If the container is too big, the seeds get lost and wither. If it is too small, the close confines ultimately choke the life out of these fresh new plants. We have to adjust the container size as the plants grow.

We need nourishment from the soil we grow in. Our environments need to be loaded with all the good stuff — minerals, healthy bacteria, and nutrients — to promote growth. If there is any garbage or deleterious elements in the soil, we have to get rid of it before it creates toxic conditions.

Clean pure water is the love that needs to be given reliably in just the right amounts. Too much will drown the seedlings and spoil the growth. Not enough makes it impossible to grow at all. Plants, like our kids, grow strong and resilient when we allow them to weather a bit of adversity when they are strong enough.

Light and warmth make it all come together and clearly, my little seedlings were yearning for it and so responsive when they got what they needed. These seeds, like children, are hard-wired to grow and thrive; it’s automatic.

All of our children have so much pressure to grow up so fast. They don’t all mature when and how you think they should. Some find themselves in damaging situations that require a bit of extra attentive care and tending to get back to full and vibrant health.

One thing is for sure: a tulip bulb will never blossom as a daisy, and a daisy will never bloom into a rose. Despite the differences, each flower is nothing short of a miracle with a beauty all its own. These magnificent, tender plants bloom in their own time and in their own way.

As a parent, I think the best I can do is:

  1.  Do my best to plant seeds in good soil
  2.  Water the seeds regularly
  3. Give my baby plants bigger pots when they need some room to grow
  4. Keep an eye on them to make sure my seedlings are thriving
  5. Adjust how I’m taking care of them when/if my seedlings are struggling
  6. And maybe most importantly, make sure I’m plugged into a Power Source that will help my own light shine with clarity and generosity on my kids and everyone around me. When I do that, everything blossoms easily, effortlessly and with breathtaking beauty.

Then I just step back and watch the little plants bloom and celebrate all the amazing flowers that grow up in my garden.

Are you ready to let your light shine in its full brilliance?

Cheers to you and your beautiful garden!

With love and light,

 

“Hey God! What the %@#$?!”

While running errands yesterday, my seventeen-year-old son, James, and I were talking about the blog and he said, “Mom, you should really let people know that it is o.k. to get mad at God when life serves you up a crap sandwich. You’re allowed to say, ‘Hey God! What the %@#$?!'”

It isn’t my intent to be disrespectful to anyone, especially not God. However, on the question of whether it is better to have a polite, perfunctory relationship with God, or a brutally honest relationship with God that looks and feels more like a full-contact sport than an afternoon high tea, I say bring on the spiritual full-contact sport!

Here’s why:

  1. If God knows everything going on in the hearts, minds and bodies of His children, doesn’t it follow that He would know when we are really angry about something going on in our lives? It seems disingenuous to have a very polite and proper prayer interaction with The Big Man when inside, we feel hurt, angry, confused (fill in any emotion) with a situation, or maybe directly with Him.
  2. God went to great lengths to try to create a direct-connect with each of his children. There were a series of Old Testament covenants aimed at creating and maintaining a strong, close relationship between God and His children so we could enjoy lives of peace, protection, provision and joy. With each of these covenants, we hapless humans weren’t able to hold up our end of the bargain so the covenants didn’t work out as intended. In His unrelenting drive to achieve that close relationship with His children, God finally created the Covenant IN Christ. All previous bets (covenants) were off. God gave us His Son and forgave us our sins in order to remove any obstacles that stood in the way of that elusive connection between God and us. That has all the hallmarks of a SERIOUS commitment from God to us!
  3. Another reason I opt in to a fully-engaged relationship with God is because my human relationships have taught me that you get what you give. Be clear that I am NOT talking about a transactional dynamic (more on that another day). When you are in a relationship that really matters, you fight for it. There will always be times when you disagree, but when that relationship and that person are truly important to you, you work hard to resolve a divisive issue, or agree to disagree. When you work through the rough patches, your relationship becomes stronger. The alternative is to politely retreat when disagreements arise. Eventually, the distance created out of polite, if cowardly, avoidance of sticky issues kills the relationship altogether. I like to think that God would much rather have us be fully, honestly engaged with Him even if that included the occasional temper tantrum.
  4. My final rationale for a passionate connection to God that includes an unfiltered, honest range of emotions, is because God can take it. He knows where we get tripped up. He knows what scares us. He also knows what is necessary for our growth. He’s fully committed to us, and this makes it possible for us, as imperfect, emotional and occasionally irrational as we might be, to be fully committed to Him. It’s a good dynamic.

James suggested I bring this issue up in the blog because he said that there are a lot of people who would have you believe that there is a right and wrong way to interact with God. They make this divine relationship unnecessarily complicated and fraught with rules. James prefers an uncomplicated, honest, authentic interaction with God. That’s what works for him.

It works for me too!

What works for you?

With love and light,

Four Crucial Steps When Riding the Wave of Faith

Stepping out in faith and starting something new is a lot like surfing.

First, you have to make sure you know how to swim. In a broader context, you have to have the requisite skills to be reasonably assured you are ready for your new venture.

Step Two, put yourself out there. Get out into the waves and get yourself into position.

Step Three, you have to look for your opportunity. When that perfect wave comes, you have to DECIDE that you are all in for the ride of your life.

Step Four is where the action is: you get out in front of it, paddle like crazy to line up in the right spot, get on top of that monster wave and enjoy the extraordinary power of that fast-moving wall of water to carry you all the way to the shore. It’s exhilarating!

It’s also terrifying. You’re way outside your comfort zone. You have no way to know for sure how this is going to go.

If you are tentative, the wave will go on without you leaving you cold and wet out at sea. If you don’t get in alignment with waves, you’ll miss your chance, and if you fight the wave and resist the flow, you will definitely exhaust yourself and you might just get crushed.

Faith works much the same way.

First, you have to tune into a relationship with God. Learn how to discern the guidance of God by paying attention. Condition yourself for this by working your spiritual muscles through prayer, worship, and immersing yourself in God’s word. Most importantly, just make time for God. Be still and listen. Recognize that God is always ‘talking’ to each one of us.

Start looking for His direction. Commit to following the prompts that God is constantly giving us. Don’t worry, if you miss one, just like the waves, another is sure to follow. And like waves, they typically come in sets and grow in intensity.

Get lined up to RECEIVE what God has for you. Once you are in position, pursue a passionate connection to God. KNOW that this connection can take you places you could never go, or even imagine, on your own. When you invite God into your life, and trust in the power this connection brings, you are in for a thrilling adventure.

My brother, John Todd – the badass dude pictured above – has always lived like this, and I admire him so much for that. Normally, John is behind the camera, but this time, he is out in front because this shot is such a great example of what it looks like to fearlessly step out in faith. Whether in his spiritual life, in his work, in his life and even in the waves, John dives in, works hard, finds his spot, grabs on with both hands and with calm, determined confidence and clear focus, he GOES FOR IT. The result for him, and anyone who boldly follows the prompts God offers, is a life marked by vitality, power, and extraordinary experiences.

Do you have a story of boldly stepping out in faith? I’d love to hear about it. Please go to the Contact page and drop me a note. If you want to do a Deeper Dive into this topic, scroll down for more.

Sending you love and light always,

A Deeper Dive: Riding the Wave of Faith

Starting something new is a big deal. At least, it is a big deal for me. This is how the process progresses typically.

First, there is a trigger that starts the cascade of change. Sometimes it’s a slow, simmering feeling of restlessness or boredom that underlies the need for something new. Most of us don’t love change so we might just ignore this until that slow simmer gathers energy and becomes a full rolling boil.

Other times, we might have a sudden, unexpected catalyst appear in our lives that blows things up and demands immediate change. No matter how we get there, this is the point when we KNOW we have to make some changes.

By definition, doing something new requires newfound wisdom. We read books, we search the Internet, we seek out experts and sometimes we pray about it. This step not only gives us the knowledge we need, but also the confidence required to take the next step.

Finally, we need to apply that wisdom and get after our new venture.

This is where the wheels often fall off for me and why this scripture has become such a great guidepost for me:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

First, let me give you a little of the backstory about this scripture and its author. James was Jesus’ brother and he was ministering to Jewish Christians in the Mediterranean. These First Century Christians were getting hammered by their detractors and they needed encouragement. James was a man of action. He didn’t have much patience for those who talked a good game, but when it came down to it, their behavior didn’t match up with their rhetoric. He was laying out an action plan to help these Jewish Christians through this rough time. He doesn’t mince his words.

He encourages them to go to God to get the answers and information they need to spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean and tells them that God isn’t going to judge them or criticize them for not knowing what to do in this new situation.  He assures them that God will give them the knowledge they need.

And here is where it hits me hardest…James says that when you ask, you have to be ALL IN. Believe and don’t doubt. Trust what God gives you in answer to prayer and DO WHAT GOD GUIDES YOU TO DO. If you let doubt creep in and undermine your ability to take action, you become, “…like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

 

In this particular scripture, there are three key takeaways I want to shine a bright light on for you here:

  1. God has an open door policy with us. The welcome mat is out. He wants us to come to Him when we need help and when we do, we enter into a judgement-free zone.
  2. When you come to God looking for advice, be prepared to stay firmly rooted in faith and believe what God guides you to do. It might not make sense to you. It might not be what you wanted to hear. It might seem impossible to you, but with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).
  3. Take action. Follow through. Stay in faith. You’re being guided in a particular direction for a reason. When we ignore God’s prompting for whatever reason, it’s easy to get pretty beat-up by life.

Here’s an example. I have a great friend named Jack. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a successful Wall Street trader. The job was very lucrative, but Jack absolutely hated it. What he really enjoyed was working with wood and he was gifted in this. But he set this passion aside so he could bring home the big bucks. Every day was a grind for him. He was miserable. Long hours at work kept him from his wife and kids, the people he loved the most. And when he was with them, he was so joyless and miserable that his relationships with them became strained and distant. He started drinking too much and putting on weight due to his lavish client dinners he was constantly compelled to participate in. Not only was his Spirit sagging, his body started to feel the impact of pursuing the wrong vocation. Jack continued to ignore all the promptings he felt with such certainty to leave Wall Street and create a life he really loved until he finally suffered a massive heart attack. That was his wake up call.

It took years of being like a wave tossed and blown by the wind as he steadfastly ignored God’s guidance to make a change and it nearly killed him.

Happily, Jack finally followed the God nudge to pursue his love of wood working. He and his family moved to a sweet Connecticut town where Jack spends his days as a master craftsman. Each piece of furniture Jack makes is a work of art. He is happy, healthy and well. His marriage is back on track and he’s finally able to spend time being a father who is present and dedicated to his kids. He’s making a comfortable living as a craftsman, and most importantly, he is living the life he was made for.

Are there areas in your life that need change? Maybe it’s time to try asking God for the wisdom you need to make some changes. Start with something small and let this scripture be your guide. You might be surprised and delighted by where it takes you.

With love and light,

A Deeper Dive: Riding the Wave of Faith

Starting something new is a big deal. At least, it is a big deal for me. This is how the process progresses typically.

First, there is a trigger that starts the cascade of change. Sometimes it’s a slow, simmering feeling of restlessness or boredom that underlies the need for something new. Most of us don’t love change so we might just ignore this until that slow simmer gathers energy and becomes a full rolling boil.

Other times, we might have a sudden, unexpected catalyst appear in our lives that blows things up and demands immediate change. No matter how we get there, this is the point when we KNOW we have to make some changes.

By definition, doing something new requires newfound wisdom. We read books, we search the Internet, we seek out experts and sometimes we pray about it. This step not only gives us the knowledge we need, but also the confidence required to take the next step.

Finally, we need to apply that wisdom and get after our new venture.

This is where the wheels often fall off for me and why this scripture has become such a great guidepost for me:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

First, let me give you a little of the backstory about this scripture and its author. James was Jesus’ brother and he was ministering to Jewish Christians in the Mediterranean. These First Century Christians were getting hammered by their detractors and they needed encouragement. James was a man of action. He didn’t have much patience for those who talked a good game, but when it came down to it, their behavior didn’t match up with their rhetoric. He was laying out an action plan to help these Jewish Christians through this rough time. He doesn’t mince his words.

He encourages them to go to God to get the answers and information they need to spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean and tells them that God isn’t going to judge them or criticize them for not knowing what to do in this new situation.  He assures them that God will give them the knowledge they need.

And here is where it hits me hardest…James says that when you ask, you have to be ALL IN. Believe and don’t doubt. Trust what God gives you in answer to prayer and DO WHAT GOD GUIDES YOU TO DO. If you let doubt creep in and undermine your ability to take action, you become, “…like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

 

In this particular scripture, there are three key takeaways I want to shine a bright light on for you here:

  1. God has an open door policy with us. The welcome mat is out. He wants us to come to Him when we need help and when we do, we enter into a judgement-free zone.
  2. When you come to God looking for advice, be prepared to stay firmly rooted in faith and believe what God guides you to do. It might not make sense to you. It might not be what you wanted to hear. It might seem impossible to you, but with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).
  3. Take action. Follow through. Stay in faith. You’re being guided in a particular direction for a reason. When we ignore God’s prompting for whatever reason, it’s easy to get pretty beat-up by life.

Here’s an example. I have a great friend named Jack. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a successful Wall Street trader. The job was very lucrative, but Jack absolutely hated it. What he really enjoyed was working with wood and he was gifted in this. But he set this passion aside so he could bring home the big bucks. Every day was a grind for him. He was miserable. Long hours at work kept him from his wife and kids, the people he loved the most. And when he was with them, he was so joyless and miserable that his relationships with them became strained and distant. He started drinking too much and putting on weight due to his lavish client dinners he was constantly compelled to participate in. Not only was his Spirit sagging, his body started to feel the impact of pursuing the wrong vocation. Jack continued to ignore all the promptings he felt with such certainty to leave Wall Street and create a life he really loved until he finally suffered a massive heart attack. That was his wake up call.

It took years of being like a wave tossed and blown by the wind as he steadfastly ignored God’s guidance to make a change and it nearly killed him.

Happily, Jack finally followed the God nudge to pursue his love of wood working. He and his family moved to a sweet Connecticut town where Jack spends his days as a master craftsman. Each piece of furniture Jack makes is a work of art. He is happy, healthy and well. His marriage is back on track and he’s finally able to spend time being a father who is present and dedicated to his kids. He’s making a comfortable living as a craftsman, and most importantly, he is living the life he was made for.

Are there areas in your life that need change? Maybe it’s time to try asking God for the wisdom you need to make some changes. Start with something small and let this scripture be your guide. You might be surprised and delighted by where it takes you.

With love and light,

THREE KEY PAVING STONES ON THE PATH TO FAITH

There are people in the world who find faith a simple, clear and easy element to add into their lives. For these lucky folks, incorporating faith into their lives is a walk in the park.

Sadly, this is NOT the case for me. My walk of faith is best described as a bloody street fight.

I wrestle with hypocritical religious rhetoric.

I stub my toe on the biblical inconsistencies that have created mountainous obstacles on my path to faith.

To be honest, I the multitudes of well-meaning holier-than-thou Christians send me running for the hills.

I struggled with these very real issues for years, and still do sometimes. Despite that, I KNEW there was something worth digging a little deeper to find here so I kept looking.

Finally, I realized that it’s just not that complicated.

I turned a deaf ear to the “My-Way-or-the-Highway” Christians that wield their religion like an ax to detractors.

I got over my linear need to have the Bible make perfect sense and decided to focus on what Jesus said and did.

I started with the bare bones basics…the three-tiered directive to:

  1. Love God with all my heart, soul, mind and body
  2. Love each other…
  3. as I love myself

This lays the foundation of my faith. It creates a clear and simple roadmap in my life. It is the lens I look through when trying to make sense of the crazy things life offers up.

Simple? Absolutely!

Easy? No way!

So why do I do it? Why do I follow Christ when NOT following is so much easier?

I follow Christ because the rigors of life are often way above my pay grade. I need help. I need guidance. I need to know I’m not alone when I walk through the scary and difficult parts.

It’s a decision I make every day and it makes me a better person.

When I stick with this program, I’m likely to be more:

  • Loving
  • Kind
  • Generous
  • Unselfish
  • Humble
  • Peaceful
  • Content

That’s how faith works in my life. It helps me be the best possible version of myself. Please be clear that I miss the mark on loving God, loving others and loving myself with alarming regularity. The good news is that there is room to be imperfect.

I’m comforted in knowing that I will try again tomorrow.

How does faith work in your life? I’d love to hear from you.

With love and light,

P.S.  A Note to Friends: I grew up going to church and I loved it. My relationship with Christianity went south in a hurry when my parents divorced. The dissolution of our family became grist for the church coffee hour gossip mill. At a time when our family needed the strong support of our Christian community, we got the opposite and we stepped away from the Church.

I had a lot of obstacles to overcome on my path back to faith. When talking with others, I learned I wasn’t alone. Circumstances were different for each of us, but the process was the same.

This blog is for all of us who were once part of the church, left and are wondering if it is time to come back. It is also for those of us never had any kind of spiritual foundation but want one. And it is for anyone who is looking for a practical application of faith in daily life. I hope you find inspiration in these pages.