Friday, October 7, 2016

Please Tell Me You're Not Posting That


There are some people I only connect with through social media, and I know all about them: their Cabo trips, yoga sessions, and poolside pedicured-feet selfies. What more is there to know about a person? Surely nothing about the large fry they just ate at McDonalds.

Although most of us fear revealing our truest selves on social media, in all of our messy and unsavory glory, I think humans generally like the idea of being known. Not just known, but known and accepted.

Long before the internet, there was a woman who also feared revealing her truest self to the world. In fact, to avoid people, she’d collect water from a well during the hottest part of the day, when not a single soul was around.
 
One day Jesus cut right through her town, Samaria. Since Samaritans were considered outcasts, half-breeds even, good little Jews typically went out of their way to avoid Samaria. But not Jesus. There was a certain Samaritan woman who needed his company.
 
I must say, I find it rather interesting that Jesus - on purpose - went to Samaria. It proves God’s plan of salvation is for everyone everywhere, for every culture and for every nation. That’s a whole lot of YOUs and MEs!

Now what started out as a simple request for a drink of water, became the longest recorded conversation Jesus had with an individual, a conversation in which Jesus offered the Samaritan woman, not well water, but living water, “a fresh, bubbling spring within...giving eternal life.” (John 4:14b, NLT) Why, a long conversation with a gal like me? What devotion. What single-mindedness.

And like any world-weary girl today, whose face would brighten at the thought of being gifted a day of spa treatments, the woman at the well was intrigued by the offer of fresh, bubbly, eternal-life-giving springs. “Please, Sir, give me this water!” she said. (John 4:15a, NLT)

Not only did Jesus initiate this grace and hope-filled chat session with our nameless friend, he knew going into it she’s had five husbands and wasn’t even married to her current guy. Jesus knew beforehand about her rather complicated past, yet he still sought her out.

She must have wondered, “How does he know me like that? He didn’t even rub it in, didn’t explore a single sin, and here he’s offering living water, whatever that is?”

And in the course of their extensive conversation, a conversation she tried making more about theology and religion and less about a life-changing relationship with her God, the realization of who he was transformed before her, going from being a “Jew” to “Sir” to “Prophet” to “Messiah,” brilliantly arriving at “Savior of the World.” (You can find the entire story in John 4:1-42.)

I’d imagine if our Samaritan friend was on social media, she’d also stick to posting pictures of her funny cat and acai bowls. But since we don’t always make our brokenness accessible to the world, we can rest in knowing we are fully known and accepted by the one whose living water is always accessible, for his spring never runs out because it is always bubbling.






Saturday, July 9, 2016

Redwoods: God's Coolest Idea




You know how people mark their kids' height on the moulding of a doorway? We do that. But before you say, "Oh that Jeff and Molly - they think of everything," keep in mind we have four incomplete ones going at the moment - three of them in houses we don't live in anymore.

What about parents who chart their kids' growth on something moveable, like a piece of wood? Geniuses.

So, since we haven't been smart about it, our permanent measuring tape of choice has been our yearly (as in "so much for that trip to Hawaii" yearly) vacation in Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon, California. Just a few miles in from Santa Cruz. "Where the trees meet the sea," they say. Ginormous, ancient redwood trees. A dozen people linking arms might still not be enough to circle around the older, pre-Jesus ones.

And nestled in the middle of it all is a magical family camp. We often call it Mount Hormone for those on the prowl. Its trees sometimes become kissing trees. I speak from experience. First kiss at age four (been going to camp a long time) and engaged there sixteen years later (different guy).

However, there's no need to ramble endlessly about my Mount Hermon growth record. I'll just stick to my kids. But I'm fairly certain no one wants to hear me compare their finger-painting-in-day-camp years with their current "I do what I want, go where I want, buy my own ice cream when I want" years. (Hear that? Doing stuff like buying ice cream, NOT kissing behind trees. Not my children. Do as I say, not as I do.)

So, without going into braggy-bloggy detail, let's just say my kids thrive in Mount Hermon like no other place. To put it poetically: The place nourishes their souls. To put it adolescently: "It's okay, I guess." But trust me, it's way more than just okay.

I'd even say the place has a redwood strength about it. A strength found not just in the trees, but in the people - counselors, friends, and family they've come to know. A lasting, generation-to-generation strength that can only come from God - their creator and defender, their redeemer and friend.

Who wouldn't thrive when surrounded by people like that? Spiritual redwoods, that's what they are. My kids tend to stand tallest up against folks like that. And year after year of measuring their growth in Mount Hermon, it sure beats doorway moulding.

"He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers." Psalm 1:3


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

For the Love of God and All That is Holy and Food


There are certain non-negotiables in life. Take eating for instance. It’s what folks do rain or shine, happy or grumpy, with coffee or without.

Of course, the negotiable part happens when making food choices. Apple or orange? Lettuce-wrapped or delectably-toasted-bun-wrapped? A measly 12-chip serving or the entire bag?

Some people struggle with such foodie decisions. Probably most people. But for every dozen individuals who have the willpower of an oak, where no amount of cream cheese frosting can lure them away from their suspiciously green smoothies, there are dozens more - several baker’s dozens more - whose love language is frosting.
 
However, frosting lovers actually do, from time to time, think about making healthy food choices, as well as other healthy choices pertaining to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But sadly, thinking isn’t the same as doing; it doesn’t cut the mustard. (Mustard? Yes, please.)
 
Just ask Saddleback Women’s teacher, Jen Goulard, who once caught herself thinking about doing something absolutely wonderful, something supremely valuable, relational and world-changing - she thought about praying. And she’ll tell you about the day an idea was rolling around in her mind and how she was “thinking about praying about it.”
 
This whole thinking-about-praying notion concerned Jen, for it made her wonder why she was so hesitant in her approach to God. Knowing full-well that God wants her to simply come to him - run to him - she reflected on why she struggled with being bold before God.
 
Soon she realized these feelings had grown out of another hesitant approach, one from childhood. Jen remembers times of trying to connect with her mother while she cooked in the kitchen (like, every time she tried to connect), only to be met with an impatient parent who would snap, “I cannot talk and cook at the same time!” All of which left Jen wondering if she was a distraction, an interruption, an annoyance to her mother…and to God.
 
But Jen found security in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”
 
Jen Goulard is in Christ. Her identity is found in a God who sees her as the exact opposite of distraction, interruption, and annoyance. He is one who desires, cherishes, and likes her, the one who is thrilled when her “thinking about praying” tendency quickly turns into chatting it up. After all, Jesus is the bread of life. Whoever comes to him will never be hungry again, making Christ the best foodie decision there is.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Special-est of Special Agents


I wonder what a private investigator or special agent would deduce from looking around my house. (Heaven forbid we should ever need one, of course.) A sock in the kitchen sink? Blue glitter on the fireplace? Band-aids on a lamp? Hardly what you'd call obvious clues - no real, "Professor Plum in the library with a revolver" evidence to make a detective's job easier.
  
And speaking of libraries, when my kids were little, we used to do a little private eye work of our own when checking-out the book, Wacky Wednesday. With shoes on ceilings and trees growing out of chimneys, it's a book about a boy who sees odd things around his house and town.

Although I love this classic book, page four always stumped me, for the boy sees three wacky things. However, my youngest daughter would only count two. The one she missed was a broom in the hallway. It never seemed out of place to her. (That's because she has me for a mom, that's why; pardon the pun, but I don’t always do things by the book.)

And I know I'm not alone in this. A friend once shouted out in her house: "Someone please get me the toilet paper out of the dining room!Apparently a detective would struggle at gathering evidence in her house, too.

So while detectives figure out crime scenes, I try to figure out people. But through much trial and error, I've learned that a Gucci handbag does not always equal a wealthy individual, nor does green hair equal an avid swimmer, nor do those skull/spider/unicorn/Bieber tattoo sleeves equal a wild night in Cancun. And likewise, a mean comment doesn't always come from a mean person (whew!), nor does a nice comment always come from a nice person.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, "For the Lord sees not as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

What a relief to know God skips past appearances and heads straight to a person's heart and motives, making our God the very specialest of special agents – an agent of mercy. After all, solving mysteries is one thing, solving people is a whole other thing. In fact, it’s an impossible thing.

So how about this: “I hereby commission you, commission me, to be agents of mercy for the kingdom of God. Now, Godspeed as you head-out to change your world, starting with your mother who might be the type to leave brooms in hallways.”


Friday, April 29, 2016

Women Were Created For Awesomeness


Thank you, clothing industry, for making "boyfriend jeans." What a good call, for they turn the oftentimes distressing jeans-wearing, "can't get 'em up past my knees" experience into something comfy, relaxed, and less terrifying. Like a good boyfriend!

But if I actually wore my boyfriend's - my husband's - jeans, why, you wouldn't be able to find me for days! One of him equals two of me. Which could be good: I'm in the jeans; let me be!

Turns out they also make boyfriend t's. Roomy and soft, they're perfect for hiding your muffin top while eating muffin tops. I'll take two, please - two of your finest muffin-top-making muffin tops baking! 

Yet my fondness toward all-things boyfriend dwindled the day I saw a rack of "ex-boyfriend" t-shirts. What's next, boy of the week t-shirts? Flava' of the month? Such sassy-ness. Such bitterness. And they didn't look one bit different from current boyfriend ts. Does someone at the t-shirt naming company have a yucky BF memory? I mean, who doesn't - but to name a shirt after it? I'm confused.

Oh I know, I'm making something out of nothing here. Maybe exboyfriending a t-shirt is a positive thing. But the whole idea just seems to chip away - if only a little - at the loveliness of womanhood. I like a lovely woman. I want to be a lovely woman. A woman who is vibrant and courageous, nurturing and relational, smart and confident, adventurous and bold, spunky and zesty.

To be a woman is to be regal. We are the crown of creation. Before we existed, something wasn't right. Something was missing. What was it? Women. GIRLS. It is not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18) Creation was already good, but not all the way good. God had a plan to make it gooder! And in enters the ladies.

Author Stasi Eldredge wrote this about women: "She is not an afterthought...She is God's final touch, his pièce de résistance. She fills a place in this world no one else can fill. Step to a window, ladies, if you can. Better still, find someplace with a view. Look out across the earth and say to yourselves. 'The whole vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.'"

(Would it be obnoxious to shout out "GIRL POWER" right about now?)

So after being reminded of where I fit into the order of creation, it just doesn't feel right to take the (oftentimes easier) sassy and bitter route all the time. (Okay, maybe some of the time.) Besides, what woman doesn't aspire to be a more comfy, relaxed, and less terrifying she? Kind of like, well, a good girlfriend!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Give Your City a Hug, Even if It's LA


I was half-listening to the radio when the DJ got my attention by saying, "God loves LA!" And then he said it again. And then again. But on the third time he added, "No, really! God loves LA." Like it's so hard to believe. As if Los Angeles is on the fritz with God and is the last love-deserving spot on earth.

Is it because of The People Vs. OJ? Or is it Venice Beach? Beverly Hills? Compton? Traffic on the 5? Disneyland on a Saturday? Or is it the entertainment industry with all its phonies, druggies, boobies and zombies? Or is it the political climate? Because we all know it's not the seasonal climate, especially with that summer-esque February we just had.

Do radio DJs in Franklin, Tennessee or Boise, Idaho feel the need to convince people that God loves them? Those cities seem kinder and more respectable than Los Angeles, right? More family friendly. I could be wrong. Maybe we should google it. (Just don't google Pioneer Woman's "Knock You Naked Brownies." I mean, do google it - they're amazing! Just be careful.)

But despite its bad rap (yes, we Californians do celebrate Thanksgiving, thank you very much; a question someone from a "better-behaved" state once asked me; true story), I'm quite certain God still loves LA. He might even have Randy Newman's "I Love LA" on his playlist. But even in the face of John 3:16 and its "For God so loved the WORLD" declaration, there are those who still find it a little hard to believe. Those who think God may have taken things too far in the love department.

So in times like this, I pull out the ol' "what God won't say in heaven" test. I do this with the more meaty, audacious things of God - his forgiveness, his grace, his all-knowingness, and in this case, his love. And I imagine myself asking him one day, "God, could it be that, this whole time, I thought you loved me too much? Was I reminded of your love too often? Even when I was very bad and tired and mad at you, I noticed you still loving me...in the most unsuspecting and unique ways. Was it all in my head?"

And even though I don't know exactly what he'll say to me (my brain - my heart - would probably explode if I did), I do know what he won't say: "Molly, you thought I loved you more than I did. You simply had too many God-loves-me thoughts. End of story."

See? It'd never happen. He'd never say that. And in a weird way of connecting things, God would never say about cities, "I really only ever loved Walnut Grove and Mayberry."

So take heart if you live in an often-judged land, and your local radio station's DJ got you falling in love again with your city (a little Usher never hurts). And know that it is God who has the last say when it comes to the world he's been patient with and does not condemn, but rather changes. The world he has loved...this whole time.



  



  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Cartwheel Clothes


Fraulein Maria and her grand idea to make play clothes out of old curtains - my favorite part in The Sound of Music. Especially when the hunky Captain von Trapp puts his stink on it, the moment his onscreen chemistry with Maria gets sizzly...

"Do you mean to tell me that my children have been roaming about Salzburg dressed up in nothing but some old drapes?" he says all hoity-toity in the most delicious British accent.

"Mmm hmm, and having a marvelous time!" Maria replies in her equally-delicious accent. ("Now, let's kiss!" was her next thought, I'm certain.)

You tell him, Maria. Those play clothes rocked. It's not like you left the curtain rod in. (I see you, Carol Burnett.) Well played.

The curtain clothes represented cartwheels, laughter, hills that are alive, and a whole lot of do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. The old uniforms? Rules, confinement, shrieking whistles, and probably a lot of math. 

The von Trapp kids were finally able to do what they were put on earth to do. As if God himself picked out their outfits, clothing them in God swag, in "garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3) Old to new.

What about God, how does he dress himself? Psalm 104:2 says he wraps himself in light. In light! And what about his ultimate outfit? His human body outfit? The moment in history when the one thing God had yet to experience came to pass. That calendar-changing event when he came to earth and put on what makes a person, well, a person...and wore skin. Skin that could feel both pain and a good back scratch. A human being who experienced both rejection and the warmth of a cozy chat over coffee.

Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet did not sin."

I like the "we have" part of that verse. We have him. He is ours to have. He is our "most careful and tender guide; the most thoughtful anticipator of our needs; and the most skilled and supernatural sculptor of our circumstances." -Streams in the Desert

So if you're not sure what to wear tomorrow, have I...got a stylist...for YOU! I mean, you could make something cute with your curtains (my Nana certainly could!), but why not choose the outfit God picked out? Not only will it be breathable, flattering, and roomy enough to do a perfect-10 cartwheel, but the very fabric is made out of salvation, offering the kind of fit that'll make you the you-est of yous!

Monday, March 7, 2016

For the Love of Sugar Cereal

 
We ate a lot of cereal when I was little. A lot of sugar cereal. "Don't forget to buy sugar cereal at the store today!" would often echo off our crayon-covered walls. And if drab, non-sugar cereal was all we had, there was a sugar bowl (sometimes mug) sitting next to the plate of cat-licked butter on the kitchen counter, and I'd just stick my spoon right in.

The only problem was I did this after tasting my cereal - as did my four siblings and my mother with her coffee - so you can imagine the sugar globules that had formed with repeated dips of wet spoons. So I determined it was best to stick to pre-sweetened only.

Now, there was one particular cereal that captivated me mind, body, and soul the summer between second and third grades. I forget the name, but it came in a blue box and resembled mini powdered donuts. The entire neighborhood of south-east Omaha (where we temporarily lived) was nuts about it. Do-nuts about it.

But one day, we ran out. Sad news for two reasons: 1) The return of sugar globules. 2) It lead to my first and last street fight.

For starters, our neighborhood had street fight written all over it. Even the name of our street was written, no, spray-painted on the side of our house. Things got stolen from our yard. Kids walked around with names like Cat Daddy and Bubba. Part of the ceiling fell down on my parents while sleeping one night! Scary stuff to a lispy and freckly girl named Molly. But not as scary as running out of donut cereal.

It was Bubba's sister, or was it Cat Daddy's? Doesn't matter. Just think mean girl, a mean sugar-cereal-pusher who lured me to her house with the promise of donut cereal. How'd she know we ran out? Apparently I was an open book when it came to my love for this cereal, but a smart open book, for I said, "You just wanna get me away from my house so you can beat me up."

And she said, "I can't beat you up because my momma is sitting on the porch."

Dang it. She was right. I saw her momma myself while riding my bike around earlier. And when her momma sits, she sits all day. Perhaps mean girl has turned nice girl and now wants to be friends?

Huge mistake. When I got over there, the porch was completely momma-less. And as mean girl and her helpers (she had helpers!) gathered around to push, kick, and shove me down the street... in the direction of home (the only positive)... I remember going limp as I rolled along like a loose powdered donut.

Keep in mind, these were seven and eight-year-old girls. Not much damage done. And I must have bounced back pretty quickly because I remember playing in fire hydrants with the same girls the very next day, fire hydrants that Cat Daddy or Bubba illegally wrenched open.  

So, for the ponderers out there, why those girls be all up in my grill yo? If it was a God thing, a "suffering produces endurance and character and hope" thing, then...oops! Because I don't remember having a single God thought as I rolled on home. But I wonder if God, as he watched the entire botched donut deal play out, leaned over to the closest angel and said, "This is practice for when she thinks a porcupine is after her in the woods of Maine, the moment she begins turning to me for rescue and comfort." (Maine - the next stop in my 'cross-country-and-back-again childhood.)

Now, what else made running out of donut cereal a sad day? Oh yes, sugar globules - hard, crusty, germy chunks of sugar (with a random coffee granule thrown in). But just like God teaches us to trust him during the many street fights of life, he can certainly do lovely things with the many sugar globules of life. After all, with patience, they do dissolve over time, adding sweetness to our days when someone forgot the sugar cereal.



Sunday, February 14, 2016

How to Blow Minds at Book Clubs

We've all driven home from various book clubs (or some such gathering of progressive thinkers) and have said to ourselves, "Symbolism? Imagery? Metaphor? What? And here I thought it was just a cute romance."

Well, stew in your lack of intelligence no longer! Impress your peers by mentioning a book's "chiastic structure" (kahy-as-tik), and you'll have them choking on their quinoa cracker and brie in no time. (Who's going to beat themselves up on the drive home now?)

So let's see here. From what I understand, chiastic structure appears when concepts or words are repeated in reverse order. For example, take John F. Kennedy's famous quote: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." And, bam! Chiasmus.

Here's one that sums up my weekend: "Don't live to eat, eat to live." And many of us have heard: "It's okay to sweat the petty things as long as you don't pet the sweaty things."

But it's all fun and games until your life takes on a chiastic turn. It happened while subbing 10th grade history last week. I was walking across campus during a prep period when a security guy spotted me from a distance. He started toward me all gruff and tough, but then said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I was about to tell you to hurry up to class, but I see that you're an adult." And then it hit me smack dab in the middle of that line I really should get botoxed between my eyes: "She looks young from far, but she's far from young." Sigh.

But back to books. Sometimes an entire story, not just a single quote, has a chiastic structure - the Bible being a perfect example. Here it is, very loosely put, in a chiastic nutshell:

God created everything, and all was perfect. (Yay!)
Then we caused problems, and made things broken. (Boo!)
So God made it his problem, and took on our brokenness. (Boo!)
God then created us new again, and all will be perfect. (Yay!)

Notice my childish yay-boo-boo-yay pattern. (It helps to think like a kindergartener.) You could also fill in the chiastic a-b-b-a crisscross pattern of the Bible with something else: hopeful-hopeless-hopeless-hopeful or life-death-death-life. The point is, the bookends of history are insanely triumphant. God dwells with his children at the very beginning of the story. Then there are rough patches. Then he dwells with us again for all eternity when he "wipes every tear from our eyes...no more death or mourning or crying or pain." (Revelation 21:3-4)

It's pretty deep stuff. But not only are you smarter now, hopefully you have gained a new perspective. As for showing off at your next book club by slipping the word "chiasmus" into a conversation, remember this: They're not going to care about how much you know until they know how much you care.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Why Being a Woman Is Awesome

Thank you, clothing industry, for making "boyfriend jeans." What a good call, for they turn the oftentimes distressing jeans-wearing, "can't get 'em up past my knees" experience into something comfy, relaxed, and less terrifying. Like a good boyfriend!

But if I actually wore my boyfriend's - my husband's - jeans, why, you wouldn't be able to find me for days! One of him equals two of me. Which could be good: I'm in the jeans; let me be!

Turns out they also make boyfriend t's. Roomy and soft, they're perfect for hiding your muffin top while eating muffin tops. I'll take two, please - two of your finest muffin-top-making muffin tops baking! 

Yet my fondness toward all-things boyfriend dwindled the day I saw a rack of "ex-boyfriend" t-shirts. What's next, boy of the week t-shirts? Flava' of the month? Such sassy-ness. Such bitterness. And they didn't look one bit different from current boyfriend ts. Does someone at the t-shirt naming company have a yucky BF memory? I mean, who doesn't - but to name a shirt after it? I'm confused.

Oh I know, I'm making something out of nothing here. Maybe nothing was meant by it. But the whole idea just seems to chip away - if only a little - at the loveliness of womanhood. I like a lovely woman. I want to be a lovely woman. A woman who is vibrant and courageous, nurturing and relational, smart and confident, adventurous and bold, spunky and zesty.

To be a woman is to be regal. We are the crown of creation. Before we existed, something wasn't right. Something was missing. What was it? Women. GIRLS. It is not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18) Creation was already good, but not all the way good. God had a plan to make it gooder! And in enters the ladies.

Author Stasi Eldredge wrote this about women: "She is not an afterthought...She is God's final touch, his pièce de résistance. She fills a place in this world no one else can fill. Step to a window, ladies, if you can. Better still, find someplace with a view. Look out across the earth and say to yourselves. The whole vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.'"

(Would it be obnoxious to shout out "GIRL POWER" right about now?)

But after being reminded of where I fit into the order of creation, it just doesn't feel right to take the (much easier) sassy and bitter route all the time. (Okay, maybe some of the time.) Besides, what woman doesn't want to work on being a more comfy, relaxed, and less terrifying she? Kind of like, well, a good girlfriend!