Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Spirit of Power Among Friends - a take on 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power,
 of love and of self-discipline." 
2 Timothy 1:7

The setting: Haciendas Colorado - an incredible tasty Mexican restaurant

The time: Last night

The characters: me and friends Michele, Melissa and Danica

The last few months, and I honestly can't remember when it started, I have gotten together with these three ladies at Haciendas. Last night we agreed to go again and toast Danica and Michele and cry in our drinks for Melissa, who is soon to move to Hollywood.

But I was in no mood to go. I was in pain. Why? I knew that I needed to say NO to flour tortillas, chile rellenos and a margerita. No, No, No. Denying myself is still not easy even after doing it often the past ten months. And to say no on a night with girlfriends? 

OUCH. I thought about my NOS throughout the day. I had a plan and I needed to stick to it. But I dreaded it and anxiety grew. 

So much so, that as I walked into the restaurant, Michele took one look at me and said, "Are you okay?" I'll never be a poker player. 

I brushed her off and the four of us sat down to dinner. Lots of laughter and perusing the menu ensued. The chips came, but that wasn't difficult for me. I told myself I would have exactly 10 and I did. But then the moment of truth. The waiter asked what we wanted to drink. Michele ordered a diet coke. WHAT? My ears perked up. As I said iced tea, it was easier than I thought. I wasn't the only one saying no. 

Later we ordered food. I thought I would have salmon, simply  because it sounds diet-ee. I didn't want to have salmon at a Mexican restaurant. 

Michele ordered first. She chose the California tacos. And then she said, "But I'd like to have them in lettuce cups." 

WHAT? Lettuce cups and not flour tortillas?? My ears and heart perked up. A new choice. A choice to be healthy and get something I liked! I ordered the grilled mahi-mahi tacos in lettuce cups. 

They were outstanding. 

After the waiter left, I was asked by Danica what was up. Knowing I was with good friends, the tears came. The pain from having to say NO so often is exhausting and on this night, I felt it intensely. 

My friends did something that was absolutely wonderful. They empathized. They reached out and touched my hands. They felt WITH me. The tears turned to giggles with Melissa declared, "It just sucks that you can't have cake." 

Yes, indeed it does. It's just for a season. But it still hurts. The pain I walked into Haciendas dissapated as my friends listened and cheered me on. It was as if they took little bits of my pain and tucked them into their purses so I didn't have to leave with any. 

2 Timothy 1:7 talks about the SPIRIT of POWER that God has given us. Last night I had none of it as I entered a restaurant to be with friends. But in the midst of my Jesus-loving sisters, they gave it to me. Just as they took bits of my pain, they reached into their hearts and gave me that power that is ours to have if we just ask and receive. 

The tacos in lettuce cups were amazing. But better than them, was the taste of God's sweet gift to me in friendship. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Brownies and that Boy I Love!!

My boy Noah

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

The text read:

We need more brownies!!

I’ve discovered I have a secret weapon in the form of a recipe for brownies. My friend Loretta passed this James Bond Sugar gadget on to me. God works in mysterious ways and today He made me giggle through the power of chocolate.

My fourteen-year-old, Noah, is on a mission trip this week in downtown Denver. His youth group is staying at a church that helps the community with a food bank, clothes distribution center and other projects for lower income and homeless folks. On his list of items to bring was a snack to share with his fellow workers. I asked him what he wanted to bring, thinking he would say chips.

He replied, “Brownies, of course.”

Noah loves them and so I’ve provided these chocolate delights to him, his friends and the youth group often. So he took brownies.

I’ve been missing him the last four days and so when I got the text from Amy, one of his youth directors, I jumped at the chance. This morning I hopped in the car, secret weapon in classy aluminum foil pan and headed off to provide culinary joy to a bunch of teenagers while getting a glimpse of that boy I love.

When I got there, Amy met me, took said brownies and led me to say hi to Noah. When we went into a large room in the basement, kids were everywhere. Young elementary age kids. They were all grouped in circles. I quickly deducted that they were giving prayer requests and then, praying. At first I didn’t see Noah, but when I noticed Amy tapping on the shoulder of a handsome young man, I smiled. He was focused on the five boys surrounding him and didn’t respond to the repeated taps. Finally Amy tugged his shirt back and he turned around. She pointed to me across the room.

To my glee, Noah jumped up and started my way. Then he stopped suddenly, held up his pointer finger to me (the universal sign of just a sec) and sat down with his charges, once again eagle-eyed on what they were saying. I watched across the room as my son, the boy who has never baby-sat or played with little kids, talked to his boys.

And then they prayed.

My heart leapt and tears, my easy companions, sprang forth. What a priceless moment to watch my son minister to little kids, two of which who were sporting mohawks.

See, I’ve prayed and will always pray for Noah to fall in love with Jesus and with serving God. The Father and John, in that order, have told me countless times to not expect Noah to have the same relationship with Jesus as I do. Noah is his own person and how and when he follows the Lord is between Noah and Jesus. I have no control over this. Noah is going to relate to God in ways I won’t ever be able to. Jesus will whisper things to His boy that I will never even think to utter. That’s just the way it is. John 12:32 says that Jesus, not the mothers, will draw men to Himself. But as moms, we so often want our children to have the same experience with God that we do. And as I watched Noah, I realized again, the desire to limit Noah’s relationship to mine is to limit God’s power in his life.

The boys said amen and Noah told them he’d be back. He sprang up and walked quickly into the hall to see me. And then he got all cool again and calmly said, “Hey.”

I giggled and said, “Noah, I brought brownies. Can I have a hug for that?”

For this simple act of service that included sugar and chocolate, my 6’1” boy jogged to me and hugged me.

I love brownies. I thank God for this delicious, secret weapon. He can definitely use anything to His glory.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Joy Set Before YOU

This is me beside a sculpture in Evergreen, Colorado entitled "Shout!" 
This is me choosing Joy! 

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

In the Message, part of Hebrews 12:2 reads “Study how He did it.”

Beth Moore tells of hiking with her eagle-eyed husband. They will be walking and he’ll point out an animal. But she can’t see it. So he’ll point and she’ll lean her head on his shoulder and look straight down his arm and pointing finger and spy the beautiful sight.

When I read Hebrews 12:2 this week I thought of Beth and her husband. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. But what is He looking at? As I lean on his shoulder and close one eye, I spy it: The joy set before him.

In studying how Jesus did life, I see he didn’t focus on the horror of the cross or the constant persecution He faced. He looked to the Joy.

This past week, I’ve experienced many moments of sadness, restlessness and trouble. And I could focus on that and sit and complain to you for hours over coffee. But I’m studying how Jesus did life and I don’t see Him sitting at a Starbucks with a friend whining.

“Oy vey! Why don’t those Pharisees like me? You won’t believe what people are saying about me? It hurts. And have I told you about the cross? The pain I’ll have to endure! Oy vey!”

No, he focused on the joy set before Him. So as I look at the past week, I focus on the joy-filled moments God gave me.

  •          I sat in a coffee shop and insecurity attacked. “Am I doing these Joyvotions right, God?” At that moment, a lady named Sarah Ritz came up and introduced herself and told me she reads these and loves them. That’s Joy from God.

  •     I got to visit with Wendy Berryhill on Friday and Joni and Vern Bosky on Saturday – three old friends from San Diego. The laughter and warmth from being with folks who play a part in my memories is Joy.

  •      I met with my editor and planned my first novel’s release in September and the book launch in October. Dreams are becoming reality. Sweet Joy.

  •      The questions about why I overeat are being answered. Painful, yes, but tremendous hope is born and that creates Joy.

  •      I watched Noah in his first high school football scrimmage. My little boy is growing up. Bittersweet joy.

  •       I celebrated my brother Phil’s birthday. I just love this man. And I got to see my nephew’s eighteen-year-old girlfriend, Natalie, who is beating leukemia. (Pray for her to deliver the final knockout blow.) To see the flesh and blood handiwork of Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals, is complete Joy!

Join me and study how Jesus did life. I believe that the joy that Jesus saw before Him included being present with God and folks from the disciples to you and me believing in His gift of salvation. I also think He saw the joy in us, that joy we get to have every day, because of Him.

What are you focusing on? I hope it’s Jesus and His sweet Joy!