They didn’t know. . .

As I was sitting on my deck this morning watching the sunrise; my private Easter sunrise service, I was struck my how normal the day seemed.  I imagined the emotion the followers of Jesus must have felt that morning… numb, afraid, exhaustion, indecision, confusion, perhpas some anger. It was two days since Jesus was killed. . . two long days. Now the women were leaving to perform the very normal process of managing the body. Filled with sadness, numb and uncertainly, imagine just how their ordinary day turned to extraordinary. Imagine the engery that surged in thier exhausted bodies. Through swollen tear streaked eyes, thier ordinary day changes and their adrenaline surges.

Funny how we place so much stock in routine. How we take for granted moments as ordinary. How shocked and undone we are when the unexpected happens, good or bad. What stuck me the Easter morning is Jesus knew. He knew their reactions. He knew their pain, confusion and fear. He also knew what they did not yet understand.

Today everything changes.


That Easter morning thousands of years ago, my life changed just like theirs. Today, I know that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to me. Today I know the victory that was acheived that first Easter. Today I am free from the power of sin and death because that first Easter, Jesus rose from the dead. That day they were free as well. They, so close to the emotional strain of the events that proceeded that first Easter, were whirled away in exhuberance and disbelief. Today, we struggle to understand the intensity of the events. We fight to keep the world’s ideas at bay, bunnies, chocolate and the like. Thousands of years later, the day marks an extraordinary event. It reveals the power of our risen savior. It demonstrates the depths of his love. It provides the roadmap of faith for all who will follow. He is risen and the world will never be the same. His followers were never the same. I will never be the same. What I do not know about my ordinary days, Jesus knows. I can trust him fully because of Easter.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

The Wisdom of Children

Great perspective Char. I’m glad you started writing again. I think the ‘easy downhill’ has so may applications. Blessings friend. I’m gonna reblog this on Ebenezers of Grace.

There is JOY in the Journey

Joy in the JOurneY – The Wisdom of Children

Children, while innocent, curious, and fun, often have wisdom to offer if we take the time to listen. Today was a very nice day here in Susanville and I decided to sit on my deck and enjoy some fresh air. My landlord’s children were out and about playing. After a while, mom went in and the two boys were still outside. Thus a conversation was begun. I learned their favorite food (mac and cheese in case you are interested – the vestiges of which were visible on faces as well), why it is best NOT to swim with sharks, and how the trees around the house look like a T-Rex at night (I better start paying more attention). Also, there appears to be a bird living in their garage, a scary bird that turns its head and looks at you when…

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Truth Versus Perception

I had an amazingly funny, bigger-than-life, Dad. Affectionately known as Big Jim, his 6356388427610595271282450916_969748_10103227871636285_1801255318_ngiant stature was dwarfed by his big heart and gigantic dreams. He used to invent toys for me. One I can remember vividly was what he called the Ski-a-stake (this was in 1961 before the skate board). He attached roller skates, the old metal kind, to the bottom of water skis. There were two snow ski type poles to complete the set. Inventors run in the Morrison family and my Dad longed for that one great idea. I’m really not sure this toy was for me, but I was the test dummy . . .or should I say crash dummy.  I was about 6 or 7 years old and my Dad thought I could do everything and should not ever be afraid of whatever crazy adventure he had designed for me. That list of ‘adventures’ is quite long.  I remember vividly, the hill on Ellsworth in Memphis because it is the same hill is where I learned to ride a bike, (another adventure for another day). So, Dad positioned me on top of the hill with these huge water skis strapped to my feet, poles in hand and gave me a push. I need to say, I am not the adventurous type, in fact, even with my ample frame, I was a girly girl at heart. But this was glide or die. I remember being terrified, but managing to remain upright until I reached the bottom of the hill where I fell. It was probably not near the giant hill I remember, but my fear made it gigantic.  My precious father, a middle child, was highly competitive with his older brothers and sandwiched between them and his younger brother, born with some physical challenges. My point in this story is that my Dad’s view of a father was filtered through his. Strength and courage, regardless of gender, were necessary for survival and to receive attention. That was his reality. So, my Dad created environments for me to grow in strength and courage. He loved me but I always felt at risk, fearful that in his effort to build character, I might die.

I struggle with fear and trust, as you might well imagine. My father was loving, generous, strong and adventurous. His heart’s desire for me was to be strong and courageous and serve the Lord with my life, however, what I learned and internalized as my truth was that the adults in your life might want the best for you but it is going to hurt. I learned to avoid pain and shy away from ‘adventures’ for myself and my children. I loved my dad, deeply, but I did not trust that his plan for me was not going to kill me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Says Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean in your own direction. In all your ways acknowledge him, He will direct your path.

My earthly father is the filter through which I perceive my heavenly father, even decades after the experience described here and others like it. It is my default thought and perception. By nature, or nurture, I immediately am fearful of ‘adventures’ and new things. However, I have a heavenly Father who is perfect. My Abba Father, Papa, daddy loves me and wants my complete trust.

So how do I reconcile my faulty perception with God’s truth?

Much like my earthly Dad expected my obedience to his plans, my heavenly father desires my obedience or willingness to lean in his direction, not my own. My own direction is filtered thought my past experience but leaning into His direction requires me to trust that He is who he says, recall other times he has been faithful and evaluate the good he continues to make out of my bad. The beauty he has made from my ashes.

Roman 12:2 tells us to change our behaviors by changing how we think. Satan, of course, wants to keep me trapped in my perception rather than God’s truth. He wants me to believe that God, just like my Dad is going to hurt me if I fully trust him. He is going to strap two wooden boards to my feet and push me down the hill. If, however, I stay trapped in my perception, I will miss what God has planned for me, personally and within the body of Christ. For me this means I must capture my perception and replace it by:

  • Reminding myself who God is
  • Remembering He love me with a perfect love
  • Believe that his perfect love casts out my fears.
  • Trusting that His best will not harm me.

Where are, you believing your old truth, or holding onto your perception rather than trusting your Abba Father, Papa Daddy? I’d love to hear how your overcome them and are replacing them with truth.

Shine on!

We live in a very remote location and when it is dark himg_3418-1ere on our country hilltop, it is really dark. People who live in the city may not appreciate the genuine darkness of the country. We often have evening visitors who comment on how bright the stars look against the pitch black of the night sky. What I notice is not so much how bright the stars appear, but their abundance. The same number exists in the city but without the black of night, they are not seen.

In Matthew 5:13-14, Jesus is speaking to a large crowd of followers. He tells them they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He shares this against the darkness of the crowd that followed them and the struggles of their time. I think this was to encourage them not only about brightness or saltiness but about significance. Do you ever see yourself as light or salt? There are days when I question those in my own walk. My light ‘feels’ dull, lacking sufficient energy or direction.  I question if there is enough to make a difference in dark places.  What this scripture reminds me is that my light, even a small dim one, dispels darkness. I am always amazed as I drive up the long gravel road to our home that the lamp, left on for the dog, appears so bright from such a distance. From the light’s perspective, it may not be observable and I think this was Jesus’s point. The light is lest affected by its own light. It is best observed by those in darkness and often at a distance who are in need of it. So how I ‘feel’ about my light is of little importance because . . . wait for it . . . it’s not about me. My light is not for me, it’s for others to see and glorify God. I am not responsible for the location or illumination. I am light by virtue of the relationship to the Son and Father, the source of the light in me.

Jesus goes on to talk about light’s efficiency in mass when he gives the example of a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Think about the last time you traveled at night and observed the glow from the approaching city, large or small. Even a hamlet produces radiating light. It cannot be hidden. The darker the environment the more significant even the smallest light or the smallest group of lights. Finally, notice in verse 14, Jesus tells them that they can chose to put a lamp under a basket and hide the light, but he says almost rhetorically, that people just don’t have a light to hide it from sight. Notice that a choice has to be made when hiding a light and it is not God who does the hiding.

For those days when we are struggling with significance, purpose and belonging, even a tiny light alone dispels darkness. Remember our light is not FOR us. We are light by virtue of relationships with Jesus.  Our light is for those who are in darkness.  Our light not ABOUT us, but rather to bring glory to our Father in heaven.

Let your light shine before men so that they may see…and glorify your Father in heaven. Don’t trust how you feel, stand on the truth of salt and light.

Shine on!


Sticks and Stones . . .

imageSticks and stones may break my bones but words . . .

Have you ever thought about the effect your words have on people? I was entering an event venue at the invitation of an acquaintance. When entering, I saw this person and was greeted warmly but with the look that says ‘I know I should know you but’, you know the one, right?  It did not bother me in the slightest. Reflecting, however, on our original meeting and invitation, I expected a different response. Though some time has passed and life gets busy, what was clear is that her words had impacted me more than our original meeting had impacted her. Again, I was not hurt or disappointed, it just struck me how causally we use words. We speak and communicate but we are never certain how those words impact or influence the receiver. There is a children’s song that has as a verse,

 ‘O be careful little mouth what you say . . . for the Father up above is looking down with love, O be careful little mouth what you say.’

What we say even in a small group setting impacts and influences others, either negatively or positively. We judge something simple like appearances and comment even jokingly, and these seemingly benign words are received and have consequences. We talk about others, even in Christian circles and even if the person is not present, the hearers of those words forms opinions and thoughts. These thoughts inform behavior and attitudes toward others. Interestingly, when judging another, we typically attribute their deficiencies to character flaws, but when we judge ourselves we attribute those flaws to circumstances. We judge with incomplete information. We do not know everything, or why choices were made. We assume, but we do not know what we do not know. What would happen, especially in Christian circles, where the world is certainly listening and observing, if we guarded our words with as much care as we guard our money or our children.

 John 13:35 says that all people will know we are followers of Jesus Christ when they observe how we love one another.

 Not by how much we give, or stand in opposition to issues and not even how we love the world. The world will know that we follow Christ by how we demonstrate love within our Christian community towards one another. Jesus says in John 12:32 ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.’ The process seems to be we love in community, lifting up Christ by word and deeds and Jesus will draw men to him. People will come to know him.   Words matter whether the person being talked about is present or not. Words impact and influence. I have done my share of damage in this area, but by the grace of God through this insignificant reunion with an acquaintance, I will be careful what I say.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words have lasting consequences that can destroy.

Blessed versus Happy

I am still studying Matthew, observing the movement of Jesus in relationship to community.IMG_3304 In Matthew 5, the familiar passage called the beatitudes begins. Much has been written on this section and I am certainly not qualified to discuss the theological nuances. What impresses me is the setting and the discourse that follows to his disciples, moving from a large crowd to a smaller group; moving from a needs based circumstance driven crowd to an intimate learner’s environment. Matthew 4:23-25 describes the crowd that is following Jesus and his work among them, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel, healing every disease and affliction, various diseases, pains, oppressed by demons. . . ‘and he healed them’. Now this great crowd is following him because he represents something different. He offers relief to their circumstances, pain and misery.

Chapter 5 begins with ‘Seeing the crowd, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.’  He removes himself from the emotion and tension a crowd that wants something represents. I imagine, though, it is purely speculation, that he sits where he can see them and consistent with his character, he looks on them with compassion, longing that they could see beyond their circumstance and trust him and know his father. This, much deeper than their presenting issue.  In verse 2, Jesus opens his mouth and teaches his discipline, this smaller group of intimate followers. The first word is ‘Blessed’.  That has always been a confusing word. What does it mean to be blessed? Certainly in American, we are most blessed with wealth and security compared to the rest of the world. But, that’s based on circumstances which could change and are changing every day. Determined to understand this term ‘blessed’, out comes the study tools to search for the original meaning of the word. Blessed in the Greek is makários which translates as blessed one, possessing the favor of God. It is that state of being marked by the fullness of God. It indicates the state of the believer in Christ; said of one who becomes a partaker of God’s nature through faith in Christ. So it is positional. As a believer in Jesus Christ, indwelt with the Holy Spirit because of faith in Jesus Christ this is the result. Contrasted to ‘happy’ which is based on circumstances, like the large crowd following Jesus in this account, who were looking for relief from their circumstance to be ‘happy’. Happy has to do with good fortune or based on a favorable circumstance. Blessed is equivalent to having God’s kingdom within one’s heart; in the world but not dependent on it. Satisfied because of God rather favorable circumstance[1].

Back to the scene, in Matthew 5, Jesus is observing a great crowd of followers who are seeking circumstance relief and teaching his disciples, those who follow him as believers in his work and person and stressing the difference in his first word choice. Emphasizing the difference between them and the overall makeup of the crowd. Blessed versus happy. Those of us who call the name of Christ; believers, followers, children of God, have the same dynamic or option available. We are blessed because we have Christ within. We have the fullness of God within us. Therefore, our circumstances do not determine our state of being. We are in Christ. The chaos of this world, even the chaos in each individual life of a believer does not change our blessedness. We do not have to be undermined by the world, but can stand above the circumstances and remain independent from them in our state of being, our attitudes and therefore our behaviors. We are not UNDER the circumstance unless we choose to place ourselves there. Certainly there is a place for grief and adjustment to circumstance that cause us stress but regardless of the outcome, we are blessed.

Cancer or illness . . . blessed. Loss . . .. blessed. Stressful job . . . blessed. Financial difficulties . . . blessed. Relationships gone sideways . . .blessed.

Blessed are the believers in Christ because they have the fullness of God within.

Paul says it best in 2 Corinthians 4:8

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Blessed . . .



[1]  Taken from The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Edited by S. Zodhiates, AMG Publishers, page 937.

Does Jesus really get me?

IMG_0225I’ve been reading through Matthew, observing the movement of Jesus through a social context; placing myself, as much as possible within the cultural mindset of his time. I may be  lacking in a comprehensive cultural perspective but trust in the instructional leading of the Holy Spirit, crossing the bridge of interpretation to life application.

Matthew 4 begins with what we know about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. My favorite words are in the beginning verses where Jesus comes out of a 40 day/40 night fast and scripture records these words ‘he was hungry’. Seriously, I have always thought these were a  wasted of words; a redundant statement. Who would not be hungry after fasting for that long, right? But believing that all scripture is inspired and profitable for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, I began to look more closely at these words.

This event in the life of Jesus is often connected to the words in Hebrew 4:14 that say ‘he, speaking of Jesus,  was tempted in all manner as we are, yet without sin.’ Certainly Jesus faced other temptations in his ministry/life but these three were head-on full frontal conflict with the devil and have significance for not only our behaviors but perceptions and thoughts as well.

Jesus was hungry. This was a felt, real need. Few of us know real hunger especially if we live in the United States. But this was 40 days without food. I can barely go a meal before I whine about being hungry let alone 40 day and nights.  The devil’s solution for his hunger was turn objects into substance to meet a need. When I sat with that for a bit, I realized the devil tempts me with the same thing. Turn things into something that meets a felt need. For example, my felt need for security I feed with food or spending or controlling behaviors. A ‘no-thing’to satisfy a felt need. Note too, the devil suggested he make more than he needed. ‘Stones to loaves of bread’, where one loaf would have met his felt need of hunger. How many times do we over-indulge and stockpile rather than simply meet the need? In a world of over-stimulation, we hardly know where need ends and indulgence begins. Everything in this world primes us to over-indulge, to satisfy ourselves after all we are entitled.

Next, look what happens after Jesus counters the devil with the word of God in Matthew 4:11.  After the devil left him, God met his need through his angels, his messengers; a method out of Jesus’s control. Jesus has to wait. I think this speak to delayed gratification which is an element of spiritual discipline.

Finally, Jesus’ antidote for the devil in this temptation back in Matthew 4:4 is ‘man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’. My take on this defense is first, when the choice is trust your feelings, real, as in Jesus hunger or imagined, as in my insecurity, trust what God says in his word. If you don’t know what that is, go search for it, find a mentor, coach or spiritual director but seek out God’s truth. Feelings are based in situations and environments and are not very trustworthy.  What we know about feelings is that often they drive behaviors and for many of us those may be self-destructive or at a minimum self-defeating. Your perception may not be reality but like Jesus, the devil wants you to believe it is reality and wants you to fix it for yourself.  Second, wait on God. Trust his word. While you wait and pray for wisdom and examine your feelings. Is the devil tempting you to substitute objects or activities or relationships to meet a need only God can fill completely? A need God longs to fill if you’ll just wait on him?

Does Jesus really get me? I think he understand what it means to be tempted to meet my own needs with anything other than God. He had the chance to do the same but  he chose to wait and trust; to press through the tension of his felt need and believe his Father had a plan and purpose. He was tempted with the same things we’re tempted with, yet without sin. Like the ultimate coach who has been there and succeeded, we can follow his example and trust him.

Be blessed.


Star of Purpose– Storm of Change

I am currently enrolled in a social and cultural psychology class for my master’s program. My fascination with groups and 1280-CATERS_TORNADO_RAINBOW_01 influence on individual’s thoughts and behaviors had led me to begin a journey exploring scripture in light of group dynamics surrounding the life of Christ. I want to explore his behaviors and perhaps intentions in terms of his in-group (followers) and out-groups that opposed his teaching and example. I am not really sure what I will find, but I began my journey in Matthew 2:1-12.

This beginning section of Matthew 2 provides the account of the wise men from the east; men of science and faith, exploring what they have researched and adventuring beyond their borders to prove or disprove what the science had exposed.

The star –It must have been unique or it would not have ignited their curiosity. They were curious enough to dig deeper and reach a conclusion that it was more than a universal anomaly. Their research led them to ancient text that pointed to its purpose. It was a guiding and locating star. The first GPS (Global Positioning Star) and they were driven to follow it.This same star shown a light on a social and cultural environment that was about to change. That change was ushered in by the birth of Jesus, identified by the wise men as ‘King of the Jews’ who they asked for by position rather than name. This change was illuminated and exposed by a star with a purpose.

The Social/Cultural climate

Social and cultural conditions is at the forefront of my thought process and the fodder for my recent exploration into scripture.  Briefly, as the terms might suggest, there are in-groups and out-groups within a culture or society. In-groups are the groups with which one identifies closely, out-groups are a comparison group that contrast with the in-group. Prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination are developed within this context of group comparison. In our text we have two salient groups; Romans under the leadership of Herod and the Jew, under the leadership of their religious hierarchy. Rome was the majority group, if not in number in political power and control. Jews were the minority, in bondage to Rome. God had been silent for 400 years. This is an important point because to normalize their existence under the Roman government, the Jewish leadership had acquiesced to their position and seemingly have lost faith in the promises of their God. When asked by Herod what they knew about the prophecy referenced by the wise men, they answered with accuracy. They knew the information but had lost sight of the God of promise. This singular question produced the emotion of fear (vs 3). It is unclear if their fear was due to the in-congruence of their faith or of Herod or both. Change was coming and storms always elicit an emotion.  Herod, on the other hand was troubled, probably in more ways than one, but this question from the wise men set social and potential political wheels in motion. It upset his norm. His power was threatened and his response was control.

The Storm is brewing. This beautiful unusual star so important to the sweetness of the nativity story is a warning star with purpose. The silent God has kept his word, his promise of a Messiah and things are about to change.

We often see storms as negative, however, they are energy in motion, conflict reaching a peak, the hidden being exposed. In Recovery, we often say that nothing can be healed unless it is brought into the light. Light, not darkness provides healing. The transition between the two, the storm, is painful, but purposeful. If you have ever experienced a tornado, the set up for the storm is an eerie pea green sky, that looks menacing, followed by temperature change, light winds, then often hail, torrential rains and short lived but enormous winds. What follows the storm is the freshest air, rainbows and peace; none of which would have been experienced unless there was an atmospheric change in the climate. Any climate, social, environmental, cultural or spiritual.

What does your storm look like? Did you miss the warning ‘star’? Is it possible for you to re-frame the whirling winds of change that are for good, for betterment, for purpose and see it in light of the work God is doing within its context? How? Do not be afraid of the storm. It is only energy, God’s energy. Be still, firmly planted in faith, even if God seems silent. When trees are bent in a windstorm, their roots go deeper. Feel your roots expanding deeper into the God of purpose, spread your branches and embrace the storm. Even if uprooted, there is a purpose.   Change is coming. Romans 8:28 says it’s for our good and God’s glory.

Matthew 2:12(b)- speaking of the wise men … they departed to their own country by another way.

Be blessed!

Picture taken by Jason Blum and his son in Colorado ( blum&source=iu&pf=m&fir=iOmu_TAhFkIBdM%253A%252CmQ6lrXHuozjvdM%252C_&usg=__2nZgi4PoYZnYBTLqjNALzoDoxWw%3D&biw=1448&bih=758&dpr=0.9&ved=0ahUKEwiYyt3N98_MAhVW7GMKHV78CZIQyjcIOA&ei=Lw0yV9j2M9bYjwPe-KeQCQ#imgrc=iOmu_TAhFkIBdM%3A


Celebrating Diversity … Different like us.

IMG_3304I’m sitting in a wonderful little bakery/coffee shop in my favorite small town, where we hope to retire. It’s noisy and eclectic, sort of, filled with a mix of ages, genders and expressed lifestyles. As I look across the street, I peer into windows of international non-profits, mainstream religious institutions, shops and the like which feed the environment here in this quaint hub of activity. The question that comes to mind, having limited experience with organizations here who value diversity; What does that really mean? I’m different culturally, biologically (age), my worldview is consistent with my faith yet in the midst of the stated celebration of diversity and inclusion, I’m excluded. So it’s really not a celebration of diversity, it conformity, different like us. I’m not being critical. There is a style here that is consistent with the blending (or not) of old west and environmental cultures. There is the air of limited acceptance of diversity from both sides. Is that their intent? We’ll coexist but  . . . .

In psychology the concept of being accepted is demonstrated by ingroups and outgroups. This is a very normal process. We gravitate to the places where we are completely accepted and avoid, if possible those places where we feel rejected. ‘Feel’ is an important word, because, regardless of the reality of the situation, how we interpret that situation is run through the colors of our own world. There may be people sitting here in this quaint place that share my worldview, or who may be from a different part of the country, but I still ‘feel’ like an outsider.

Because of my worldview, my mind moves towards the personal spiritual application. What and how am I to address this diversity and exclusion dynamic? First, this is not a new concept. Scripture is fraught with examples of this very dynamic. In John 17, Jesus prays for his followers, that they would be in the world but not conformed or transformed by the world. Separate from but influential in this world. Certainly the culture then was different from today but the environment this dynamic created is the same. Hatred for those who follow Jesus. Exclusion or outgroup is the consequence of following Jesus. So what is the point? This really feels bad sometime, right? How should my behavior, as a follower of Christ, reflect the heart of God within this world where I do not fit by design?  I don’t think God is surprised by the internal conflict of this dynamic. I think he fully understands the difficulty of walking in the light in the midst of darkness and hard places. I’m sure there is a list of do’s that could be provided here but my experience with ‘do’s and don’ts’ leaves me empty and feeling like a continual failure. So let me suggest what Paul says in Galatian 5, as he addresses a group that has shifted from the design of sanctification to conformity to the ‘former things’. He underscores the behaviors associated with a life conformed to the world and calls these behaviors bondage. You can explore the list in Galatians 5:19. Consistent with our theme, dissensions, rivalries and divisions are included in the list. I realized he’s talking about within the body of Christ, but the idea is that we begin to look like the world as we become conformed to the behaviors of the world; as we try to become part of the ingroup. The counter positions Paul offers begins in Galatians 5:22 with the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit is synonymous with behaviors or attitudes, in my opinion; the visible and attitudinal results of a surrendered life.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

Perhaps for the follower of Christ ‘celebrating diversity’ means seeing this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Maybe it means living thoughtfully as an outgroup that is its own ingroup by design, fully surrendered to the Spirit of God, given us for personal instruction and guidance. We’ll know that’s where we are dwelling when we see the fruit of his spirit emerge in places we simply do not fit, either real or imagined. The peace of God will rule our hearts and mind and we can love like Jesus, praying for those different than us, that one day they can be different like us… saved by God’s grace and led by God’s spirit for eternity.