It’s not fair! …coping with the wounding and injustices of irregular people. Finding hope in Easter.

 

My little group, hiking in the mountains together.
 “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8

Most of us have those in our lives who have wounded us again and again. We have all had to deal with the irregular people. Those who are self-centered, or seemingly angry, or harsh or critical and are more self-absorbed in their lives than willing to give. We long for their words of love, encouragement, grace and yet are met with harshness or impatience or passivity or the with-holding of love. Often it is a family member–a spouse, parent, brother, child. Sometimes a neighbor, or a “fellow Christian.” Our hearts cry, “It’s not fair. I am not willing to be hurt one more time. I want to leave.”

But in reality we are sometimes ourselves the irregular people. 

The tension of having to live with such a person or ourselves,  is very difficult to manage. Our desire is to run away, to leave, to not allow ourselves to continually be in that place where deep wounds may occur again any time.

At a couple of our mom’s conferences this year, when surveyed, we found out that well over half of the women who attended came from alcoholic, divorced or abusive families. Astounding–a majority of the people around me, though it is not evident in their outside appearances, have wounds, scars, deep insecurity, pain from the closest of relationships in their lives. 

This world is the broken place–the place where Satan is the ruler of the world, and yet there is Easter. 

As I approach the Easter season, I ask Christ to show me what He wants me to know, to understand, and how to love Him more. Each year I am surprised at the outcome.

****************

I have a little group that has evolved over the past 3 years. We made it a priority to be friends. We gather weekly or as often as we are all in town. We and our children do ministry together. We do life together. I knew I needed support systems since we have no family near by and we travel so much. Ours is a strange life.

And so we all decided that over the weeks before Easter, we would gather and share a meal and then watch a portion of the movie about Jesus that is based on the gospel of John. The movie only has the words of John, nothing else. 

After spending time talking, giggling, munching on home-made bread, cheese and fresh fruit and hearing from different ones who had been reporting about different topics found in the gospel of John, we noisily tramped downstairs to my friend’s basement and squeezed in together on an over-sized couch, grabbed and jerked blankets around ourselves and then became immersed in the middle-eastern world of Jesus.

His words penetrated our souls,  amidst the lakeside waves, the tumble of the personalities and antics of the disciples, the responses of the Samaritan prostitute, the amazed rejoicing blind man who received sight, the broken-hearted harlot who was caught in adultery amidst the angry, screaming, accusing Pharisees, the tousling of heads of children as Jesus passed through, the compassionate feeding of the 5000, who were weary and hungry; the patience and forbearance with constant arguing, questioning, accusing. 

I was surprised at how hungry my soul was for His message and became drawn into His heart. The crowds argued with Him, the Pharisees accused Him; twice they sought to stone Him, His authority was questioned, his miracles were questioned. He was accused of being filled with a demon. Haunted by constant, pushy, demanding, crowds, relentless needs of lost, lonely, hungry souls. And yet from the beginning, John tells us, He was ever moving toward his death, His cross, His sacrifice.

The divine meekness, the encompassing gentle spirit, the transcendent  humble being, enveloping all in His pathway with profound, true insight, healing love, soothing soul-felt words of life was a witness of the power amidst the rubble of life. 

And more, taking 5 chapters to explain His heart to His cherished friends, John sought to give us a glimpse into His compassionate heart, they who would be left alone, His disciples. He gathers them for a private, intimate sharing of souls, over the comfort of one last shared meal. 

The creator and supreme, stooped on the dirty ground to wash 120 dirty toes. He gently washed, touched, dried the feet of his most intimate friends.

“If I have done this to you, so you should do this to one another.”

Even to the one who would betray him, he washed and ministered his humble love unto him on the very night he was to be betrayed.

His words washed over my soul, “Just as the Father has loved me, I have loved you. Abide in my love.” 15:9

“Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends.” 15:13

“They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.” (5 times)

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” 15:18

“How many times should we forgive? Seventy times seven.” 

“These things I have spoken to you that you may be kept from stumbling,…, an hour is coming  for everyone who kills you to think he is offering a service to God.” 16: 1-2

“You will weep and lament, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.”16:20

“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” 16:33

And then, he went to the cross, willingly, humbly, generously, feeling all the pain, despising the pain, yet holding on for the joy ahead where redemption and healing and love would reign supremely for eternity. 

Peter tells us, “While being reviled, he did not revile in return, but kept trusting Himself to God, who judges righteously.

And then, his dying breath, “Forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing.”

And so for me, the message of this year from His spirit became clear.  “if I am to understand my God, I am to imitate His life, his love, His generous forgiveness and mercy, and his servant, life of pouring himself for others, so undeserving–no more room for the pointing of fingers or critical attitudes or the pettiness of hateful thoughts that rob my soul from grace. In order for a muscle to be built, it must be torn and then repair itself–the ending result is strength. And so soul strength comes through the same process. 

In pondering how he could love, serve, die for the unlovely, forbear with unconditional love, I am being chiseled into His likeness. When I practice with those unlovely, the irrational,  those with whom I may have to deal for my whole life, the unconditional love, patience, forbearance-even the injustice, “It’s not fair,” feelings, I am renewed to soul knowledge and deep understanding of the very nature of my savior.

In this place, there is no room for bitterness, accusations, hate or anger to overpower, because the light of His forgiving love overcomes all darkness. Choosing to remain in the suffering with a face of forgiveness, my soul is transformed by His grace and light begins to pour into my being.

 In pondering, loving, worshiping this man, my God, by exercising the same grace He lived when, “while we were yet sinners, he died for us,” my soul is spiritually, surgically, stretched in the fire of reality to begin to understand a little more of Him, and my heart is bowed down to worship more fully the One who is love, grace and forgiveness. And in this knowledge, I, too, find generous, unconditional forgiveness and healing love.

No longer owned by those who choose t
o injure, but freed to dwell in the sweet grace and accepting love, that by my experience from His own hand and voice, gives me the strength to live by His empowering in the shadow of His healing, life-giving love.

One more to go!

Worshipping together.

 As I reflect on the privilege it has been to grow in the Lord and to share these encouragements with moms over the years, I feel so very humbled and blessed. I am not the know all be all by any means. But there is something miraculous that happens when like-minded women who are committed to God’s ideals for their lives gather all in one place and sing worship music, and listen to speakers who encourage us in our walk with God and eat and cry and talk and share hearts—God amazingly shows up through the body of fellowship–and all of us are changed. 

book tables–oh boy!
 

The women in Dallas, being the oldest conference for Whole Heart, always bless me beyond words. Besides coming to the conference, they also send notes, sweets, food during the conference upstairs in our room that all the teens who serve gobble up;  give me mad money for my secret drawer that I sneak money into all year, so that when we need to splurge on something as a family–I have planned and saved for it. But they have blessed me in these ways to keep me going. Their love and grace in my life helps me to keep being grace to others.

And so, in “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” we have kept each other going over the years. 


Sweet Tracy Klicka 

I also love how God gives you friends as you serve Him in ministry. Many years ago, I met Tracy Klicka in Raleigh. It was soon after that when our family invaded her home and we shared sweet fellowship over meals and a passionate devotion that Chris shared one morning and heart conversations that knit our hearts together.

You can imagine how excited I am that Tracy will be sharing her heart with us in Raleigh. I love having women who have walked with God, through life, trials, seasons and still love Him–and so you will see that in her heart this next weekend as she shares more personally of her own story of walking beside Chris in his battle in MS and how she learned even in that place to see the goodness of God. So if any of you are still thinking about coming, it is not too late, but we will have to close registration soon. 

I look so forward to next weekend, being at Raleigh with many women from our very last mom’s conference of the year. The hotel has made some special concessions for us and will have a continental breakfast buffet Saturday morning, two coffee breaks, a luncheon buffet and afternoon cookies along with the great speakers and music. I think it will be a wonderful getaway for any moms who come. 

I am so looking forward to being with all of my friends and speakers, but am especially blessed that Tracy Klicka will be joining us to share with us her story of walking with God through the journey of her precious husband, Chris, who so recently went to be with the Lord.  You can still register here


Tracy

I so enjoyed many letters and encouragements and FB comments after Dallas as in the midst of some of our own personal battles, you all have kept me going!

 I thought I would share a few stories with you–and also to let you moms know that you are not alone in the adventures of what can happen in a day…….:)

 a great post here  with Debi Chapman at lifeaboveandbeyond.com about the conference! (thanks for sending it to me.) 

 Also, a few stories from moms who also need some rest, as real life struck them when they returned home:

“I took my girls to drama class for the afternoon and I so looked forward to a much needed rest. As I lay down on my bed, I looked over and because my dog was at the vet all weekend, it was quite nervous and stood right in my eyesight and used my brand new carpet for the place to wet all over the floor. I took him outside to finish the job and just as I was finally resting in bed again, I looked up and he laid a package of pooh in the same place. After finally dealing with him harshly and taking him outside again, I went back into my bedroom, at which point, I lay down, and suddenly heard a “belch” and looked over and he had thrown up all over the carpet. Needless to say, I did not get to lay down and wondered why we had ever gotten this dog.”

Another:

When I walked in the door from the conference, my youngest threw up all over herself, and I spent the night on her floor while she was sick all night. I literally felt so recharged from the conference that instead of being frustrated, I prayed over her and felt challenged to nurture the way I’m called to! You know it’s a life-giving conference when even vomit is seen as a blessing :)

and another–seems a lot of stomach stuff attacked the sweet moms!

So, after spending a weekend being encouraged by Wholeheart Ministries on
how to be a mom who loves Jesus.I came home.  At first, the welcome was
perfect. 
Then as I walked in to put my stuff down I noticed just a few things that

weren’t so perfect.  The dirty dishes (from before I left) were still in the
sink.  Mud was all over the floor.and my boys.  A huge pile of miniscule
legos flooded the kitchen floor that my 20mo old was putting in her mouth.
Ketchup had glue-ized (not an official Webster word but should be) to the
kitchen counter, and I found chocolate smeared on the seal of my
refrigerator. Lastly, my sister was watching my children because my husband
had to leave on a trip to work all weekend.  Oh, and plus, there were toys
everywhere!
So.as a result of my Mom’s conference, I decided to forget the mess, the
dishes, the toys, the laundry, the mail pile, etc.  I went off to play with
those bubble sets!  I spent time praising & rewarding my son for going to
take a break instead of getting more frustrated.  We threw caution to the
wind and had “Livingston Dinner Theatre” on our Twister mat dipping Octopus
hotdogs into mounds of ketchup and mustard, and almost consumed an entire
cantaloupe for dessert. I had plans for us!  I wanted to remember what it
feels like to be grateful to be a mother, to relish having my three
wonderful children all to myself, to laugh and be silly, and rejoice in the
day that my Lord had made.

And in one second everything changed. It began when my younger son showed me
where the dog bit him.  His thigh not only was swelling and bruising, but
was red with a mark shaped like a mouth full of sharp teeth. Then my
daughter began to become fussy, shake and run a 103 fever.  I could hear
Sally in my head.”You have to be a private before you can be a general.”
“You have to win battles before you can lead others in war.”  “You have to
be faithful when no one is looking.”  Why did God only gave me a few minutes
of harmony before the battles began?  And why did it have to be when no one
was watching.literally? My husband and best friend still wouldn’t be home
for another 48 hours. 

But I just needed to hear Sally’s gentle reminder that I have to trust God
in the darkness.  I have to choose to fix my eyes on Jesus.not on my son’s
leg, not on the temperature on the thermometer, not on the absence of my
husband, not on worrying if the breathing treatments will open her lungs or
if I’ll have to make an ER run in the middle of the night.  So.I will go to
sleep this evening drawing near to God, full of hope that God will draw near
to me, because He is faithful.And the last one, a sweet friend of mine from Colorado, had a great time in Dallas and then Saturday evening, she had a call from home, that her thoughtful husband had taken her kids skiing and had an accident and crushed both of his heals. He will be in bed in her home for the next 10 weeks! Please pray for her and her precious family.

I do think spiritual warfare can actually take place through the details–as the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Let’s ask God’s grace to extend to all these sweet moms and others who are tempted to be discouraged in the midst of life. May He bring His light and grace even into these situations.

Thanks for all of your encouraging letters and emails–really, really! Please keep these precious moms in your prayers!

We are all (Clarksons who are at home!)  going to have a chocolate tasting event, so I will let you know how it turns out. The sun is finally out here, so I know a walk will also be in order. May God’s grace and joy be yours in the midst

Joy…..the fruit of giving love away

“Just as the Father has love Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy will be made full. This is my commandment, that you love one another. Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friend.” John 15: 9-12

When I took on the task of studying Biblical joy, I found that one source designed by Christ through which we would know Him more intimately and also have a straight pathway to having joyful hearts was, of course, through Biblical relationships.  Here are a few quotes from Dancing with My Father that I hope will encourage you this weekend. 

It is early morning here in California and I feel so very full of His love, mercies and presence, so humbled to know His constant acceptance and am so blessed to be amongst sweet friends serving side by side with me in reaching out to moms. Ministry friendships are so humbling and such a rich blessing, and a deeply filling well-stream of joy in my life. Thank you, my friends, for loving God and living with integrity and giving your lives generously away. I dedicate this post to you.

The Joy of Biblical relationships

 

This laying down of our lives—serving, giving, helping—is
the key to real friendship and love, and ultimately, the fullness of joy. 

 

Every relationship becomes meaningful in light of doing what
God wants us to do—to love—so that our joy can be made full.  

 

Rather, our love is given as Christ gave his love to
us—generously, graciously, and freely. 
There is something very freeing about loving in this biblical way.  I can always succeed.  I can always be at peace no matter how
the relationship goes.  If I please
Christ by laying down my life, then I have done what was expected of me.   

 

Humans area created to be God’s hand of comfort, God’s word
of affection and appreciation, God’s face of love, and God’s works of service
and help.   

 

Friendships and other close relationships provide
opportunities for people to feel the love of God through words and touch, given
by real people who are prompted by his Spririt.  P. 

 

We are responsible, though, to initiate forgiveness toward
others, to be committed to love unconditionally, and to seek out
friendship.  Only then can we know
the intimate love of God and experience true peace and joy.    

 

So this is our mandate:  we are called to initiate friendship, love, forgiveness, and
trust.  It is thhe way to joy. 

Please pray that God’s healing love and mercy would soothe the hearts of many here in California this weekend. And we would so appreciate your prayers for God’s strength and good health in the midst.

 

 

What is more fun than…..

A handful of women, eating delectable, adult food–crab cakes, spinach feta salad, chocolate mousse brownies, by candlelight in a hotel room, sharing stories, secrets, funny antics, discussing, praying and delighting in being friends.

What fun it is for me to be upon the verge today of our first mom’s conference of the year. I was greeted last night by a sweet friend with a lovely fresh floral lei, fresh from Hawaii from where she had flown. Another toted a large box full of baskets in which to put the chocolates that we give out as women come in the door. Several women thought I needed to add flowers to our registration table and to our mom’s leader’s tea this morning. But all, with me, are a part of the Lord’s hands, voice, message and inspiration for building women into the gracious, wise civilizers He made us to be.  

I adore the women the Lord brings into my life, who work shoulder to shoulder with me in ministering to and reaching out to women. They all come from different walks of life and different cities–some are married with a thousand children, some are single women, some with one child, but all devoted mothers, intentional about raising a godly heritage in their home and teaching and training other women the vision and how to’s of such a life. 

One of my sweet friends here, who will be sharing about why she leads a mom heart group, said this, 

The Lord showed me how being part of a Mom’s group is fulfilling His purposes for advancing His Kingdom on earth, by building a godly heritage right in our home, for a future generation that will influence the world for Christ.”

And so we are off to greet, speak, love and encourage here in Denver and are so very blessed.

Home–a sanctuary for celebrating the life of Christ

As we began the events that took place in our home this Christmas, stories began to emerge with every person who was here–a woman whose brother attempted suicide the night before; a single mom whose husband abused her daughter and she had to leave the state in which she lived to protect her daughter; an exhausted mom who hadn’t slept in months because of her 3 babies under 5; a young teen who had been rejected by her parents and closed out of her home but who kept walking around our home saying, “It is so peaceful here,” amidst the noise and conversation and getting food on the table; a woman who was just tired and exhausted and felt forgotten, a woman whose husband had cancer; two women who were vibrant and filled with hope and encouragement who prayed and encouraged those who needed an extra measure of love. And the stories go on.Jesus sees each of these precious ones and He sees you and cares for you and  your concerns. Jesus came into the world because the people of the world desperately needed hope, comfort, forgiveness, wisdom, love. He was humble and meek–in other words, he came to slip right into the mundane, the normal people for whom He came. When he looked out to the multitudes, like those in my home, he felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9

He was a servant-king, he washed feet, held and blessed children, loved the downcast–the lepers, the prostitute; the poor; the sick, served meals, washed feet. He was a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” as we read in Isaiah.This was His message, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty  to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, And the vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3

Interestingly, when Jesus came to open his ministry in the temple, it is this very passage that He read. He was on a mission–he was here to heal, to save, to encourage, to proclaim God. When we love Jesus, we will be overcome with His compassion. Our words will be full of power and life-giving and hope. No one will leave our home without having a sense of His hand of love, His voice of truth, His comfort, His strength and calling.

But our homes are the arena in which we can build the life of Christ, and in which the life of our home becomes a sanctuary for those who need to feel His life by being welcomed, to receive a “cup” of cold water– a home cooked meal, a focussed conversation, a healing touch. We celebrate the traditions of home, not because we want to be busier–no one needs that, but to make the life of Christ come alive, to show the beauty of God, to give our children an live picture of His beauty, His reality, His truth, His words and His outreaching love.

We still have this Christmas day to give Him our responsive gift of love–to serve and love and comfort and reflect His spirit alive to all who are in our arena–first our family and then those whom He has providentially placed there.

Homes are the foundations for society. When the life of Christ flourishes there, then the life of Christ will flourish in our nations. But we cannot imitate His life, unless we ourselves are spending time in His presence. The older I get, the more I love Him, the more I admire Him and understand the heart of this servant king, who humbly lived His life to pour out for the benefit of others because the very essence of His being was to redeem, to give, to serve.

And, so this is the source of our strength in tirelessly giving and serving, Christ in us, Christ giving us His strength, power and resurrection life, lived out through rocking of children and listening to their starry eyed wishes and stories and giving grace to the unlovely in our lives, because we are unlovely–but accepted; the making of meals served in grateful appreciation to Him who is preparing a future feast for us; the giving of our love and gracious words generously because He has so given to us.

When we spend time in His presence, we fall in love with Him more, and then the love spills over to our children, our husband and our friends. Jesus himself said, “He who follows me, from His innermost being shall flow springs of living water.”His life, overflowing through us. Someone, many in your life today, need to feel this touch, these words of encouragement, this life, the actions that say, “The peace and grace of the Lord be with you–for He has given it to me and I, by His healing love, am so happy to give it to you.”

May His life fill and fuel your days as we celebrate this week the magnificent reality of His life in the sanctuary of our sacred homes.

 
Some of my own beloveds, with whom I am celebrating His reality.
Sarah, Gwen, my sister friend, and Joy