No Accidents

I’ve been turning the house upside down looking for my driver’s license. Flying out tomorrow to Baltimore and remembered identification is necessary to clear security. That, and small earrings. Don’t wear jumbo big metal ones. Trust me. I remembered the passport for identification option but discovered mine expired in September 2013. Sigh.

Online last night, around midnight, I found out the next available appointment at the DMV landed on May 21st. Sigh. So after dropping Julia off at school I gathered my coffee, big water, big bag-o-stuff (Darrin keeps telling me I should get a wagon!) and headed off to the dreaded DMV. Sigh.

The line ran out the door. Sigh. 

Temperatures are hitting the mid 90’s today and the sun was beating down. Sigh.

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Bumped into a couple from church so we caught up a little while waiting for our numbers to be called.

Two hours of waiting. Sigh. 

All the while I thought about my to-do list, my overturned wreck of a home, packing, prepping and which nail polish goes best with a hot pink dress. Finally, finally, FINALLY the electronic voice announced my number over the speaker. I smiled and worked my way up to the counter. Rainbow loom bracelets in little clear baggies greeted me. I thought to myself, “I bet she’s a mom.” Then I noticed the Bible verses tacked up all over her cubicle. I smiled wider and said, “I’m a Christian, too.”

Instant connection.

I shared how I needed my driver’s license because I was flying out tomorrow to speak at a church in Baltimore about my cancer journey. Whipped out a bookmark from my big bag o stuff, and  shared about the crazy journey to publishing. She shared, “I’m a two-time survivor.”

No accidents who we meet.

She showed me a picture of her beautiful daughter. I learned she was a single mom. Finances were tight. She wanted to know if the book was available on Kindle since the prices generally are cheaper. I smiled even bigger,

“I’ve got a book for you in my car.”

“Really?” She brushed away tears, “Oh, these are happy tears.”

We both agreed. It’s never an accident who we meet. And even when life seems “off” or inconvenient, God is at work. We are on assignment. A much larger tapestry is being woven and spun and you and are I part of God’s plan unfolding.

My new friend and sister in Christ, Angelica, is a shining bright light in the otherwise dismal DMV. God is using her to make a difference in the lives of hundreds who walk through the doors of the DMV. How grateful I am to have met her. How grateful to know I will see her again.

Navigating Chaos

I watched this YouTube clip of the Ethiopian Intersection today in the quiet of the house. Kids in school. Husband at another ministry meeting. Second cup of coffee. Face still unwashed. Unsettled soul. I laughed out loud. Then cried. This video describes well how I currently feel.

My literary agent mentioned, after being in town for The BEST Book Launch Party EVER, on our way to the airport,

“Don’t be surprised if you feel a let down in a few weeks after the dust settles.”

I nodded but inside I thought, “Pshhhheeesh. I’ll be fine.”

The same response I had when Darrin and I attended a marriage conference as an engaged couple.

“Psshhhhheeesh. I doubt we’ll deal with any of the stuff that guy talked about.”

Almost twenty-three years of marriage and I humbly admit we have dealt with all the stuff the guy talked about and more.

So, of course, my wise agent proved wise. Except I didn’t realize the funk I felt until I watched the video. Life feels chaotic but somehow no one has gotten run over. Yet.

If left to myself I hold my breath and expect one pile up after another. And yet, in the midst of chaos, everyone in the video is getting to where they need to go. Even the pedestrians walking THROUGH the center of the car maze (did you see them?).

Honestly, when I think about life nowadays, I’m sobered. More often than not, life does not line up neatly. No lanes, just a general sense of the overall direction. Most of us are living lives different than we pictured. I realize, as I watch the video, my tendency to want to play it safe. Why even head into the chaos? Why not just stay put. Maybe watch. Maybe criticize the road designer. The drivers. The pedestrians.

But I have heard the Shepherd voice. My life is not my own. Currently He is leading me through external chaos like the intersection. Terrifying. Unknown. Stressful.

But I have pledged to go where He leads.

And I trust in the end that His path proves most worthwhile.

How about you? How do you navigate chaos?

Here

Another full week. I can tell based on the volume of dog hair I vacuumed up this morning. Differing levels of disorder fill the rooms. The flat surfaces around our home are covered by either dust or stuff. Or dusty stuff. Our dog intermittently has donned the dreaded cone-of-shame for an infected anal gland. He started on his second round of antibiotics today. Very little on my to-do list or the way I wanted my days to look turned out how I wanted this week. Mild irritation began growing into full-blown frustration. And then today I stumbled upon this TED talk:

And now I sit here humbled, sobered, grateful, sad.

Jennifer and I both were diagnosed with breast cancer the same year. Five years ago this week I lay in bed recovering from my first surgery to remove what ended up being a 4cm by 6cm tumor. A call from my surgical oncologist came with the devastating news: cancer had spread to three spots on one of my lymph nodes. A second surgery was quickly scheduled to remove all the lymph nodes under my arm.

My story didn’t turn out like Jennifer’s, but it could have.

Now I sit with renewed perspective.

I am still here.

Here.

And regardless of the circumstances around me right now, God has gifted me with more days and years to live and love.

Life is a gift.

As I look around at the mess, both within and without, rather than annoyance I find myself whispering prayers of gratitude and thanks.

 

Willful, Will-less, or Willing

Sometimes when I speak I find myself sharing things I didn’t plan on sharing. Weird audio-visual mishaps take place, derailing my train of thought, and I’m left scrambling on the inside. But sometimes those unplanned things end up being exactly what someone needed to hear. I’d chalk that up to the Holy Spirit’s work and the prayers of our ministry partners and friends.

Just a week ago I stood in front of a room packed with over 400 college students representing 40 campuses across the country. Our annual West Coast Epic conference took place down in San Diego. I had spent the past two years speaking at the East Coast conference so it had been awhile since I experienced conference west coast style (you know, things like the emcee Olympics event in Sochi, a staff zombie flash mob, students sharing in the form of spoken word, creative art, string quartet, rap, the lip sync contest sing off, etc.). What an incredible weekend filled with incredible students learning about our incredible God.

Epic West Coast Conference

Darrin, wearing the conference director hat this year, led the 50 or so staff in a time before the students arrived of personal evaluation and surrender. Symbolically pouring out a vial of water representing our lives poured out to God, he asked the staff to pray and add their “lives” to a glass vase as an offering to God: willing to go, do, say and give whatever God asked. And from this place of surrender the staff welcomed students who arrived from everywhere. Some alone, without knowing a single person, some with their posses and school flag (Arizona! :-) ).

So with this as the backdrop I went up on stage to deliver the first talk. The cordless microphone gave us all sorts of trouble; weird feedback, popping, and the like. My staff friend, Duncan, came up to the stage halfway through the talk and unwound the long cord and handed me a handheld mic. I lost my place in my notes and ended up skipping an entire section of the talk. When I looked at Gilbert, the time-keeper, I realized I still had more time. So I summarized, and went on to share, but not from my notes, about a willful, will-less or willing heart.

Turns out, based on questions and feedback, most people wanted to hear more about what I hadn’t planned on sharing.

I first learned about these three postures of the heart in a class I took at Talbot Seminary. (One day soon I plan to return to resume the Master’s degree I will eventually earn–at the age of 86).

Okay, so here goes:

A willful heart: says “I’m going to do this.” It is characterized by striving and depending on my own strength.

A willful heart may come from a place of wanting to live a life pleasing to God, but this life is spent trying to muster up willpower to charge ahead. Willful hearts can feed into pride and legalism. If convicted of sin the response of a willful heart is “I will do better. I will try harder.” When my heart is willful, I’m trying to live life in my own effort, and trying to be obedient in my own effort. Willful hearts can lead to burn out. Sometimes after all the striving and the inevitable disappointment, it leads to

A will-less heart: “God’s going to do it all. It doesn’t matter what I do.”

Will-less hearts are the “whatevah” (hold up the “w” with thumbs and pointer fingers). It’s a passive place of who cares, “God’s going to do what God’s going to do so what I do is inconsequential.” When my heart is will-less, I stop being engaged, I give up and my thinking is “why try.” I become cynical. When I sin my attitude is “Oh well. At least it’s forgiven.”

The heart is not changed or transformed when we are willful or will-less.

Rather than a willful or will-less heart, God asks for

A willing heart: “God I am desiring to grow. I will do whatever it is, but on my own I can’t.”

The willing heart recognizes our inability to live the Christian life on our own and expresses our dependence on God’s power. The key to the willing heart is really the issue of being yielded. It’s not about signing up and being a missionary in a foreign land and eating bugs. It’s the willingness to go if God asks. It’s the willingness to stay even if you want to go. It’s about a life surrendered, laid open. This is the key to the Christian life. This is how God’s Spirit is unleashed to empower believers to live the Christian life.

Our lives, a poured out offering to the Lord

God, I am willing to go where You want me to go, do what You want me to do, say what You want me to say, give what You want me to give.

The last morning of the conference students were invited to sign a card and symbolically pour out their lives to God.

Willing hearts.

One hundred and eighty-three students expressed willing hearts.

This new generation of leaders, through the power of the Holy Sprit, will change the world.

Do you have additional thoughts to add to this conversation?

When God Says No

“If ever we needed prayer, it is now. The pain is indescribable.” I read and reread Maegan’s post on Facebook in absolute shock and disbelief. No. There must have been a mistake. This can’t be. None of the thousands upon thousands who rallied in prayer the past several weeks expected the story to end this way.

Rain fell steadily from the normally bright blue skies here in Southern California the first Saturday in December. Our family, dressed in dark colors, joined hundreds of family and friends, filling a church to capacity. Love and sorrow flowed through the aisles as we gathered to honor and remember Josiah Robins. Heaven joined us in our grief.

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Family and friends were gifted only two short decades with this young man of character. Our lives intersected with Josiah’s family through our friendship with his aunt, uncle and cousins. Jonathan and Josiah had AP Lit class together their junior year. Michael played the game “Heroscape” with Josiah and his cousins late into the night. Two words I most associated with Josiah: kind and grounded. Josiah’s quiet strength and the unstoppable love of his extended family influenced people all across the country. We wept as we collectively celebrated a life so full of promise, suddenly cut short.

Early in November a motorcycle accident in Arkansas sent Josiah to the emergency room. After realizing the extent of his injuries, the doctors had him airlifted to Tulsa, Oklahoma. He spent his final weeks in the ICU. A star athlete throughout his young life, his healthy body made steady improvement even as his underwent surgeries including having both his legs amputated.

As word got out, the faithful rallied and prayed. And God heard prayers for Josiah, his siblings, his mom, his extended family at all hours, from coast to coast and around the world. We prayed in faith, asking and believing God for complete healing and restoration. Everything seemed to point to answered prayer.

Then a stroke.

Then he was gone.

God said “no.”

I’ve struggled over the outcome of how I thought Josiah’s story would end. In fact I haven’t written a blog post since his death. I’ve turned over a thousand times in my mind the way his short life abruptly came to a close and I can’t make sense of it. Josiah’s death wasn’t the result of gang violence, or alcohol or drugs. His life brimmed with possibilities. As a young African-American man, son to a single mom, big brother to his three younger siblings, his life stood in stark contrast to poor choices he could have made but didn’t. Instead, he leaned into God and with fierce loyalty he purposed to love and protect his family. He chose to live a life that made them proud. Grounded, he rose out of the difficulties he both experienced and witnessed, like gold.

I just don’t understand.

Looking for answers I return to my coffee stained, tear-stained, well-worn Bible. More than looking for answers, my eyes search for Him. And I have learned and continue to learn His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). I cannot fully grasp all of who He is, but still I seek. In the pages of my Bible I catch glimpses of His heart. And of His mysterious ways.

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In Mark 5:1-20 I read about Jesus and the man from Gerasenes possessed by a legion of demons. The demons torment the man day and night causing him to cry out and gash himself with stones. When Jesus confronts the demons they ask him to send them into the pigs (v12-13).

He says yes.

The townspeople, familiar with the demon possessed man, find out about the deliverance and get scared. They ask Jesus to leave (v17).

He says yes.

The man who had been demon possessed, now calm, clothed, and clear-headed, asks to accompany Jesus (v18).

He says no.

Jesus loved the man He rescued and restored. But unlike the first two petitions He responded “no” to the man’s request. I realize how resistant I am to hear “no.” I unconsciously equate “no” with absence of love or favor.

When God says “no” to us He never stops loving. His “no” is never cruel or petty or haphazard. His good purposes cannot be thwarted. So I am left scanning the pages wondering who Jesus wanted this man to meet in Decapolis (v20).

This side of heaven, because we exist in the confines of time, we don’t see the outcome of each story. More often than not, especially the longer we walk the earth, we find ourselves with more questions than answers. Since we cannot see past the ups and downs and the twists and turns of life we have to wait for more of the story to unfold. Josiah’s aunt, my friend, Kierstin, shared at the memorial service, “Josiah’s death is not the end of the story.”

And while I believe Kierstin’s words to be true, my heart grieves deeply along with the Josiah’s family and friends of all Josiah’s missed milestones: his college graduation, awards, travels, birthdays, wedding, children. Holding both the grief and the hope, I can’t help but think God’s “no” to our prayers for Josiah involves so much more than we know at this point.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father if it’s possible for the cup of suffering and dying on the cross to pass him (Matthew 26:39).

God says no.

Even to His Beloved Son.

What is your reaction when God says no?

On Editing A Book

Years back, when I turned 40, Leila, Joanna and I decided to bring in the new decade by competing in the Danskin Women’s Triathlon. Leila swam, Jo biked and I ran. What a memorable experience. So memorable I wrote about it in the book. And so memorable I picked up this nifty bag at one of the display tents to commemorate the feat:

IMG_2609The question grabbed me.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? 

For me? Well, currently in my little world, I am pleased to announce the completion of my first ever book edit. I’ve so enjoyed working with Discovery House Publishers. They hired the talented author/speaker/editor, Mary DeMuth, to edit my book. I read a blog post Mary wrote about Mount Hermon Writers Conference and decided to attend a year and a half ago. At the conference I had the opportunity to meet Mary in person and thank her for her example. Her open-handed approach to sharing helpful information about the publishing world refreshed and inspired me. Mary agreed to endorse the book earlier this year. A few weeks back, over Skype, Mary shared timely counsel and quelled my fears. That she agreed to edit because she liked the book proved invaluable because when she returned the manuscript it looked like this:

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Ai-ya! My learning curve continues at just about a vertical up and down when it comes to writing. But through this editing  process I have learned so much:

  • kill the word “was”
  • and other words I use way too much: yucky, stuff, that, things, even, awesome, came in…
  • the manuscript will never be done…even after it has gone to print, I will probably have places I wish I had changed
  • I am NOT a happy-to-spend-time-in-a-cabin-alone-and-write kind of writer
  • writers come in different shapes and sizes, and my adequacy must come from God, not my experience, qualifications (or lack thereof)
  • it’s okay to be in process as a writer, as a mom, wife, friend, human
  • it takes time for new experiences to feel natural or comfortable

Last night I sent the precious manuscript back to Mary. When I pressed the send button the manuscript I obsessively saved and kept saving went *poof* and flew off into cyber world. I packed up my books and computer and hugged my friend Valerie, and returned home. I arrived in time to help Julia with her homework, remind Michael to bring in the trash cans from the curb and other chores he neglected. And I celebrated by settling in my big chair in my nook and stuffed my face with chocolate from Valerie, and watched three back to back episodes of “Alias” on Netflix.

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I thought I would experience incredible relief and elation at the completion of the editing process. Instead I woke up feeling irritable. Today I find myself back in the all too familiar place of drowning in piles of neglected administrative blah in a messy house and the stresses of the ordinary pressing in all around me.

Life keeps going on.

However, one thing is different. I am not the same person having attempted something I’ve never done before.

How about you?

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

What did you do and what did you learn?

Use Whatcha Got Week 44: Whatcha Huh?

I’m neck deep in the editing process for “Warrior In Pink.” Which, by the way, is available for preorder on Amazon right now at 33% off! So I may be sparse in the blog post department for the next several weeks. For those of you who are still tracking 44 weeks into Use Whatcha Got, (my attempt at not buying clothes, shoes and accessories for the 2013 calendar year), this post is a quick update.

My sister, Claire, came in town from Boulder, Colorado to stay with the kids while Darrin and I traveled halfway across the Pacific Ocean earlier this month to the island of rainbows and plumeria scented air. This was the view out our hotel window one morning.

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Actually it turned out to be a very full week with zero time for sunset strolls along the beach. I prepped to give five talks in six days, Darrin met with all of the staff at the University of Hawaii and had conference calls and coordinated phone appointments with sometimes a six hour time difference. We were going day and night, but loved seeing friends, meeting wonderful new friends, eating and then eating some more.

Meanwhile, back over here Claire jumped headfirst into the role of soccer mom, campaign manager for Julia’s run at school Vice President, cook, chauffeur, dog-walker (or more accurately, hold-on-to-leash-with-all-your-might-as-75-pound-German-Shepherd-pulls-your-body-along-like-a-sled). The woman is deserving of multiple medals.

Claire had already returned to Boulder by the time we stepped off our plane. Darrin and I were exhausted. After unpacking, loads and loads of laundry, vacuuming up four canisters of dog hair, I decided to explore more closely the items that filled the shelves and drawers in our fridge.

This is a sampling of what I found:

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Everything I pulled out evoked head scratching and multiple “Huh’s?” Fresh fennel, celery root, shallots, parsnips, jicama, strange squashes and gourds. Over the phone Claire tried to explain a recipe for a salad, and suggestions for cooking the squash. As soon as I got off I couldn’t remember which ingredients went with which recipe.

Time for some Pinterest research, or if any of you have recipe suggestions for any of those ingredients, please email them to me! After all, Use Whatcha Got means ya gotta use whatcha got! That’s what it’s all about. (clap, clap)

Sometimes in life we are introduced to new, never before seen ingredients. Or challenges. Or trials or paths. Some people are comfortable with experimenting and trying out the new or finding new ways to get places (Darrin). Others, like me, stick with the known, the tried and true. New ingredients, new routes, and never before evokes stress for me.

But earlier this week I pushed past the stress and googled fresh fennel. The result yielded a pleasant surprise, to my surprise. I baked a chicken with fresh fennel, shallots and apple slices. My taste buds were happy with the outcome. I explored something new.

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I’m glad I did.

In the same way our palate can expand through sampling different flavors and textures, our capacity in life expands when we enter into the new and unknown. Whether a new job, a physical move, new life stage, new opportunity, new trial or new relationship, all these events shape, stretch and mold us.

The latest new place I’m entering is the world of editing. I’m challenged, overwhelmed and feel in over my head. But I’m pushing past my fears, leaning in, trusting God as I walk this never before trodden path.

How about you?

Are you comfortable with trying new things or do you stick to the tried and true?

What kind of challenges are you currently facing?

Leadership and Apologies and the Open Letter to the Evangelical Church

I don’t use the word “retard” or “retarded” anymore when I refer to myself after I mess up.

I have two author friends, Amy Julia Becker, author of “A Good and Perfect Gift” and Gillian Marchenko, author of “Sunshine Down.” They both have daughters who have Down Syndrome. Knowing a bit of their story and their heart, I understand with a new awareness why flippantly tossing that word around is hurtful. This is true even when my intention has been to make fun of myself and not directed at another to harm or insult. In the past I have used the word, but now that I have faces and a connection with my friends, I have woven the understanding into my daily life and word choices.

I don’t put my hand up to my head and form a pretend gun and act like I pull the trigger when I feel frustrated with someone, or try to be funny and use that motion with “you’re killing me” when something ridiculous happens.

I had a friend and former student who took her life in this manner. I am personally aware how this action, even when done in jest, can be hurtful.

I have several African American brothers in the faith. Men I admire and respect. Men of impeccable character who are adoring husbands and dads. I have heard them share stories of how they, or their sons, have been pulled over by the police and mistreated. How, when they walk down the street, women move their purses to the other arm when they walk past. My friendships with these men have opened my eyes and my awareness to the reality of the injustice they experience on a regular basis.

Over time my circle of relationships has grown. Life experiences and challenges have introduced me to new worlds across different landscapes: ethnic, socio-economic, religious, cultural, life-stage, lifestyle, to name a few. I’ve watched courageous women and men navigate parenting kids with special needs, walk through divorce and being a single parent or trying to build trust in a blended family. I’ve seen first hand the heartache of infertility, the joys and challenges of adoption, prodigal kids, broken engagements, addiction, chronic pain, depression, job loss. As my awareness has grown, so has my appreciation for people who walk a path different from my own.

Relationships grow awareness.

Awareness brings about change in attitude and action.

As an Asian American woman, I have experienced first hand both blatant and unintentional racism. Everything from being teased on the playground as a kid to more recently when a well-intentioned missionary spoke slowly, in broken English, and asked me, “You China?” To which I answered in perfect English, “Well, actually, I was born in Wisconsin.” She still went on to ask, in slow, broken English, “You Mommy, Daddy China?”

Two women I deeply respect, Helen Lee and Kathy Khang, wrote an “Open Letter to the Evangelical Church” earlier this week and a group of 80 Asian American leaders issued a call for dialogue and building bridges after multiple cultural misses from influential leaders in the church. You can read more about the situation here in this article by Christianity Today. Nearly 800 have signed in support of the letter. I have added my name as well with the hope that this important conversation will continue; where relationships will deepen and grow awareness, and awareness will bring about change in attitude and action.

I don’t in any way question the intention of any of the men involved in the offensive depictions. Intention is rarely the issue. I think the issue being brought forth is a call and the need for continued conversation. Good leadership is willing to graciously address hard issues, and good leadership graciously receives and responds to feedback, and when needed offers apologies.

Darrin and I, just a couple of weeks back, had a friend and co-worker who asked to talk with us. We didn’t know what it was in regards to, but we held this friend in high esteem and looked forward to connecting. It was brought to our attention how our inactions brought about hurt, frustration, disappointment and a blocked goal of completing what this co-worker had been tasked to accomplish. Our friend was gracious and kind. We were genuinely sad and sorry for what we did (or in this case didn’t do). All of us believed the best. Darrin and I didn’t try to excuse our actions or get defensive. Once we understood how what we did affected our friend, we were able to see from their perspective and apologize from a place of identification and understanding. We were grateful that our friend cared enough to express to us our miss. We wouldn’t have known otherwise. The beauty of reconciliation is that now the air is clear. No hard feelings. Our relationship has been restored and even deepened as friends and co-workers.

All of us make mistakes. Leaders make mistakes. Sometimes intentionally, most of the time unintentionally. All of us have much to learn from one another. All of us can take away a new level of awareness through what we walk through and experience.

I welcome your thoughts.

 

Everyone Needs A Prisca

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who takes the time to truly listen and understand the struggles of the heart.

Someone who models an authentic life of faith and grace and prayer.

Someone who has survived the current life stage you are seeking to navigate.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who believes wholeheartedly in the goodness of God and lives for eternal things unseen.

Someone who reminds us the ministry is unending, but the window interacting with our own children is small. And taking time to be good to ourselves is crucial.

Someone who applauds steps of faith and prays diligently. And then prays some more.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is humble, a learner, compassionate, and incredibly, incredibly wise.

Someone who doesn’t fix problems, but knows how to hold emotions.

Someone to model after because they so reflect the heart of God.

Everyone needs a Prisca.

Someone who is mature, who speaks words of hope, who knows how to laugh at herself.

Someone who helps restore perspective.

Someone who loves well.

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Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7) 

I have six names written in the margin of my Bible next to this verse. Prisca is one of them. I’ve been blessed to know her for twenty years. She is one of my heroes of the faith.

Who do you have written on the margin of your Bible?

Who has your name written in theirs?

Loved By God

Sometimes I’m slow on the uptake. Still working my way through “The One Year Chronological Bible.” Two days ago I read about Daniel in Daniel chapters 10 and 11. The angel addressed Daniel as “greatly loved of God.” He explains the moment Daniel began praying, which was three weeks prior to this appearance, his request was heard in heaven. Some kind of fierce spiritual battle took place which required Michael, one of the archangels, to aid the angel in order for him to deliver the message to Daniel. He later tells Daniel,

“Dont be afraid, for you are deeply loved by God. Be at peace, take heart and be strong!” (Daniel 10:19)

I know in my head God loves me. I sing about it, in the privacy of my car, throughout the day. But something about the description of being

greatly loved

and

deeply loved

by God

has stopped me in my tracks.

Not just loved. But loved greatly. And deeply.

I’ve been turning these truths over and over in my mind.

I forget He loves me and begin to fret. I forget He loves me and I start taking responsibility for things I was never tasked with. I forget He loves me and I scramble for control. I forget He loves me and live as if everything depends on me. I forget He loves me and I forget He is with me.

A strong foundation of love makes all the difference in any relationship. The circumstances can be exactly the same, but the heart attitude is different. Love changes everything.

The kind of intimacy Daniel shared with his God kept him from rebelling or becoming bitter when he was taken from his home and sent away to Babylon as a teenager. His understanding and experience of God’s love, character and provision gave him courage to go against the crowd and abstain from the food eaten by the king and royal court. His obedience and steadfast faith kept him loyal to HIs God. He refused to bow down to worship the Babylonian king and was thrown into the lion’s den.

Daniel, just like you and just like me, experienced trials, bewilderment, heartache, discouragement, disappointment, unanswered prayer, life threatening situations, and all the while he was greatly loved and deeply loved by God.

So often my thinking is limited. Short-sighted. Off.

I think of being protected from experiencing trials, heartache, disappointment as evidence of being deeply and greatly loved. While I’m sure God has protected me from unseen difficulties, I also understand being greatly loved and deeply loved includes the hard times. The times when life gets derailed, when well laid plans are disrupted; the times when I personally fall and fail. I am greatly loved and deeply loved in and through those hard times. The intensity of God’s love is not based on my circumstances or my response. His love is great and deep and unconditional.

God’s love is tender and fierce.

Deeply loved means He knows my circumstances, struggles, and secrets. He gives strength to persevere and walk through the valleys. He is for me. With me. His purposes are higher and include a bigger plan I am often unaware of. His motivation always has and continues to be love. So it is from this foundation of love that I bring my fears, insecurities, failures and concerns to His safe keeping.

He loves you and he loves me greatly.

Deeply.

And like the angel shared with Daniel, knowing God loves us deeply helps us to be at peace, take heart and be strong.

I am seeking to mull and mediate and respond to what it means to be greatly loved by God.

What does it mean to you for God to love you deeply?

Julia drew this picture of me speaking at the Epic East Coast conference a couple years ago. Her words ring true.

Julia drew this picture of me speaking at the Epic East Coast conference a couple years ago. Her words ring true.