Category Archives: freedom

Confessions of a Reluctant Juror {handling the truth}

Truth exists. Truth isn’t relative. Sometimes, however, truth gets buried beneath the details—layer upon layer of story that muddy up the process of discovery. Why conceal it? To quote Jack Nicholson’s famous line from the movie A Few Good Men . . .

“You can’t handle the truth.”

The truth is, once the layers of a story begin to accumulate, once personal involvement becomes so thick and entangled in the details, and once a step or two is taken across the line that exists between honesty and deception, well, handling the truth means handling the history related to that truth. For some people, it’s impossible to go there, to live there . . . with truth.

Handling truth. Handling lies. This has been my portion over this past week, sorting out the intricate details of a civil case. With the invaluable aid of the other eleven jurors sitting next to me, we did our best to dig through the layers of one particular story. In doing so, we reached a conclusion based on the minimal amount of evidence presented to us.

Yesterday afternoon, we walked away from one another and back into our own lives—our personal stories that now include a chapter called Room 327. The truth? Well, I think some of it remains back in that courthouse, buried in the hearts of the plaintiff and defendant involved in the case. Between the two of them, truth exists. I’m fairly confident in my conclusion, though, that neither one of them willingly wants to handle it. The story is so deep and its layers so thick that truth no longer has a commanding voice in the matter, perhaps only a faint whisper every now and again.

Handling truth. Putting our hands on the Bible and promising to tell it, so help us God.

So . . .

Help us, God. Help me, God. To handle the truth. To reverently, passionately, confidently, and with full assurance hold truth. Speak truth. Mean what I say and say what I mean. Put my hand on the Bible and have it signify something . . . signify everything, knowing that as I live my life before men, I first and most importantly live my life before God.

God is Truth (see John 14:6). He knows truth. And when I have failed to get to the truth of the matter as it pertains to my own life and to the lives of others, God alone holds the key to perfect understanding. He has sorted out the details, sifted through the layers, and that which remains hidden to us (sometimes by us) has already been found by him. Truth cannot be concealed from God’s eyes; truth is revealed . . . always, ever-present and crystal clear. Sometimes, however, our vision is blurred by the fig leaves we use to hide our many sins, our shame, and the overwhelming pride that led us to believe we could live independently from truth.

To live truthfully, is to bow soul-naked before God. Those unwilling to do so are those who have no fear of God. Instead, they fear man, a tangible fear to be certain. But it’s not an eternal fear. If we could really take hold of the everlasting, take hold of the truth that what is happening down here on planet earth is but a dress rehearsal for what is to come for our eternal tomorrows, then we’d no longer have to place our hands on the Bible and swear our allegiances to truth. We’d just live truth. Our word would be our oath and our souls would breathe easier. Our crosses would be fewer and our burdens lightly carried.

Handling truth. How goes it in your own life? Where does your allegiance lie? Who do you fear most . . . man or God? When was the last time you bowed soul-naked before your Creator and allowed him to sort through the layers of your story to get to the truth? You may not be able to handle the truth, but God can. God does. God is. And with the help of his Holy Spirit, he will release you from the fig leaves that are preventing you from your freedom walk in this earth-garden.

I pray that kind of freedom for each one of you today. I’m praying it for myself, to live so honestly before God and before you that we don’t have to waste a moment in the courtroom of life to get to the truth.

The truth is . . . my soul has been profoundly affected by my experience this last week. My heart is open to all the ways that God may want to use it to teach me more about him, more about his people, and how better to live that more in this earth-garden until he calls me home to his heavenly one.

Soul naked before the Father. Even so I come, Lord Jesus. Teach me to handle your truth. As always, friends . . .

Peace for the journey,

on burying the blue sweater . . .

 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” –Isaiah 43:18-19

It’s time to throw-away the blue sweater (modeled here by mini-me, a.k.a. Miss Amelia).

How do I know the time has come? I just know. Sometimes a heart just knows.

It might be obvious to you and others that I probably should have let this one go a long time ago, but it’s been my friend for over twenty years . . . a lot of memories and a lot of back story to this particular sweater. It’s tough letting go of a friend like this.

Perhaps you understand. Maybe you have such a friend—a “holding on to” that is holding on as well, tenaciously gripping your hand and heart and unwilling to release you on your way. Could it be that years of comfortableness (of living with the old and with what’s easy) have robbed you of something new, something better?

Maybe, like me, you’re blinded to your need. To others, your need is obvious; your sweater is old, torn and tattered by years of overuse but rather than releasing it to the junk pile, you’d rather squeeze a few more wears out of it. You won’t force the issue, because forcing the issue means facing it as well.

If this is you, might I offer you a checklist of sorts, a few diagnostic prods when assessing your need for a new sweater? And lest you think I’m solely talking about the clothing that hangs in your closet, let me assure you that, greater still, I’m talking about the clothing that hangs in your heart, your mind and soul as well.

How do you know when it is time to throw out a sweater?

  • When it has outlived its usefulness.
  • When it reveals more than it conceals.
  • When the color fades.
  • When it prevents space in the closet from being available for something new.
  • When it adds to your load rather than easing it.
  • When it no longer warms your frame.
  • And most importantly (at least for me in this season), it’s time to throw out a sweater when it becomes a stumbling block to others, especially to those who sit beneath my influence. If I can’t let go of an old sweater from time to time—if I cannot release that which is no longer beneficial to my well-being—then how can I expect them to release theirs? What is modeled is often what is lived. I must be willing to rid my closet of the non-essentials so that my children might experience the freedom of doing the same.

Indeed, sometimes a heart just knows when it’s time to let go. Today I bury this sweater. Tomorrow, possibly something greater. It’s all in keeping with God’s “new” for my life.

I challenge you to do the same. Take a look in your closet today; examine the frayed edges of your heart, soul, mind, and spirit. Do so with this checklist in mind. Maybe there’s a sweater or two that needs to join mine in burial. It’s not always easy saying good-bye to a well-loved, well-worn friend, but sometimes, it’s required if we want to make room for God’s new dispensation of grace.

May our Father grant you his discernment, his strength, and his peace in the “letting go.” I’ll meet you graveside, friends, and we will glory together in the release and in the freedom that is ours in Christ Jesus! As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

the woman I no longer need to be . . .

Siix years ago in my dreaming, I didn’t plan on my current reality. The life I’m living today wasn’t the life I was dreaming about in my yesterday. Six years ago . . .

  • I had just written my first book / Bible study about the prophet Nehemiah and was sure it would be an instant best-seller (it’s currently collecting dust on a shelf alongside two other unpublished works);
  • I was knee-deep into Beth Moore Bible studies, both as learner and facilitator;
  • I was enjoying the idea of free time, “me time” (child #4 had entered the world of Kindergarten);
  • I began a speaking ministry beyond the boundaries of my local church;
  • I was strong (physically, mentally, and spiritually);
  • I was deeply and “holy” motivated for the future.

Six years later, here I am . . . less of all of these.

  • Less writing;
  • Less Bible studying, both as learner and facilitator;
  • Less free time, “me time”;
  • Less speaking;
  • Less strong;
  • Less motivated.

And mostly, I’m undisturbed by the transformation of my dreaming. Why? Because I no longer need to be the woman I once dreamed about being. Instead, I’m making peace with the woman I am . . . right now, today, no strings attached to an agenda that stretches me beyond reasonable, God-ordained limits. No lofty expectations that push me much further ahead than these next twenty-four hours.

Six years ago, maybe even six months ago, I was caught up in an uncontrollable current of need—needing to matter; needing to be needed. Today, it seems as if I need my “need” to a lesser degree. I just want to live in and with the truth that all I have ever needed is the “all” that I currently hold in my heart.

Today (not six years ago), I’m living my dream in proportion to my need, and it is enough. At forty-six years old, my need is being tempered by truth, and the truth is: less is more in the economy of God. Less is freedom. Less is faith.

Oh for the wisdom and strength of God to finally be able to release the need that cripples us and keeps us from knowing peace . . . from living free!

Are you there, friend? Are you caught up in a long-standing dream that makes less sense to you today than it did six years ago? Are you fighting the current of your need—needing to matter, needing to be needed? How long have you walked around and within the parameters of your plans, refusing to consider God’s plan for your right now? Has tomorrow’s focus become too broad, too cumbersome, and too consuming so as to overshadow today’s sunshine? What dreams are preventing you from fully and completely living the life in front of you?

Are you willing to let go of what’s in your hands in order to take hold of what’s in God’s?

I’ve spent a lot of years holding on to dreams that have yet to breathe, a lot of time striving to be more—to be that woman who lands a spot on the stage, in the magazines, in the headlines, on the best-sellers’ list. She seems just out of reach for me . . . that woman. Accordingly, I’ve made a decision. I no longer need to be her. Today, I’m letting her go. Today, instead, I’m opening up my hands to the Father and allowing him to fill them with the glorious witness of this moment . . . a moment of less that feels a great deal like more.

Go live your life, friends. Right now. Don’t waste another minute. I’m not asking you to throw away your dreams; I’m simply challenging you to live the dream that is currently on deck. It’s called today, and it won’t last forever. Let it be enough, and let the truth of who you are be enough.

You are God’s. Be at peace.

Lessons from the Lunchroom {the next 24 hours}

It’s Sunday evening. A table usually reserved for meal times has, instead, become a makeshift teacher’s desk. Lesson plans strewn about, books, DVD’s, grade books, red pens, and unsharpened pencils litter the oak top, alongside my tiredness. I put my head down, realizing again, the enormity of the task in front of me. I haven’t graded papers over the weekend, haven’t prepared for the week ahead.

Week four, our 16th day of homeschooling. Yes, that’s where we are. Marking off days on the school calendar, fully entrenched in a new routine that feels less new now, more normal. I sigh, and then I remember . . . a lesson I learned not long ago. A life-learning that came to me under the teacher named Cancer. That lesson?

The capacity and the great willingness to live within the context of a twenty-four hour time frame. To not look beyond today, realizing that today is all I’ve been given. Today holds enough worry of its own. No need to borrow beyond this day’s allowance. Should tomorrow arrive for me, I’ll have enough time and enough determination to deal with it then. But as for today, I’ll keep my attention and focus on the task at hand, give myself permission to rest here, and establish the boundaries that prevent me from going further.

It’s a good way to live. I’ve not always applied this lesson to my life. I’m not sure I really learned it in my younger years. Certainly, I heard it . . . from the pulpit, from my parents, in my readings and with my studying. But application of truth is sometimes best learned firsthand, away from prescriptive learning while entrenched in the labors of practical living—applied living, where the tenets of our faith are hammered out on the pavement of everyday life.

The capacity and great willingness to live within the context of a twenty-four hour time frame doesn’t become our default until we’re required to go there, to live there for a season. A time when twenty-four hours is enough, when living through those next twenty-four hours is the gift. Sometimes we live ahead of the gift. We strive to hold more than our daily allowance, wanting to have it all figured out, leaving little wiggle room for the contingencies that frequently interrupt our best laid plans.

Best laid plans are rarely lived plans. Certainly, a well thought-out, established plan is a framework for success, allowing us some measure of control over the outcome. But at the end of the day, even in the middle of our day, and occasionally in those beginning moments of our day, there comes a scenario we didn’t consider during our Sunday evening planning sessions. Sometimes, life takes a turn we didn’t anticipate while charting out our weekly agendas, and it’s probably a really good thing we weren’t forewarned about its arrival.

Can you imagine what our planners might look like had we known that “it” was coming (whatever that “it” is for you)? Sweet mercy, there wouldn’t be enough white-out to fix the mess! When life gets derailed, it’s better to keep the pencil and the eraser handy, rather than the pen. Sometimes, perhaps, throwing them both aside is the best course of action . . . just let it happen, let life come, without trying to control it all on the front side of its advent.

This is, perhaps, the grace in it all—the joy of finally being able to let go of all the striving, to release the expectations of daily life, and to live fully in the realization that these next twenty-four hours are all that our precious lives were meant to handle. This doesn’t mean that we don’t look forward to tomorrow, that we don’t plan a little, control a little, and pray a ton. It simply and profoundly means that we save tomorrow’s striving until tomorrow and live the gift in front of us.

And so, I lift my head from this table, and I acknowledge that I won’t be able to fully plan my week in these moments. Instead, I’ll lock into the urgent, that which is pressing, that which is called tomorrow morning. It feels good and right to downgrade my focus, to keep it small, thus freeing up some space in my heart and soul for the contingencies that might work their way into a loosely planned schedule.

The capacity and great willingness to live within the context of a twenty-four hour time frame.

Are you there yet? Are you willing? Can you whittle your plans, your thoughts, and your worries down to the next twenty-four hours? Nothing more is required of you. Why not live this freedom in this moment? Why not grant yourself permission to fully live here, to stop here, and to travel no further down the road, save for the next step in front of you?

It’s a beautiful way to live a day. It’s a trusting way to live a life.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” –Matthew 6:34

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