Category Archives: Inside Out

Forsaken?

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photo from wiki

I’m propped upon pillows in my bed. It’s daytime, but the room is quiet. Isolated. In the distance there’s a periodic hum of neighborhood traffic. The humidifier bubbles. Sometimes the heater hums. I watch a shadow on my wall. The spiny needles on the dancing limbs of an evergreen sway on this unexpected screen.

Those dancing limbs mesmerize.

I glance left to the window, but the tree is outside of my line of vision. Still, the sun projects the tree-image, painting a square, window-shaped display, right there in front of me.

The movement gives hope. A promise, maybe?

Another cough demands my attention. I  hold aching ribs so the cough doesn’t hurt so much. But that makes it hard to cover my mouth. It’s this awkward struggle to know which is more important. To protect my side from piercing pain or my bedroom air from more germs.

Maybe I have COVID-19. Maybe I don’t. According to the on-phone doctor, my risk factors and “mild to moderate” symptoms don’t make me a primary candidate for a test kit. At 4:55 this morning, that thought made me cry–not that I’m not being tested, but that theses symptoms are at best moderate, which means out there are people who feel worse than I do. I cry because the racking cough and breath-stealing mucus would be such a horrible way to go.

Are they, too, isolated? When it’s the end? (In the darkness, the drama builds.)

This morning I hit the crying stage, so that means I’m about to get better.  Life, like books, hits the bleakest moment right before the resolution. (Or maybe books like life?)

The angle of the sun has changed. There are no more dancing shadows on my wall.

Funny how I have much to say, and yet I stare at this screen.

For about three years I’ve been a writer who couldn’t write. I sat in that thought this morning–tears streaming. (Of course today is crying day, so, dear reader, I wouldn’t think too much of all this talk of tears.)

This morning I watched church on-line. Only it didn’t feel like church. It felt like my very own heart played out in front of me on that screen, through someone else’s lips.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Not because I’m sick. Not this illness.

Just . . .

I want to hear His voice again.

I’ve heard Him before. In the joy of nature, the love of others, the whisper of my heart. In seasons I’ve heard Him clearly. Like in real words that pour from His Spirit within me and out upon the pages of journal after journal.

It really happened. One friend called me a mystic. Another a Psalmist.

But, in the last years, God’s silence has deepened.

Now it’s this crazy faith walk where I don’t hear him like before, feel Him like before, see Him like before, but I can’t deny the truth that He is there. I see the results of His hand. The miraculous stories of the last three years of my life would make you catch your breath. Only God. Only GOD. ONLY GOD.

But while His movement has been clear, His voice is muffled. Who am I kidding? It is worse than muffled.

My God, my God why have You forsaken me?

He hasn’t. I know He hasn’t. I see Him working still.

And I know the truth. It is He who promised to be with me until the end of time. My God, (The Holy Scripture says it, and I believe it, experience it) will never leave or forsake me.

Because His presence has nothing to do with me earning it. God’s constant, never-forsaking, always-there presence is a gift of Christ.

He was forsaken. When Jesus cried out upon the cross, asking His Father where He was, Jesus took everything upon Himself that separated the creation from the Creator.

Now separation is over.

Jesus chose to be forsaken–for that space of time–so that you and I would never, ever, not-even-once be.

But that doesn’t negate the silence.

And what I heard on this link sunk way down deep. And validated my life. And nourished my hope. And reminded me that all is well.

 

 

 

This IS the Day (whether I feel like it or not).

This morning I awoke to an old song:

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Breakfast! This is what my man can do with leftovers!

This is the the day the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad!
This is the the day the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad!
This is the the day the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad!
Jesus is King! Come now and sing! Rejoice and be glad!
I took the admonition as straight from the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who’ve I’ve asked to help me rejoice in my God in all circumstances. Not for their sake, but for HIS!
But ya’ll already know that I’m flawed (which only means, because of Jesus, that I’m still Free to Live As Worthy!) So even though I awoke to such a happy song (based on Psalm 118:24), I wanted to burrow down beneath the covers. I may have asked my hubby to hold me for a bit. And okay, I might have felt the well of tears as I faced the day’s tasks, challenges, and questions.
I got out of bed and spent a few moments with King David in Psalm 69. Maybe it wasn’t the best passage to choose. It’s entitled “A Cry of Distress.” But good old David still hung in there in his distress. In verse 3 he says, “I’m weary, exhausted with weeping. My throat is dry, my voice is gone, my eyes are swollen with sorrow,” Then he says something I underlined with my pretty pink pen. “and I’m waiting for you, God, to come through for me” (TPT).
David whines a while longer (with good reason. I am NOT judging here. I am in no place to judge), and then he says in verse 13, “But I keep calling out to you, Yahweh! I know you will bend down to listen to me, for now is the season of favor.” Out came my pen. “Because of your faithful love for me, your answer to my prayer will be my sure salvation.”
Then in verses 16-17 David said some stuff that made me write, “yes, Lord,” with that pink ink of mine. Wrote those words three times.
“Oh, Lord God, answer my prayers! I need to see your tender kindness and your grace,”
Yes, Lord.
“Your compassion, and your constant love.”
Yes, Lord.
“Just let me see your face, and turn your heart toward me.”
Yes, Lord.
And then I think awhile about how God is faithful. About how Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross drew us near to God. How we are always one with Him. He is always with us whether we feel Him or not. How his kindness, grace, compassion, and love is always ours. How His face and heart is ALREADY turned toward His New Covenant children.
And I’m grateful, but I whisper, “But I really like it when I feel You, Lord. When I hear You. When I sense Your tangible presence.”
I scan the next verses full of David’s angst. Then comes verses 31-34, and out comes the pink pen again. “For I know, Yahweh, that my praises mean more to you than all my gifts and sacrifices.”
Oh, God! Help me praise. Let me rejoice in my God!
“All who seek you will see God do this for them, and they’ll overflow with gladness. Let this revive your hearts, all you lovers of God! For Yahweh does listen to the poor and needy and will not abandon his prisoner of love. Let all the universe praise Him! The high heavens and everyone on earth, praise him!”
And then I know I will come here. To write to You. I place my Bible near my computer instead of next to my recliner.
I will declare that THIS is the day our God has made!
I will will rejoice and be glad in it!
I will praise God for He is worthy of praise!
How about you?
Come now and sing! Jesus is King! Rejoice and be glad!
~ Paula Moldenhauer (www.paulamoldenhauer.com)
PS Just for fun I looked up the old gospel tune on YouTube. I was surprised with the first one I found brought tears to my eyes even as my toes began to tap. I listened to it the whole way through, nine minutes of a powerful admonition to rejoice. Maybe you’ll enjoy it too:
If your taste tends toward a different direction, there is also a lovely choral arrangement of Psalm 118:24. Some theme, totally different approach. Soothing!
Here’s the way I remember the old chorus:
He has made me glad.
He has made me glad.

I will rejoice for He has made me glad!

Until Next Time,

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PS this post appeared on my author/speaker page on Friday. The thoughts are actually a compilation of a few days . . . but all mine–and David’s. lol

Join Me in Rejoicing?

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Photo by Denisa Kerr

Will you rejoice with me?

Here’s the thing. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I’m in a time of questioning. Not God. Not faith. Just how to navigate the recent challenges of life. It’s been hard for me to be consistent posting here while I’m processing–and balancing the joys and demands (there are both) of life change. But yesterday I was challenged to one simple thing. To rejoice.

Will you help me? Can we do this together? Over the next week, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment here that is focused on rejoicing in our God. We can always rejoice in Him, no matter our circumstance, right?

So here’s my rejoicing:

I rejoice that our God is a good God. A loving God. A God who never leaves us. I rejoice that God is personal. That Holy Spirit is always working within us and also in our life situation to shape us and grow us and make us more like Jesus. I rejoice that Jesus is good and that He offers us His goodness to replace the darkness that once dwelt in us. I rejoice in God’s many good gifts. Right now one of the most healing of His gifts is time spent with my baby granddaughter. I am very grateful. But there are other gifts, too. Like the crisp autumn air. Like cobalt blue skies. Like yellow leaves. I rejoice in the cheerful color of sunflowers and the fact that I could buy a small bouquet of them at the grocery store. A little splurge that lights up my kitchen.

Your turn!

Until Next Time,

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(BTW, this post is also on my author/speaker page on facebook)

God’s Involved

Do you ever reflect on the ways God’s shown up in your life? Stuff that is beyond coincidence. Stuff that isn’t the big story, like being healed from a life-threatening disease, but is still only explained by His interaction with your life?

Today I reflect on the year 2002. A homeschooling mamma, I taught part time at a Christian Enrichment school for homeschoolers. My class, Mindboggling Missionaries, was primarily wiggly boys. I wanted to capture their imagination, touch their spirit, and give them heroes to immaculate. Missionaries. It was an easy topic to sustain with endless opportunities for creative learning. The Trailblazer series by Dave and Neta Jackson provided the base and the boys, my assistant teacher, and I soon traveled to exotic and distant lands. We played games, made crafts, and ate foods from these cultures. (Rule one when dealing with squirrely boys before lunch is food!) Together we learned about ordinary people who did extraordinary things when lives where surrendered to God. (I found out later those elementary boys took bets on have far Miss Paula would get into glass before the story of these heroes brought her to tears. lol) Oh the people we studied!  Prince Kaboo. Martin Luther. Gladys Aylward. Adoniram Judson!

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Adoniram Judson Picture taken from this site, where you can also read his story

Adoniram Judson.

 

One of the first American missionaries and the first to bring the gospel to Burma.

He’s the one who broke my heart.

As I taught about Adoniram’s life, which was wrought with suffering, I secretly cried out to God. My spirit understood that even one life changed for eternity was “mindbogglingly” more important than I could understand. But as I read of his loss of three children and his wife, of the cruelty he endured while in prison, I wondered. Those first six years in Burma were especially hard, and at the end of them he had only one Burmese convert.

“Was it worth it?” I cried silently. His story haunted me.

About this time, through a strange string of circumstances, I learned a Burmese refugee, Dah Doh, lived only five minutes from me. I decided to visit her in hopes she might talk to our class about Burma. As I walked down the dark hallway to her apartment, I wondered if I would find a Buddha outside her door.

The Burmese woman graciously invited me inside. She fed me traditional food, and within minutes I discovered she had a rich and vibrant faith in Jesus, a faith that helped her survive years in a horrible refugee camp in Thailand after she escaped the cruel government of Myanmar, which is what the conquering army renamed Burma.

“I’m teaching about Adoniram Judson,” I said. “Have you heard of him?”

Dah Doh’s eyes lit with joy, and she grabbed an old cassette tape. When she pushed play on the worn tape player, the voices of children singing in Burmese filled the air. She translated the words of a hymn into English. I don’t remember her exact translation, but I googled what I remembered and found this Burmese hymn that seems close:

Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Brushing tears from my eyes, I understood.

Before me, almost 200 years later, stood the fruit of Adoniram’s sacrifice. Dah Doh explained that most of her people, the Karen, were Christians because of the missionary work of Adoniram Judson in the early-mid 1800s.

What a glorious answer God gave to my broken-hearted cry! He could have simply led me to statistics about the wonderful success of Adoniram’s ministry toward the end of his life, but instead the Lord showed me how Adoniram’s willingness to continue to serve, despite intense suffering, left a legacy that still survives, nearly two centuries later.

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Prince Sao Ky Seng and Princess Inge Sargent. Photo from this site.

Dah Doh came to my class, and the children loved her. She captured their attention as she talked of her beloved homeland.

 

Dah Doh (and God!) had another surprise for us. Dah Doh knew Princess Inge, who was once married to the Prince of Burma. Inge met Prince Sao Kya Seng when they both attended Colorado University in Boulder. When they married and she returned with him to his native land, she didn’t know he was the Shan Prince until brightly colored ships greeted them in the harbor. The prince and princess served the people with an eye to their good. The prince gave his rice fields to the farmers who cared for them and sought ways to strengthen the economy. Inge taught nutrition, established a birthing clinic, and built a trilingual school. They had two daughters and were happy in their work on behalf of their people and country. But Prince Sao Kya Seng’s leaning toward democracy upset the army, and he was killed during a coo. Princess Inge eventually escaped with her two daughters. She hid her identity, taught high school German, and eventually remarried. But she couldn’t stop thinking of the plight of her people. She began to tell her story and to raise awareness for the plight of the Burmese people. (You can read more about them here and here.)

Princess Inge came to our class. We were all so excited! She talked of Burma and the needs of the Burmese people. We were so moved, the children took up a collection.

I started this post thinking about God-moments. I’ve often pondered this one. My heart is tender when I think of how thoroughly He answered the aching (even accusing) questions of this young mamma’s heart. Passion floods as I think about how He turned that teaching moment for ME into an incredible experience for those I taught.

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.                                                                                   ~ Adoniram Judson

Flourishing Moments

f2f memes portrait - Page 007Need a quick pick-me-up each morning?

I post short, encouraging thoughts on my author/speaker page on Facebook daily.

Just follow me there! If you pin my page to the top of your feed, Flourishing Moments will automatically post to your timeline so you don’t have to go looking for them.

Here’s a sample:

The true essence of our destiny is living as a masterpiece. It’s easy to let our good works or our service become the focus. But God didn’t say our work is the masterpiece, He says we are.

Flourishing Moments are that pause in your day that helps you take a breath and refocus.

Hope to see you there!

(Lurk and read, like and share, or comment. I love to interact with readers there!)

Blessings,

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Levis and Hijabs

30698037_10155553271969077_4312443565172064256_nImagine walking into the 9/11 memorial next to a vibrant, first-generation New Yorker who is dressed head to toe in traditional Muslim attire. Her hair is completely hidden beneath her hijab, and layers of loose-fitting clothes cover her wrists and ankles. She is twenty-one, bright and articulate. Her conversation, despite a slight accent, sounds much like that of any American college student as she complains about how hard Calculus Four is. We know Sushmita will make a fine secondary math teacher.

I want to know how she feels, as a Muslim woman, as she steps into this place, but I don’t want to pry. Finally I ask, “Were you old enough to remember 9/11?”

Sushmita explains that she was too young to understand what happened, but that she experienced the aftermath when she came to school in her traditional attire. The other children ostracized and bullied her. They called her “Osama’s daughter.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay.” My new friend smiled. “They carried much pain. They needed to release it.”

20180411_141302As this vivacious young woman walked through the memorial, it was obvious she carried much pain as well, not for how she was treated, but for tragic deaths of so many of her fellow New Yorkers. She stood for nearly thirty minutes listening to name after name, story after story, of New Yorkers who died that day. Long after I couldn’t take it anymore, she and my daughter lingered there, grieving. Honoring the ordinary people who suffered that day. Standing in solidarity with their friends and families.

I walked also with another new friend, Mina. Mina is a beautiful Afghan woman who has lived in the states for five years and recently applied for citizenship. Her grief was palpable, as was her concern for ours. I soon realized she didn’t experience the memorial as one who’d seen the devastation on TV like I had. She saw it through the lens of her life in Afghanistan, where such tragedy occurs on a regular basis.*

Often we asked each other, “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Are you?”

The time came when the grief flowed out in my new friend’s tears. For the people of 9/11, for the people in her homeland who daily face the fear of attack. She told me that every morning the first thing she does is check Facebook to see if her family in Afghanistan is alive. She is glad to be here with her husband and children. Safe from the daily fear of bombs. But her brother, her sisters, her loved ones in Afghanistan live daily with the very real possibility of tragedy.

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Mina pointed at two young women standing nearby, Sushmita and my daughter, Sarah.  In broken English she explained that at any moment a bomb could explode between them, taking half of each of their bodies. She pointed to her hand and talked of a friend who no longer had a finger. Another who no longer had an arm.

We were women together that day. An American team with their new friends from another culture. Grief and love bound us together, weaving through the varied experiences that brought us to this place and the shared experience of the moment. Before and after this time we would laugh together. But in this space we wept as one.

Please pray for Mina and Shusmita. That love will bind their wounds. Pray for their struggle as they press forward in their desire to live as free Americans who come to this land to love and be loved.  Please pray for the safety of their families in their countries of origin, the loved ones who face great uncertainty every day.

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Blessings,

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*Today’s heart-breaking story from Kabul, Afghanistan.  As I work on this blog, I text with my friend Mina. She sends me pictures of this tragedy, and once again we cry together, her from her home in NYC, me from mine in Denver. Two women. Hearts forever joined.

How Do I Show Up?

Successful career. Successful relationship.

Finances. Respect.

The list could go on, couldn’t it? The one of things that get in the way of true living. (Notice I didn’t say the list of things wrong to desire.)

But don’t they get in the way?

Of the good moments.

We miss too many of life’s beautiful moments because our focus is in on worrying about something on the list.

They get in the way.

Of productivity.

It slows when fear of financial problems, a need to succeed, or managing relationship replaces creative energy.

Of delight.

There’s nothing like fear and striving and worry to zap life’s joy.

Of healthy relationship.

Relationships are harder when we worry about success or think they can be managed.

Of success itself.

How far could we go if life wasn’t driven by the need to succeed? Is it success if we’re constantly grasping and fearing its loss?

What if we lived from passion instead?

Passion to bless.

God and others. In daily interaction. In work, even work that doesn’t feel like calling offers opportunity to bless. In relationships, even when they aren’t fun.

Passion to receive love and share it.

Humans know how to love because they were first loved by their Creator. (We love because He first loved us.) So we take a stand and shout to the world (and mostly that negative, nagging voice in our head), “I am loved!” Then we pause and reflect the love back to its origin. “I love you, too, God!” Then we step into our families, our friendships, our work place, our Facebook groups, our schools, our blogs . . .  our life. We step into life and love others with the love we are given.

Passion to move forward as our true selves.

To let the real us, the strong, true, gifted person who wants to bless and love, show up in the world. (Which means we constantly tell the fearful, striving, success-craving, down-on-herself/himself, selfish voices to shut up.) We acknowledge our strengths. Enjoy them, even. Believe that we were designed with a uniqueness this world needs.

What if we stopped chasing success and instead stepped boldly into life from our passion?

Wouldn’t this be the ultimate act of glorifying the One who made us?

Until Next time,

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PS These thoughts rolled out this morning as I deal with real life. I write as a sojourner, longing desperately to put aside my self-absorption, worries, and fears to live out my destiny.  To be all-in with God and to be put out with fear. To let my neediness fall aside as I focus on my passion. As I seek to trust God with my life instead of grasping for things that cannot fill me up. To be about passionate work with eternal significance, not chasing a paycheck or significance or career advancement. To believe God will supply all my needs and that I am free to go about my Father’s business without letting lesser things slow my productivity and advancement.