“God!”, I cry out. “It is the seasickness that is getting to me
I have lost the horizon
And I cannot steady my legs on this ever-shifting sea
The deck of the ship of my life plummets down into the depths one moment
Only to reverse to climb a steep wave the next.”

Waves break over me, trying to tug me off the deck and into the icy waters
I am gripping the lifeline
But my hands are weary
Scraped raw from holding on

And oh, so exhausted

I long for calm seas
Still waters
Gentle rocking waves instead of angry breakers

I long for You to calm it all
Take away the storm
Silence the fury
I know You can
But I don’t know if You will

And then You are there beside me
You hold out Your hand with a smile on Your face and a twinkle in Your eye
“Let’s take a walk”, You say.

I am reluctant to let go of the rope
Loathe to relax my grip
Fearful that if I let go the whole ship will fall apart
Or I will be swept out to sea.

And You smile again as You say,
“Are you really the one keeping your feet on this deck?
Is all of your effort to hang on making you safe?
Why are you putting your energy into fears? Control? Wondering?
Let go.
Take my hand.
Let’s take a walk.”

My fingers hurt as I uncurl them from the rope.
They have cramped from holding on so tightly.
But I take Your hand and Your fingers slide between mine, holding tightly.

Just as we connect, the ship tosses violently.
So that we are thrown toward the raging waters.

But even as we fly through the air towards the depths, I hear You laugh.
With delight!
You say, “Watch this!”
And instead of going under, we land lightly on our feet.

The waves are still crashing.
The wind is still whipping.
The sky is still ominous.
But we are standing.
Somehow standing.
On the water.
In the middle of a storm.

You squeeze my hand and look into my face with a grin.
“How cool was that?” You say with a chuckle.
I smile back into Your eyes and lean my body against Your strong arm, my hand still firmly gripped in Yours.

“Let’s take a walk”, You say again.
And I nod as we set off among the breakers, strolling across the wildly surging sea.
The storm hasn’t changed.
And maybe it never will.
But I am released from my fears because You hold my hand.

As we walk through the tumult, You lean down and say,
“Storms are just opportunities for more adventures with Me, love.
Keep watching. You’ll be amazed at what I can do.”

On Diffusers, Thermostats and Temples…

I was made to be a diffuser.

I love essential oils.
And I love my diffuser.
You see, the diffuser takes water that has drops of essential oil in it and turns it into mist.
That mist shoots straight up out of the diffuser and into the air.
But then, after a point, it slowly drifts down from the air and swirls with the air currents, permeating into the room.

I was made to be a diffuser.
A diffuser of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.
A diffuser of grace
Unconditional acceptance and love
A diffuser of Christ-likeness

Essential oils sitting in the bottle don’t do anything.
They don’t freshen the air, repel bugs, boost body systems.
But added to the diffuser, they can do all those things.

But for the diffuser to work, it has to have the elements all brought together.
Essential oils

And for me to diffuse the love of God and His character to the world I need:
His power
The Living Water of the Word
And the oil of the Holy Spirit.

I become a diffuser when I take in Living Water, the Living Word of God.
Through reading, through studying, through listening.
One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is oil.
So as I take in the Living Water, God the Holy Spirit adds understanding and meaning and purpose.
He also brings the power source to the whole mixture.
And I am able to pray and praise, lifting high the Lord, shooting straight to heaven, to the heart of God.
Coming boldly before the throne of grace to receive help in time of need. Praying according to the will of God.

But, as the prayer and praise go up, they also change the atmosphere around me.
They change me.
My attitude.
My perceptions.
And even the spiritual dynamic around me.
Just like scorpions and mosquitos hate the oils I diffuse, the enemy hates the praise I lift.
The critters scatter.
And so does he.

And as the spiritual world is impacted, the physical world is changed.
I am empowered to be a difference maker.
To touch hearts and minds and lives.
So that those people can touch hearts and minds and lives.
And the fruit of God’s Spirit is diffused around me. Through me.

I was made to deliver the scent of Christ.
To repel evil, sin and the enemy.
To lift high prayer and praise every chance I get.

I was made to be a diffuser.
And so were you.

I was made to be a thermostat.

I don’t have one of those in my apartment here because there is no HVAC system in the building.
Instead, we rely on open or closed windows, more or less clothing, more or less blankets.
But the temperature of the apartment is never regulated.
It fluctuates wildly depending on the weather outside.

I have written about this before – how we can be a thermometer, reflecting the temps of our circumstances, or a thermostat, setting the temp and turning up or down the heat as needed.

Now more than ever Christ-followers NEED to be thermostats.

Sometimes a thermostat turns up the heat.
Cries out for justice for the oppressed.
Pleads for people to understand.
Says the unpopular yet true thing.
While always speaking the truth in love.

And sometimes the thermostat brings in cool air.
Calming words.
Soothing truths.
Not responding to the post.
Or choosing words carefully when responding so that the temperatures are brought down and listening can happen.

If I had a thermostat in my apartment, I would use it to regulate the temperature as I saw fit.
Because I would be in charge of it.
But the thermostat itself would not be the one to choose whether to go up or down.
It would only respond to my directions.

It’s the same way for a human thermostat in a world that is both brutally cold and completely engulfed in flames at the same time.

I am just a tool. Just a thermostat.
But I must allow the Hand of the One in charge of all things to set me.
To tell me when to turn up the heat.
And when to leave it alone.
When to add cool air.
And when to do nothing.

When I choose to take over and try to change the temp by my own wisdom, or out of my emotions, it ends in disaster.
Because I am a tool in the hands of the Master, not the Master Himself.
But when I allow the Holy Spirit to control my tongue, my words, my responses He can use me as a thermostat to bring change.

I was made to be a thermostat.
And so were you.

I was made to be the temple of the Living God.
And the moment I became a Christ-follower who asked Him to take my punishment and be my Savior, I became His temple.
His Holy Spirit indwells me.
He resides in me.

Which means I have the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire that led the Israelites at work inside me.
I have the glory that Isaiah saw filling the temple filling my innermost self.
I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead working in me.
I have the breath that Ezekiel saw bring dead bones to life filling me.
I have the Word that spoke creation into existence speaking to my heart.
I have the Wind of God that blew through the upper room, transforming the disciples from frightened followers to empowered leaders, blowing through my life.

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit.
God lives in me.

I have been given everything I need for life and godliness.
I have the God who does “exceedingly, abundantly” inside of me.
I have the God who walked on water, raised the dead, healed the blind and made the lame walk at work in me.
Through me.
And in spite of me.

I am the temple of the Living God.

Why doesn’t that fact have more power in my life?
Why do I look in the mirror and despise the temple?
Why do I look at others who are also temples and despise them?
Why do I allow anything unholy to even come close?
Why do I forget that I have been bought with a very high price, that I am redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, that He ransomed Himself in my place?
I am the temple of the Living God.
And so are you if you are a Christian.

If we really believed these things –
that we are diffusers of the work of God,
that we are thermostats with the power to change the temperature when set by the hand of Almighty God,
and that the same power from both the Old and New Testament dwells in us –
how would we change?

And how would we change the world?

Revisiting Us vs. Them

I initially wrote this blog in 2017. The eternal truths in it are still exactly the same today.

I am an “us” in so many ways.
Except for when I am a “them”.

And so are you.
It all depends on who you talk to.
And the topic.
Who your friends are.
And who you would never call “friend”.

Because it is all about labels, categories and boxes.

I am a woman.
I am a plus-sized woman.
I am white.
I am middle-aged.
I am single.
I have no children.

I am politically conservative.
(If you and I have the same definition of that word.
For some of you, I am not conservative enough.
And for others, I am disgustingly conservative.)

I am a military brat.
I am patriotic.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And where you stand in the current cultural conversation on what that means.)

I am employed.
I am a home-owner.
I am rich.
(Depending on how you define that word.
And your understanding of how the world – the whole world – works.)

I am a person with hidden health issues – things that aren’t immediately obvious from looking at me.
But I am also a person who has been blessed with good health – relatively speaking.

I am an “us” if we match.
In race.
In gender.
In ideology.
In opinion.
In understanding.
In circumstances.

I am a “them” if we don’t match.

And, oh, how we love our “us-es” and our “thems”.
We bash the “thems” on social media.
Or perhaps just in our conversations with other “us-es”.
Sometimes overtly.
More often, covertly.
We let our emotions run our words and we spew.
Gaining momentum – or at least vindication – from those who think like we do.
Act like we do.
Feel like we do.
Look like we do.

Or sometimes we just stew.
Letting a “root of bitterness” worm its way into our hearts.
Where it grows into a plant of hatred.
Sometimes shown.
But often hidden behind a veneer of social justice.
Or, “That’s just how I feel”.
Or, “You couldn’t possibly understand.”

And you are no longer YOU.
You have become a “them” to my “us”.
A category.
A lump.
A box.

But what if…
What if God looks at the world completely differently?
What if He has only one “us” and “them” for the entire human race?
Because He does.
He divides humanity only one way:
Eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for heaven.
Or, eternal beings, made in the image of God, dearly loved, bound for hell.
Based solely on what they did with the gift of grace offered by Jesus dying on the cross.
Accepted the gift.
Rejected the gift.
The only two categories that matter to God.

That simple.
And that important.

It is all through Scripture.
From the beginning when God said, “Let us make man in Our image”.
Every person, everywhere, created in the image of God.
An eternal being that will live forever. No, not your body – but your soul.
You are a being with thoughts, feelings, emotions, and will.
Designed for community.
And we were a completely unified “us” – until sin came into the world, separating us from God, creating the category of “choosing to be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” and “choosing not to be”.

It is echoed throughout the Old Testament.
God made a group of people, the Israelites, His “chosen people” as a vessel for bringing His Word into the world. Both His written Word and the Living Word, the Messiah. They were a living object lesson of Kingdom of God.
But He also made provision for any “them” to join the group that chose to do so.
A non-Israelite could become one by choice.
A picture of the eternal “us” and “them”.

Beyond that, He allowed many of the “thems” that are highlighted in the Old Testament to be of questionable virtue, questionable heritage.
A woman who tricked her father-in-law into having sex with her so that she could have kids.
A prostitute from a completely different race.
And a woman from yet another ethnic group that sacrificed their children by burning them on the altar of their god.
All in the genealogy of Jesus.
All “thems” who became “us-es”.

And then in the New Testament, Jesus went so far as to include every kind of outcast – every “them” for his culture.
Prostitutes and other notorious sinners were his friends.
“Half-breed” Samaritans, despised by the Jews because of their bloodlines, were welcomed.
Men who had betrayed their countrymen by siding with Rome, and then cheated their fellow Jews as they collected taxes, were welcomed.
The woman caught in adultery.
And women and children in general.
People wracked with diseases that kept them apart from the community.
Jesus talked to ALL of these “thems”. Ate with them. Lived with them. And provided The Way – Himself – for “them” to become “us”.

And finally, the New Testament writers after the cross reiterated this concept as well.
Paul wrote in his letter to the church in the region of Galatia: “There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority]”.

And again, in his letter to the believers at Colosse, he writes that they, as Christ followers, “…have put on the new [spiritual] self who is being continually renewed in true knowledge in the image of Him who created the new self— a renewal in which there is no [distinction between] Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, [nor between nations whether] barbarian or Scythian, [nor in status whether] slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all [so believers are equal in Christ, without distinction].”

One us.
One them.

Follower of Christ.
Believing in the saving work He did on the cross and through the empty tomb.
And therefore bound for heaven.

Or not a follower of Christ.
Rejecting His work on the cross.
And, therefore, bound for hell.

In all the clamor of our world and particularly in social media, remembering God’s view can be difficult.
It has to be a choice.
When my emotions are engaged.
When I go, “How in the world can he think that?!?” or “How dare she post that?!?”
When I feel misunderstood.
Or justifiably bitter because of the sin of others.
That is when I have to choose.

I have to take my eyes of off now and put them on eternity.
I have to remember that that person – no matter who they are – is someone for whom Christ died.
And we are either going to live forever together as residents of heaven or they are going to burn forever as a resident of hell.
If the Bible is true, there is no other choice of destination.
It is either eternal life or eternal death.

I have to decide in that moment – and every moment – who I am.
Because I am a “them” to many, many people.
But before I am ANY category, label or box, I am a follower of Christ.
And He has given me two jobs to complete in this world:
Love God with all my heart, mind, and strength.
And to love my neighbor – ANY neighbor – as myself.

Because “they” need to know that this life is not all there is.
They need to know that heaven is real – and so is hell.
I have the information they need so that they can choose eternal life.
Will I really let our differences – their “them-ness” – keep me from sharing it?

Will I be known by my love?
For the “thems” that are Christ-followers and yet different than me?
As well as for the “thems” that do not yet know Him?

Because Jesus said that is the hallmark His followers – His love poured out.
On both the “us-es”.
And the “thems”.

And a P.S. for 2020:

If you want to know what the Bible says about how to love your neighbor as yourself, check out the post before this one. It is addressed to ALL Christians and particularly my white brothers and sisters. Biblical love is not a feeling. It is choosing to live according to the mandates of God’s Word and to walk in the ways that Jesus walked. In EVERY situation, for EVERY time and place and in EVERY culture.

To (White) Christians Who Are Asking, “What Can I Do?”

Like you, I have seen so many posts on social media about race in recent days.
I have seen posts from black friends who say that silence is consent and we must speak up.
And I have seen posts from other black friends who have said that they don’t want to hear from the white folk on this matter. They don’t want more words, they want action.

I have seen posts calling for violence.
And I have seen posts decrying it.
I have seen posts that express the helpless frustration so many feel in the face of the horrors of racism.
So many people grasping for words. Trying to comfort. Trying to express empathy. Or sympathy. Or sorrow.

But often, among my white friends, I have seen this sentiment: What can I do? How can I help?

In many ways, I am unqualified to write about that.
I am a white girl, raised in suburbia in the United States.
In so many ways, I cannot say, “I understand.”

But in other ways, I have had just a taste of what my loved ones have experienced.
I have lived as a minority in two different cultures, first in Japan and now here in Guatemala.
And I have also been with my black friends when they have been treated differently than I have been treated.

But my biggest qualification in writing this piece today is that I am not going to give you my thoughts on what you should do.
My thoughts are not worth very much at all.
Instead, I am going to go to the source, the place where every answer we need can be found.
God’s Word holds the keys for ALL of life.
It is up to us if we apply them.
If you are not a Christ-follower, you will not have the power to do any of these things. Nor will you find God’s Word to be the best guide.
But if you claim the name of Christ, here is what the Bible has to say about all of this and what YOU can do to help:

  1. Repent. That literally means to turn and walk in a different direction. We have ALL sinned. We are ALL prejudiced in some way. We have ALL looked at someone else and made a snap judgement about who they are based on our past experiences, how we have been raised, the media and our own fears. To say that you hold no animosity in your heart to someone who is different than you is to lie. That difference that triggers sin in you may not be black/white. It may fall into some other category completely. But we ALL have seeds of racism in our hearts. Because we are sinners. Because we do not love as Jesus loved. Because there are people we fear, denigrate and avoid.

Beyond your own heart, beyond MY own heart, there is a need for national repentance. We need to confess that our ancestors have blown it. Big time. And not just the slave owners. But every white church that has made a person who is different than them feel unwelcome has blown it. Every Christian who has divided the world into camps of “us” and “them” has blown it. We, as a nation, have blown it. And it is biblical for us to get down on our faces and confess the sins of others! Even if you feel completely sinless in this, you need to repent on behalf of our nation. Daniel did it for Israel. So did Moses. Two godly men who fell on their faces before the Lord, not for their own sin but for the sin of their people.

  1. Apply what Andy Stanley calls “The Platinum Rule”. The “Golden Rule” says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Platinum Rule says, “Do unto others as GOD has done for you.” So what has God done for you? He have given you life. He has spoken over you with words of life, words of rejoicing, words of comfort and love. He has forgiven you time and time and time again. He has not treated you as you deserve or as you have treated Him. Instead, He has lavished grace, mercy, and love on you, even while you were being ugly in every way. What in the world would our world look like if we lived that rule? First at home. But then at work. And in the shopping centers. Everywhere our feet take us. And especially on social media.
  2. Listen. Do what James says and “Be QUICK to listen, SLOW to speak and SLOW to become angry.” Have the conversations. Say, “I don’t understand but I want to. Can you help me?” Hear with your heart. And don’t apply rhetoric when you do. Don’t be quick to say, “Well, that wasn’t my fault.” Instead, hear the heart of the person talking. And then ask the Holy Spirit to give you the words to say. It might be “I’m sorry for your pain.” It might be “I’ll pray for you.” It might be “What can I do to put feet to my prayers?” And it might be, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” Let God tell you what you need to say. AFTER you have listened with your whole heart.
  3. Teach. Please, please, please teach. Teach by words. But more than that, teach by example. Deuteronomy 6 says that we are to teach the children God’s Word and His ways from the time we rise to the time we go to bed. And yes, some of that will be words. But they will learn what you DO far more than what you SAY. Do you actually love your neighbor as yourself? What do you say about people of other races – or any other difference – in front of them? What do you say about other genders? People who are different than you? Even people who are walking in known sin? Do your children hear condemnation? Or do they hear grace? Do they hear that prayer changes hearts and people need love? Or do they hear scorn, derision and hatred? It is true that children rarely allow differences to stop them. They will play with anyone. They will talk to anyone. They will love anyone. We are the ones who teach them – by our actions far more than our words – that certain people are bad and that we are superior to them. What are you teaching your kids? And if you don’t have your own children, what are you teaching the children in your life who are still watching you, whether you birthed them or not?
  4. See. Don’t be “color blind”. Be color celebratory! We have so much that we can learn from each other. So much that is good that can be shared between cultures. Between races. Between people. Don’t say, “I don’t see you as a black person.” Say, “I celebrate who you are as a black person! Teach me, show me, help me to understand.” Just like you want to be known, so does everyone else. We all want to be accepted for who we are, as we are. God has gifted us with all sorts of differences so that we together can make a beautiful tapestry of grace and love. A monochrome tapestry would be very, very boring. But one filled with diverse experiences, languages, cultures, and ideas, all woven together by a skilled Hand – that is a glorious sight! We will get to live that sight in the future. John saw it in his vision and recorded it in Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
  5. Choose to not be offended. According to I Corinthians 13, love is not easily offended and keeps no record of wrongs. So, when a person who is different from you has trouble trusting you, don’t be offended. Remember the pain they have experienced and love them enough to let go of your own pride. Do you deserve their distrust? Maybe not. But love means putting their needs and interests ahead of your own. Love means forgiving hurts and slights, even unintentional ones. Love means seeking to understand. And love means you choose for it to be very, very difficult to offend you.

Let me end this with a story, a confession of sorts, a truth:
You don’t know what lives in your own heart.
But God does.
And He will show you. So that you can deal with it.

I lived in Japan for three years back in my mid-twenties.
During that time, I was molested on the train by Japanese men.
I was spit on by a Japanese man.
I had a Japanese man openly compare me to the pornography in his hand.
And I had both men and women cross to the other side of the street to avoid me.

I thought I had dealt with all of that.
I thought I had forgiven.
Because, after all, I know and love a lot of Japanese men, women and children.
And I know in my head that it is wrong to hate.
Wrong to hold on to those pains.
That fear.
Those experiences.

I thought all that was in my past.
But then, in 2015, 20 years after I first moved to Japan, I flew to Papua New Guinea to visit my friends there.
And I had to fly through Singapore.
When I got to the airport, it was late and I had 19-hour layover.
So I needed to find a safe place to rest. Thankfully, there was a hotel in the airport. But the entrance from the airport was on a lower level, down a dimly lit corridor, with very little around it.
As I walked towards it, I realized there was an Asian man following me. Just him and me in this dark, unfamiliar place.
I have no idea where in Asia he was from.
And I have no idea what his intent was.
But I was suddenly filled with fear. Panic. And a deep, deep loathing.

It startled me.
And I was horrified at the depths of depravity in my own heart.
That man was not the one who had molested me or spit on me or treated me like an object.
But the sin, the unforgiveness, and the scars in my own heart drove my thoughts all over the place.
Yes, the prejudice I carried, based on past experiences, caused me to judge that man and find him guilty of something he did not do.

It happens to all of us.

But thankfully, as a believer in Jesus, I have the Holy Spirit inside of me.
And He gives me the power to live differently.
The power to love.
To forgive.
To repent.
To recognize my own depravity and ask God to change my heart.
To do all the things the Bible says I am supposed to do if I claim the name of Christ.
All things we are supposed to do in light of the deep divides in our country.

Impossible humanly speaking.
But with God, all things are possible.