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Packaged Faith

Do you ever feel like you’ve got your faith all packaged up, sealed with tape, wrapped with fancy paper and tied with wire-edged ribbon? Maybe your package is a colorful polka-dot print with a gold satin sash. Mine might be a pink Viburnum print with a chocolate brown bow. The problem is… there isn’t any way to add anything to it.

Many people sport their faith this way, tucking their neat little packages inside a Signature Coach handbag. Adding something to it would mean dumping out all the contents of the handbag to find the package (no woman likes doing this), untying the ribbon, ripping the fancy wrapping and slicing the tape that seals the box our faith is in.

Even if you think your faith is strong, there is infinitely more to learn about Jesus. You will never exhaust the wonder and depth that He is. And if you experience doubt (which is a type of faith) ask hard questions, search it out. You will find joy in the journey.

Timothy Keller writes in The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism:

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic…It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them.”

So empty out your handbag and find your packaged faith. Let the essence of it pour out into the light of day and reflect life…the most beautiful wrapping of all.

Why do you believe what you believe?

Babylonian Philosophy

Idolism. It’s what we do. We replace Jesus with something else…mostly ourselves. The Babylonian Philosophy says, “I am. And there is none besides me.”

Ancient Babylonia was a decadent place. It was the most powerful place on earth at the time. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the Israelites taken into captivity be: royalty, young, handsome, able to learn and quick to understand.

Are we living in a modern-day Babylonia?

It feels like it sometimes. There is a high priority placed on intelligence and beauty (although they don’t always go together). We live in a powerful country, and people can achieve almost anything they want here.

My guided study of the book of Daniel made an impact on me 18 months ago. At the beginning of the study we were called to give something up for six weeks, a physical reminder of a higher purpose. It was like setting a boundary around that one thing, knowing that we had control over it. “ I can eat off the world’s table, but I won’t.”

I chose my usual Grande Vanilla Latte from Starbucks. I’m sure this choice sounds superficial during a study of God’s Word, but I’ll give you three reasons why I chose to give it up:

1) I had one almost everyday
2) It was expensive
3) It would surely make a physical impact (groans and pangs)

Driving past Starbucks would put my focus back on Jesus. It worked. Not to say that I gave them up completely. I just had one yesterday and there’s probably one in my near future, but it was a fun experiment for those six weeks.

During that time I studied diligently and before I knew it the six weeks was up. Of course on the day after my six weeks, I pointed my car to the Starbucks drive-through to order my usual drink. And guess what happened? When I pulled up to the window to give the barista my debit card, she tells me that the person behind me wants to pay for my drink.

How fun is God, that He would give me my first latte in six weeks…for free?

It’s not that we have to give up the things we enjoy completely. It’s setting a boundary around it. It’s inviting Him to be a part of our physical experience and help us with it. I’d like to have fun with this again. Maybe it won’t be Lattes this time. New shoes? New lipgloss? iPhone? I’m having physical reactions just thinking about giving those things up.

Maybe I’ll start small and give one thing up on Easter Sunday and go from there.

What about you? What have you given up or could you give up for six weeks? How about starting Easter Sunday?

More on Sin…

This is going to be a quick post. We’ve got a lot on our agenda today, but I did want to leave you with a verse that I’m finding especially helpful today:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool…” Isaiah 1:18

Isn’t it interesting that Spring Break coincides with Easter? The kids are home from school for the first time since Christmas for an extended break, testing their mother’s patience and adjusting to life with each other 24/7. We’re trying to focus on what Easter means while simultaneously focusing on adjusting, behavior, loving-kindness.

So far we’ve lost a vase of flowers, and a liquid glitter globe set aside for the Goodwill, from slippery fingers and swinging objects. I shouted at my kids and am so thankful that as a believer, I know that I can “reason together” with the Lord and my sin is made “white as snow.”

Imperfect as I am, this knowledge is so good for me.

What about you?

#1 Jesus: Judging

In deciding to write only about Jesus this week, I had a difficult time setting the tone. Should it be lighthearted, mixed with a little humor? Or somber, weighed down with the gravity of the holiday?

Should I write to you about my life with Him (which is funny at times), or provide a daily post regarding events from Palm Sunday to Easter? I want you to leave this site feeling inspired, whatever this holiday means to you.

Today is about judging. We all do it, myself included. I’ve also felt judged as a Christian too. Am I praying enough? Giving enough? Teaching enough? Going to Church enough? Do I drink alcohol? Have tatoos? Piercings? And the list goes on. Here is what I’m going to focus on today:

1) If we are going to judge anyone, let it just be ourselves. And not in a harsh way, but in a way that compares us to Him. His gentleness and patience, compassion and mercy.  And remember that when you are feeling judged by others:

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12

I need to remember this, especially when it’s so easy to look around and think I’ve got somebody all figured out from a two-second glance. How interesting that I make decisions and give labels without an ounce of inquiry. Alas, this is the way relationships are made. The only thing we have to go on when first seeing someone is the external. The point in being a Christian is to love the seemingly unlovable, to dig through the exterior and into the heart of a person, and find the treasure that is there.

2) He sees the teasure that we are. I can’t (won’t) tell you how ugly I’ve been in the course of my life. Sin is the excuse we use to separate ourselves from Him. Subconsciously we think we’re not worth it, perhaps because of the aforementioned things. But sin is what He came to destroy. It’s no longer a reason to exclude ourselves from a relationship with Him. It feels good to surrender to the fact that I am human with a need for guidance from the one who created me. I need help. I need forgiveness. I need Him.

I don’t know how you celebrate Easter or what it means to you. Don’t feel judged this week if you don’t swim in all the religiosity of the week. Just know that the meaning of this holiday is for you. You are a treasure and worth it to Him.

#7 Frivolous Fridays: Permission to Change Our Thinking

Is it frivolous to change our thinking habits? Not always, but some might say it’s frivolous to change the way we think about…ourselves.

We want to be faster, stronger, thinner, nicer, richer and more thoughtful. We want new bodies, new clothes, new kitchens, new eyebrows (oh, that would be me). New, new, new.

Change is a good thing when we initiate it on our own, but I wonder how many of us are wanting a total upheaval, a complete shedding, a pruning down to the stump?

Even a tulip can’t forget its former self. Its crusty, lackluster, bulb of a self. I’m not even sure how those first cultivators saw the potential it had. What amazing hope. And yet we forget all about what’s under the surface when the tulip emerges in all its glory. But alas, the tulip and bulb are still attached, part potential and part fruition.

The danger in 100% new, is forgetting that some of who we’re trying to change is, dare I say, wonderful? All the crusty bits and ugly parts can serve as a catalyst and beautiful reminder that it’s ok to embody remnants of our former selves.

So while you’re re-vamping, re-creating and re-purposing a new you, just remember not to judge yourself too harshly. Despite the curt remark you may have made yesterday, or a negative attitude you can’t shake, or your funny eyebrows (oops, that’s me again), or the extra few pounds, or the lopsided smile, you are beautiful.

I’ll say it again, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

Can you make this part of your thinking habit today?

Ego Says As Ego Does

I’ve got Ego on the brain today. Lastnight I was reading an article on, by wildly popular blogger and author, Anne Jackson. I wanted to find some blogging tips like: how to increase readership; are affiliate programs important to pursue; should you buy your own domain name, etc.

I stumbled upon an interesting post about why comments aren’t a good measure of a successful blog. I found another that talked about why her website is going “ad free.” The very things I was trying to increase, she was decreasing. And then I saw the word, Ego.

This morning I was reading a leadership post about Jesus on Michael Hyatt’s blog, and there it was again, Ego.

I’m now re-thinking the “Why?” of what I’m doing. Are my goals the same? Why do I write? Am I using high traffic to feed my ego? Am I losing sight of what my intentions really are?

I’m pondering these questions today, and I’m hoping to have it all concentrate down into a beautiful reduction, like red wine and sugar. Here is what I do know:

1) I love to write, even though I know I’m an editor’s nightmare (I’ve hired a couple and know this to be true).
2) I’ve been wanting to get a book published for 6 1/2 yrs. (but I know it will never be a New York Times Bestseller, and authors garner only about .80 per copy sold, so I might make $100 off of friends and family).
3) I think it would be great to have a column in a local magazine or newspaper (but would the pressure be too much?)
4) I want to inspire people to be happy if they’re sad; energetic if they’re stagnant; discover a passion if they’re wandering; smile if they’re crying and the list goes on.

No amount of money, web traffic, book deals or comments will compare to #4. At the end of Michael Hyatt’s blog post he says, “Leading the masses may feed my ego, but it won’t guarantee an impact that will outlive me.”


It felt good to be honest with you. Have a great day!

My Happiness Project

I took this picture at Chateau St. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA. My friends and I had taken a picture in front of that cherry tree just minutes before, but after we walked away and into the building, I turned around and noticed it for the first time. The cherry blossoms illicited happiness, so I took this snapshot.

This morning when I got online I saw two articles regarding happiness and kindness. I also found the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and swiftly downloaded it to the Kindle. I’m not sure if Springtime causes people to think about happiness more often, or if it’s the economy, or Obama’s Healthcare Plan, but it seems like people right now are wanting to create more happiness.

It’s not that I’m a particularly unhappy person, but I want to “expect more from myself,” as Rubin puts it. I completely relate to her comments, which I can’t explain, so I’ll give you an sample of what really connected with me:

“But though at times I felt dissatisfied, that something was missing, I also never forgot how fortunate I was. When I woke up in the middle of the night, as I often did, I’d walk from one room to another to gaze at my sleeping husband tangled in the sheets and my daughters surrounded by their stuffed animals, all safe. I had everything I could possibly want–yet I was failing to appreciate it. Bogged down in petty complaints and passing crises, weary of struggling with my own nature, I too often failed to comprehend the splendor of what I had…”

Ah-ha moment commenced. Yes, I get grumpy too easily, fluttering throughout my day from one task to another, not really appreciating the splendor of it all.

I don’t want to look back, like I did with that cherry tree, and notice my life for the first time….when something unexpected happens, or when I can’t remember it all, or when my life is nearing the end.

But in order to notice the splendor, I need to focus, really focus on maintaining a sustainable level of happiness, like an IV drip of happiness fluids. I have no control over what happens to me, but I do have control over how I react to it. We’ve all heard this before, but if I had a dollar for every time I acted out of habit rather than focus, I’d be sporting Jimmy Choo’s - a pair for every day of the year.

So I’m starting out simple. This was my goal yesterday:

Do What Needs To Be Done

How simple, right. Who would’ve thought that just repeating this phrase to myself when I start to fret, would actually calm me down, and recalibrate my brain.

What about you? Are you reading this book? Click on the highlighted link to get your copy at Amazon, and share your thoughts with me. I’m sensing a book club!

March Madness Equals Spring Cleaning

March Madness, Spring Break and Spring Cleaning all coincide in a blushing tide of kinetic energy. It seems like every conversation I have lately, eventually leads to the latest task on somebody’s spring cleaning list. I have my own list of course, and I’m looking forward to tackling it.

Sometimes though, it’s really hard to know where and how to begin. I know this from experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a container store, purchased bins, baskets and other organizational items, only to leave them empty on a shelf somewhere. Much like buying those “green” grocery bags, only to leave them in the car when I go to the grocery store.

This year, I’m going to do things a little differently. Instead of reading Martha Stewart’s list of things I need to buy in order to start cleaning, I’m going to work on getting inspired from within. All the scrubbers, chemicals, buckets, soap, towels and the like, won’t actually get the job done…it’s me and the willingness to do it. I don’t know about you, but it takes a good dose of inspiration to actually get started. So here’s how I’m going to embrace (tackle) my Spring Cleaning list:

1) Start with the surface: speckles of dirt along with smudges, smears and spots adorn the inside and outside of my house. Windows will be the first thing on my list. There are still water marks from when my husband tried to help with this chore in the fall…a full six months ago. I’ve been staring at these watermarks while doing dishes vowing to re-clean all this time. Well the time has come. Inspiration from within: think of all the beautiful flowers, green grass, children playing, sunshine, dogs running, etc. that I want to see when I’m cooking or washing dishes in the kitchen.

2) Move on to the purge: It’s easier to organize when you’ve purged items that you no longer want and no longer use. There are many things I hang on to because they were gifts, but I’ve now given myself permission to throw things out or give things away. I’m not a fan of re-gifting an item, but giving it away is fine (just be sure not to give it to the person who gave it to you). With the kids home from school these next two weeks, we are going to purge their bedrooms. Inspiration from within: using our imaginations and allow the kids to plan their spaces, encouraging them to get rid of things they don’t like or play with, look through a bedroom book and pick out paint colors.

3) Now to organize: I actually love doing this, the problem lies in keeping things maintained. I don’t have a solution for this. Experts say to “do it now” or “touch it once” but life happens and interruptions are a constant. So to get started I’m going to go through and find all those empty baskets and bins and assign a purpose for each one. Inspiration from within: to alleviate feeling foolish about my container fetish.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful to you or not. If you have a method that works, please share it here. We could all use some inspiration, and I’d love to know how you get inspired.

#6 Frivolous Fridays: Dreams

Most days when I wake up in the morning to write a post for you, I have no idea what I’m going to write about. Sometimes it’s a matter of wanting to say too many things, and if I were to put those jumbled words on paper (computer screen), they’d lack cohesiveness, and you’d feel uninspired…the exact opposite of what I’m hoping to achieve.

Other times life is quiet, and I don’t feel like there’s anything of note to write about. And until about two minutes ago, I didn’t know what today’s post would bring. But then when I went to istock and looked through the photos of the day….there it was: a cobblestone path in France.

You may be wondering why this is an important fact. A fact that inspired this post and sent my spirit leaping with frivolity. I’ve been having a long distance love affair with the country of France for about five years. I’ve never been there, but somehow feel so connected.

Many dreams have a conception point that we can’t remember, but I know exactly how my dreams of France took shape. I was reading one of Martha Stewart’s books, and she told a story of how she cooked all of Julia Child’s recipes from The Art of French Cooking in her cold basement kitchen. This was before Martha was Martha, and I thought her story was inspiring.

Then one thing lead to another:

  • I discovered original The Art of French Cooking cookbooks
  • Learned how much I love Lavender
  • Read Peter Mayle’s books on France
  • Read Julia Child’s biography, My Life in France
  • Practiced cooking Julia’s way (who knew doing this and blogging about it could become a movie?)
  • Bought Rosetta Stone French lessons online (no I can’t speak French, my subscription ran out)

My dream is to one day go to France and study culinary arts. I don’t even want to go to the Eiffel Tower or other tourist hot spots. I want to walk a lonely cobblestone street and lay on a quiet hillside among the Lavender. One day…one day!

What is your dream? What’s keeping you from living it? Go out today and be frivolous…do one thing that is a step closer to your dream and leave me a comment about it!

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