Paul Can't Keep a Secret and Neither Can I

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Made for Another World

Another mass shooting has occurred, unleashing unspeakable grief on the victims’ families, profound sadness for the rest of us, confusion and anger for our nation. Frustration, too. Why does this keep happening? There’s a quick answer, at least for Christians, though it’s not very emotionally satisfying: broken humanity, immersed in wickedness, does bad stuff. C.S. Lewis, in his classic book The Problem of Pain, makes this point when he writes,

When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.
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The Stories We Tell

Everyone has a story to tell. The experiences we go through lay down pavement in our rearview mirror of life, leaving a path of where we’ve been behind us. Each step taken reveals a corner turned, a decision made, a chapters ending or one beginning. We are all on the move towards something, whether our steps are that of a baby or a marathoners sprint. But do we really know where we’re headed? I often feel as if I’ve journeying through my life in the dark.

Growing up as a church kid, attending Sunday school and memorizing Bible verses to be quoted in the front of the congregation (not awkward at all by the way), I have Jeremiah 29:11 practically branded onto my brain.

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Ray of Hope: Suhana's Story

The International Justice Mission has released a new short film in which, Suhana, a young human trafficking victim in India, has transformed into a survivor of the slave trade; not once, but twice. This is her miracle:

 

The Gift of Laughter

It’s the beginning of March and my kiddos are already preparing for one of their favorite days of the year…April Fools Day. Yep, they love it. It’s in their Top Five for favorite days – Christmas, Birthdays, Easter, Halloween and April 1st.

It’s actually a great time of bonding between the kids and me. Mainly because the three of us pow wow for about two months talking about, “How are we going to get Daddy this year?!”

They learned about it at school and approached me on how it’s played out. Ah, blank slates. Time to have some fun with Mark!

The first year we tied down the “spray hose” on the kitchen sink and they then asked Mark for a glass of water. It was a splashing success (pun intended). The next year salt was placed into the sugar jar that caused Mark to dash to the sink to rinse his mouth (Unfortunately, we had overlooked the sink that year. It could have been a two for one!)

Last year we faked every parent’s nightmare…the stomach virus. I’ll spare you the details but let’s just say we use some condiments and cereal to make it more realistic.

Now you may be wondering why a 44-year-old woman is spending so much time torturing her husband by teaching her children pranks that will surely come back to haunt her some day. Well, um…I’m not sure and in the back of my mind I do fear that it’s only a matter of time until they turn on. But I do make a point that we keep is safe and not let it get out of hand. After that, the sky is the limit.

One reason we do it is because Mark is a hilarious victim. It takes him a little while to wake up each morning making him the perfect target of our mischief. But the main reason is he’s a bit dramatic in his reactions and this gives us a good laugh. He even laughs with us and is a great sport. We then spend the rest of the day reliving it together.

Laughter is therapeutic to my soul and it’s bonding for our family. Our best cuddle times often come after a good laugh. It helps to heal the body. It is a gift from God. Mark is a jewel because he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Our kid’s laughter is contagious because it’s heartfelt.

Life is hard. It’s stressful and often painful but God has given us laughter as a gift to help pick us up when life pulls us down. The Bible tells us “joy comes in the morning” and lucky for Mark tomorrow is not April 1st!

What makes you laugh? How do you share laughter with your family and/or friends?

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Bigger Joys

This past weekend, on a creative whim, I decided to head to the beach to photograph the sunset.  I had noticed some gorgeous sunsets in a perfectly clear sky over the last few days and decided I needed to document at least one of them.

 

I hopped in my car and headed to the beach and noticed just how cloudy it was getting.  I walked down to the shore and saw this:

 

 

 

It was more dreary than I expected.  I thought the cloud cover would block any good light and the trip would be a bust.  But, I decided to stick around - just in case.

 

After a few minutes, I was struck by the beauty of the sun peaking through the pylons of Huntington Beach pier:

 

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When Narnia Awoke In My Backyard

I’m really writing this post to tell you one truth I discovered about God today. But I’m going to tell you a story first.

Last week, our skies brought six inches of snow to our rooftops and yards and trees.  It’s been great.  I love the snow.  And the snow has stayed, although it’s moved from a soft blanket of powder to an rigid ledge of ice in recent days.  But today, the skies opened once more, this time with rain, and the snow began to melt from the trees and the ground.

I decided to take a walk through the woods this afternoon, after the rain had gone, and I came upon the intermittent stream that runs through our property.  For days now it has been silent with still, icy strains, but today, quiet melodies of laughter rose from its wet banks.

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What is a Joyful Mind?

When your mind does not need to be right.

When you no longer need to compare yourself with others.

When you no longer need to compete—not even in your own head.

When your mind can be creative, but without needing anyone to know.

When you can live in contentment with whatever the moment offers.

When you do not need to analyze or judge things in or out, positive or negative.

When your mind does not need to be in charge, but can serve the moment with gracious and affirming information.

When your mind follows the intelligent lead of your heart.

When you mind is curious and interested, not suspicious and interrogating.
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Freedom Award Ceremony Tomorrow Night

The last award ceremony I attended was for honor roll in grade school. I don’t remember much about those ceremonies except for sitting on the floor, Indian Style of course, in the cafeteria with a couple hundred other grade school kids. I hated sitting on that floor and my feet and legs always fell asleep.

 

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a bit about the upcoming Freedom Award Ceremony taking place in Los Angeles. I’ll be attending the ceremony along with my mom tomorrow night. Anti-human trafficking organization, Free the Slaves, is the host of the ceremony and according to an email I received from them this morning,

 “It's not your mamma's kind of awards show.”

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Where Joy and Pain Collide

Tatyana lives in post communist Moldova, a country still experiencing the aftermath of the cruel regime,  twenty years later. Tatyana is a middle aged woman, although her rough hands and tight wrinkles lining her eyes and round face declare otherwise. Tatyana bears deep scars on the palms of her tiny hands. She always carries with her, kind eyes; the kind of eyes that reveal that she holds within her many layers of experiences and wisdom. Tatyana is a member of the persecuted church. The scars from her hands were caused by smoothing cement barehanded while communist soldiers looked on in mockery. Tatyana and her friends were building a church in 1985. They were given permission by the Soviets to build the church so long as they didn’t use any building equipment.

I had the privilege of being with Tatyana in 2005 on the 20th anniversary of the building of this church. It is a beautiful church. About 200 others were there that day. They were the people who had built that church alongside Tatyana and who bore scars of their own to prove it.

These people were heavily persecuted during this time. They were tortured, separated from loved ones and dispersed to foreign lands. Tatyana remained in Moldova during the heaviest times of persecution. What I saw in Tatyana and in her scars and what I saw in those who had gathered from near and far for the reunion, was not the pain that they had once endured, rather, I witnessed an overwhelming, incredible, indescribable joy.

I asked Tatyana about her regrets later that evening. She told me she had none. I asked her if communism were to re enter Moldova again would she flee. She smiled and told me the most joyful times in her life were also the most painful. She would endure the torture and the pain all over again if it meant bringing her that type of joy.

In my experiences traveling to developing countries and spending time with the oppressed, I have seen this joy despite age, culture and location. I do not seek to glamorize poverty in any way and yet, I cannot help but be intrigued by the fact that the most joyful people I have met are those who have experienced or are experiencing incredible amounts of pain and suffering. 

It’s as if those who have much are less satisfied than those who have little. The empty are filled. The weak are made strong. The poor become rich.  So what happens where joy and pain collide?

Consider John 16:20-22 for a moment.

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
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