Monthly Archives: June 2011

Mowing and Mascara

While push-mowing our lawn this morning I was writing and editing my next blog post in my head when right in the middle of a profound thought I made a discovery!

It’s a silly, unimportant, random discovery but I thought it would be fun to sandwich this between two more weighty posts.

I discovered that mowing, especially push mowing up hill, has something in common with applying mascara: both require you open your mouth wide.  Well both require me to open my mouth!

Hmm, what doesn’t require me to open my mouth?

I don’t know about the rest of you mascara wearers but I cannot put mascara on without opening my mouth!

And, apparently, I cannot push the mower up hill without opening my mouth.

The problem with mowing with your mouth open is that you risk swallowing a bug.  Which is how I made my discovery this morning.  Pretty sure I swallowed at least three bugs this morning as mowed the berm.  I tried to keep my mouth shut but no matter how much I concentrated I could not do it.

There is probably some life lesson here for me regarding mowing, mascara and my open mouth!

There you go, your little life lesson for the day.

By the way; next blog post we are going to talk about getting naked!  Can’t wait.

Are Your Roots Showing?

Kevin and I heard a great message on Sunday from Colossians 2.6-7: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

As I reflected on the message and the Pastor’s exhortation to consider how deeply rooted and grounded we are in Jesus a vivid picture formed in my mind of the trees we saw while in Joplin Missouri earlier this month.

In my mind’s eye I was once again driving through the neighborhoods where the tornado was the most damaging.  I was struck again by the fact that while many buildings were reduced to rubble most of the trees were still standing.  There were a few very large trees that were toppled by the tornado, their roots sticking up in the air.

What a powerful real-life object lesson of what it means to have our roots go down deep into the soil of Jesus Christ.

The trees that were standing in Joplin had every bit of bark and every leaf torn from them.  Many had limbs severed by the high winds.  They look naked and vulnerable in the aftermath of the storm.  BUT they are standing and they are still alive because their root systems go down deep into the soil.  Even an EF5 tornado was not strong enough to topple them or kill them.  They will recover to grow new and stronger limbs.  New leaves will burst forth next spring to bring shade and beauty to the neighborhoods. These trees will stand forever as a living monument to surviving and yes, even thriving in the wake of devastation.

Many of the trees that were toppled had very shallow root systems.  When the tornado tore through the neighborhood, even though they were some of the oldest and tallest trees, they had nothing to grab onto to hold them through the storm.  They succumbed to the storm.

Just like these trees, WE can be so rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ that even when we are in the midst of an EF5 spiritual storm we will not be toppled.  We may experience being stripped bare of our covering and some “limbs” may be lopped off, but we will stand and we will be stronger and healthier because we survived the storm and we overcame the enemy.  We will recover and be even more productive and valuable to the Kingdom of God because the false coverings and excess limbs are now gone and we are producing and living for Jesus.  We will stand as living monuments to the power and faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

No one gets a pass on the storms of life.  No One.

But we all get to choose how we are going to prepare for the storm.

We all get to choose how deeply we plant ourselves in Jesus so that we can come through the storm.

We all get to choose how we are going to respond to life after the storm.

We all get to choose if we are going to stand and be transformed by the storm or are we going to topple and be rendered useless.

What are you choosing?

How deep do your roots go?

 

 

 

The Long Goodbye

I’ve been thinking a lot about endings lately.

A couple of thought-provoking quotes from Bridges book on transitions that I have been chewing on:

“What you bring with you to a transitional situation is the style you have developed for dealing with endings.  The product of early experience and late influence, this style is your own way of dealing with external circumstances and with the inner distress they stir up.”

“Looking back over your ending experiences, what can you say about your own style of bringing situations to a close?  Is it abrupt and designed to deny the impact of the change, or is it so slow and gradual that it is hard to see that anything important is happening?  Do you tend to be active or passive in these terminal situations?  That is, is it your initiative that brings things to term or do events just happen to you?”

This week I’ve helped my dear friend Cathy with an ending as we’ve sorted through over 100 years of belongings at her mother’s home in southern Illinois.  Cathy’s 90-year-old mother Mary is now in a nursing home and the family home belongs to Cathy and Don.

Two generations of Craigs have lived in this home and it is full of history.  As we sorted through boxes and boxes of stuff I realized that Cathy’s mom and grandma are likely people who had a hard time saying goodbye, they are lingerers.  I don’t think they said goodbye to anything in over 100 years!  But thank the Lord for people like this because they are the keepers of “remember when” and the archivers of history.  I had a blast looking at old photos and documents; vintage lamps and articles of clothing.  It was a sweet peek into my dear friend’s life and it helps me understand, love and appreciate her all the more.

One task Cathy had to complete was going through the contents of her mother’s safe deposit box.  What fun we had as we anticipated opening that box and discovering what was in it.  I was fascinated by the contents.  We pulled out wills that were over 100 years old.  Every deed and document to the house was in there, some from the 1800s!  What an amazing piece of family history.

What a wonderful time I had with Cathy and her mother and grandmother’s decided “inability” to say a quick goodbye. But was I ever glad to be with Cathy who could quickly decide to say goodbye to things that weren’t of much value and hang on to the things that are the historical record of the Craig family.

What about you?  How do you end things?  How has this affected they way you begin things?

 

 

 

Houston, we have a problem!

Houston, we have a problem!

Who doesn’t love that line from Apollo 13?  It is a phrase that has become a part of American vocabulary meaning “something is really, really wrong here people!”

Gordon MacDonald in his book Mid-Course Correction draws from the momentous scene in the movie Apollo 13 when the shuttle sustains a crippling explosion on its way to the moon.  The shuttle crew and ground controllers realize that the mission must be scrapped and the only priority now is to get the astronauts back to earth safely.

MacDonald writes in his intro to the book: “The primary problem is that Apollo 13 is off course as it comes around the moon and heads back to earth.  A carefully times and executed mid-course correction is essential, or the three astronauts aboard will die when the Apollo 13 enters the earth’s atmosphere at a wrong angle and burns to cinder.  But such a correction is no small thing to make happen given other problems, such as the minimal electrical power and unreliable computers.

In the world of space exploration, a mid-course correction is a refinement in the direction of a space vehicle so that it will reach its intended destination.  In this book mid-course correction refers to the process of regenerating, redirecting, and refining the spiritual life of the biblical person.  A rather expansive process, I’d say.  No small matter.

Perhaps the people most interested in this topic will be those who have (as they say) taken bullets, failed, fallen, screwed up in life.  They think of mid-course correction as a matter of coming back and wonder if they can. Can anyone escape the patterns and attitudes that get us into trouble?  Can anyone truly change?

Many are tempted to believe that the answer is no, that there comes some critical moment in life when the development of a deeper, broader, more spirited life is no longer possible.  And without thinking through the ramifications of their perception, they give up and abandon all hope of further transformation.  Which, I say respectfully, is kind of stupid, certainly out of sync with what I hear Jesus, the Author of life-change, saying.”

MacDonald uses the term mid-course correction to refer to the ways we seek to initiate change in our lives at any age and in any circumstance.  He invites the reader to join him on the journey of discovery for their own lives.

That is where I am at today; on the journey of discovering what it means to make a dramatic mid-course correction as I sprint towards the half-century mark in my life.

Am I just going to improve myself or am I going to the let the Holy Spirit use this time to do transform things in me so that I CAN reenter the atmosphere without burning to a cinder upon reentering.

William Bridges in his book Transitions, Making Sense of Life’s Changes puts it this way as he defines the difference between change and transition:

“I don’t think I made the change/transition distinction clear enough in the first edition.  Our society confuses them constantly, leading us to imagine that transition is just another word for change.  But it isn’t. Change is your move to a new city or your shift to a new job. It is the birth of your new baby or the death of your father.  It is the switch from the old health plan at work or the new one, or the replacement of your manager by a new one, or it is the acquisition that your company just made.

In other words, change is situational.  Transition, on the other hand, is psychological.  It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redifinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of these changes into your life.  Without transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture.  Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t ‘take.’  Whatever word we use, our society talks a lot about change; but it seldom deals with transition.  Unfortunately for us, it is the transition that blind-sides us and is often the source of our troubles.”

Bridges breaks transition down into three phases: endings, middles and beginnings.  Something must end before we can have a beginning.  But in order to begin well, you must learn to transition, or emotionally and spiritually reorient yourself in the middle.

So, another question I am asking myself is: “How and where am I just rearranging the emotional and spiritual furniture in my life?” And “What does this transition look like for me?”

I might ask you, since we are all constantly ending and beginning something in  our lives: “How are you transitioning?  Are you just rearranging things or are you reorienting and what does that look like, feel like for you?”

Bridges makes a pretty bold statement that transitions are the opportunity to recreate ourselves.  What does that even look like I wonder?  I am both hopeful and scared mindless about the possibilities.

Jesus, we have a problem!  I NEED a mid-course correction and I am trusting you for the duct tape and the wisdom of the ages to help me navigate my reentry and recreation.

How about you?

 

 

Preference, Promotion and Position

Several weeks ago Kevin and I visited Grace Community Church in Champaign.  They are a part of the http://www.lifechurch.tv network led by Craig Groeschel of Edmond, Oklahoma so they are a video venue church.  Groeschel gave a great sermon on how to apologize biblically.  It was very thought-provoking.  The take-home message for me was embracing the concept of preferring the relationship over being right or even my right to be right.  

I have thought A LOT about this in the ensuing weeks.  And, as you can imagine, said it out loud to just about everyone whether in a passing conversation or in a very serious counseling session.  I have been like a cow ruminating and meditating over this idea for weeks now.  (Kevin, that one is for you!  I hope you appreciate the bovine reference).

I’ve been asking myself every day what it means to prefer the people in my life, especially those I love the most and, the most challenging thought of all, what does it mean to prefer those who have hurt me to being right?

Preferring Love is humble and honoring.  To prefer means to promote or advance in position; to give credit or priority to someone or something.  Preferring love is a humble love that promotes or advances another over your own position; it gives another priority over one’s self and selfish desires.

In June of 1986 Kevin and I moved to Norman, Oklahoma from the Twin City area of Minnesota.  One year later I was an anxious, angry, lonely, bitter and fearful wife and mother of a 4-year old and a 1-year old.  I have a distinct memory of a Friday in August of 1987 crying out to God, really ranting at God, about all of the above and wondering, since HE moved us to Oklahoma what was HE going to do about it?  I finally calmed down enough to sit and be quiet with Jesus.  That morning I read in Titus 2.4 Paul’s instructions to the “older” women to train and befriend the younger women.  I told Jesus that is what I needed: A Titus Woman!  So I asked Him for one and I heard in my Spirit I have her all picked out for you, look for her on Sunday!  WOW!

Disclaimer: I have a foundational world view that Jesus is God, He is real and present in our lives today and that when we talk to Him He listens and responds.  You don’t have to agree at all and I will respect that, I’m just putting it out there for you about me.

Anyway…

Long story short, I met the beautiful and lovely Susan the next Sunday.  We were an odd fit as she was a warm, gentle, quiet spirited southern woman and I was a bristly, prickly, loud, prideful girl from the north.  But we just clicked right away and she began to clean this fish that someone else had caught, and let me tell you, I was NOT an easy fish to clean.  I was flashy and shiny on the outside but spiny and sharp and certainly not tasty on the inside!  But she laid down her life for me!  Weekly she put my needs as a young, immature woman before her needs and mentored me patiently. gracefully and  with strength of purpose.  When Susan would speak a correction or discipline into my life it was like being smacked with velvet glove.  She preferred my need to grow and heal over her desire to be approved of by me.  I was so full of pain and shame on the inside that I pushed most people away but Susan stuck like glue.  She saw through my carefully constructed facade and saw the potential behind it.  We had some serious “go-arounds” as she had the audacity to expose many  “sacred cows” in my life.  In the end, she was right on just about every point, but she never rejoiced in being right.  She humbly rejoiced with me when I had a breakthrough and experienced another measure of healing and maturity.

Over the next year to 18 months she met with me almost weekly and poured love into me, teaching me how to receive love and how to pursue love from God so I could give it away to my husband, kids and friends.  I learned so much from Susan about love, particularly about how to prefer my husband and children to being right.  She taught me how to be a wife and mother on my knees before God learning how to prefer my family rather than a complaining, nagging drippy faucet grating on the nerves of my husband and children.

Preferring love is not a selfish or self promoting Love Philippians 2.3-4 1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This love does not mean we become a doormat or a slug with no thoughts, gifts or talents.  No this kind of preferring love means we have a sober and proper assessment of ourselves so that we CAN bless and love others.  For instance, I am a pretty good teacher and preacher and I have the gift of hospitality.  That’s not self-promotion, that’s honoring God by acknowledging what He has deposited in me.  I’m nothing without His gifts.  However,  I would LOVE to be able to lead worship or be a part of a worship team but I cannot carry a tune in a bucket and I am instrument illiterate.  BUT I can recognize the music and worship gifts in those around me and rejoice in them, I don’t have to be jealous of them, I can bless and promote them.  I can promote my friends who are gifted musically with voices that are a joy to listen to, voices that soothe the soul.  It also means that when I encounter someone with a stronger teaching gift than me, I don’t have to be jealous or angry, I can bless him or her and pray for him or her to attain all that God has for him or her.  I PREFER them to my own agenda.  It also means that I when I recognize an emerging teaching gift in someone I make space and create opportunity for him or her to learn and grow as a teacher.

Preferring love is able to comfort others 2 Corinthians 1.3-7 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

This is a love willing to submit to the trials, tests and difficulties in life out of love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord and those yet to BE our brothers and sisters knowing the present difficulty will result in fruit for the Kingdom of God and Jesus will use it in our lives to comfort someone else.

This is a love that asks not WHY ME God?  Rather is asks HOW Father?  How do You want me to respond to this situation, what do You want me to learn?  Where are You in the midst of this pain and difficulty?  How are You going to bring something really good out of this really bad situation and how do  I cooperate with You in this?

We saw this in action last week while in Joplin, Missouri.  People who had lost everything, and I mean everything, were side-by-side with the volunteers cleaning up the mess.  The people of Joplin weren’t saying “why me?”  They were rolling up their sleeves and saying, “What do we do now?”  “Who can we help?”  “Who can we comfort?”

Weekly I, and very often Kevin and I, meet with couples that are facing the pain, shame and trauma of betrayal of some kind or another in the marriage.  We are able to draw upon the things that God has done for us and taught us on our own journey to wholeness and restoration in our marriage to comfort them in their pain.  We gladly share what Jesus has done for us with the great hope that it will give the couple a vision and hope for their own future and marriage.

Who is God asking you to extend this kind of love to? 

What is your growth edge in this area? 

Who has preferred you and made your life better?  What did they do?

Maybe I’m out to lunch and you totally disagree, tell me why.  

Shameless promotion

Why have a blog if you can’t shamelessly promote what your family and friends are up to right?

Our daughter Kayla is co-producing a documentary with Bryce Conlan called Awaken the Nation, see the link in the sidebar.  Our good friend Emily Sherrill is also working with them on the project.

This morning Kayla posted a link on Facebook to an interview she and Bryce did with WBGL, the local Christian radio station abut the documentary.

Here’s the link:

www.youtube.com

Take a look if you want.

We are super proud of the work she, Bryce and Emily are doing with this documentary.

Meet the Larsons…and the soon to be Larson

This isn’t the post I had planned for today but I woke up with such a sense of overwhelming gratitude for my family that I thought I should give them a shout-out today.

It’s one thing to live your own life out loud but none of us live in a vacuum so choosing to live your life out loud means those  closest to you are right out there with you!  My life is populated by wonderful people who I am incredibly grateful and blessed to have in my life.  But I am the most grateful for my wonderful family.

My husband and kids have been so gracious through the years as I have lived my our lives in front of others  as I’ve taught, preached, counseled and generally gone about my life.

Meet the Larsons

Having said that, let me take a moment to introduce you to the Larsons:

First, there is Kevin my husband and soul-mate of almost 30 years!  We have been through so much together and there is no one I would rather face sickness/health, richer/poorer, good times/bad times, well you get the picture, with, than him.  This man deserves a medal of honor and valor because I have used our relationship and journey together as the backdrop for many teaching illustrations.  Thanks honey!

I love this picture of us.  It’s not great quality as it’s from my phone, but it captures the fun we were having together.  It was taken last February at the Signature Room in the Hancock building downtown Chicago as we gathered with our kids to celebrate birthdays and our son’s engagement.

Then there are our two wonderful kids.  I know, I know, EVERYONE thinks their kids are the best, and every parent should think that.  But again, I have a great son and daughter who have graciously tolerated a mom who has lived it out there throughout their entire childhood.  Including their teen years when that last thing you want is for your parent to be even more embarrassing than they already are!  They too have made it into many a sermon  or teaching illustration.  Thanks Daniel and Kayla!

These next pictures are random shots taken with our kids on outings in the last couple of years.  Both Daniel, our oldest, and Kayla, the baby have graduated college and are living on their own.  Time with them is a precious commodity these days that we don’t take for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the soon to be Larson:

On February 14, 2011 our son proposed to the beautiful Monica Zachar and she said “yes!”  We all love Monica and are very excited to have her join our family this fall.  I’ve warned her that life with the Larson family is loud and out there, but she seems ready to embrace the challenge.  These next two pictures are of Daniel and Monica.  The first I stole from Facebook but it’s one of my favorites of them.  The second is from their “Same the Date” announcement.  Monica, I thank you ahead of time for getting into this with us!

So glad I didn’t swallow that bitter pill: 

You are probably thinking “That’s an odd line for this particular post.”  Well let me explain.

As I’ve said, Kevin and I have journeyed down many difficult paths together.  We joke that we should some day write a book entitled “How To Do Everything Wrong And Still Stay Married AND Loving Each Other.”  We’ve learned the value and fruit of forgiveness.  The value of keeping our accounts short and leashes long with one another.  I heard Dr. Laura say years ago that unforgiveness and resentment is a poison WE swallow hoping the OTHER person will die.  I am so, so glad that I’ve, that we’ve, chosen over and over again NOT to swallow that pill.

The fruit of this decision hit me between the eyes and straight to the heart, in a good way, recently.  Kevin and the kids planned a fabulous birthday weekend for me in Chicago.  It included a day at the Chicago Art Museum, going to see the Improv Shakespeare and eating at some great restaurants.  As we were eating dinner on Saturday night, laughing and thoroughly enjoying being together it hit me!  If I had, if we had, chosen to be bitter and angry with one another we would not be enjoying this wonderful time together with the confidence that there will be many more fun and delightful time spent together as a family.  In fact, had we chose differently there would likely be a whole different combination of people at that table.

So, don’t swallow that bitter pill my friends!  Don’t risk losing the joy and the fun that life with family and friends has to offer for the temporary, the very temporary, “satisfaction” of holding on to unforgiveness, bitterness and resentment.  All that does is keep you tethered to the pain and robs you of the power to live your life to the fullest.

A full, abundant, rich life; out loud or otherwise.

A Moment of Silence for Joplin Missouri…

,,,because there are not adequate words to explain what we saw, heard, smelled and experienced yesterday   Kevin and I spent yesterday afternoon and evening serving food to the disaster relief workers and the victims of  the E-F5 tornado that tore through Joplin on May 22.  As we drove through the devastation and destruction left by this demonic monster we could only be silent as any words seemed so small and insignificant and even minimizing of the pain and shock the people of Joplin are experiencing.

Because I had promised to blog about this I was constantly mindful of everything I saw, heard, felt, smelled, thought and I was reminded of something I had  just read in Darrell Johnson’s excellent book “Discipleship On The Edge: An Expository Journey Through The Book Of Revelation.”  Johnson says of the Apostle John, the author of Revelation: “John the Seer, as he is called, is a disciple.  And he is a pastor.  And he is a prophet.  And John is an artist.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, John is painting for us a new vision of how the world really is and really will be.  A new vision that helps us deal with the hard, and sometimes harsh, realities of history.”

Why this particular quote?  Several reasons not the least of which is that I wish I were an artist like John.  I wish I could somehow communicate through words the sights; the stark, eerie sights of neighborhood after neighborhood leveled by this tornado.  It was like driving through the Devil’s playground.  Trees stripped bare of every leaf only to be replaced by the bizarre shrapnel left in the wake of a tornado.  Twisted tree trunks with siding wrapped around the trunks.  Trees with odd bits of fabric and clothing dangling from the limbs like some bizarre imitation of leaves.  Houses were leveled, some simply vanished.  Whole parking lots that once held strip malls are reduced to ruble.

The streets are unrecognizable to those native to Joplin because the landmarks have simply vanished.  Street names and numbers are now spray painted on sidewalks and trees.

It’s as if all the color suddenly drained out of the 13-mile path the tornado traveled and left in it’s wake a drab  black, white, gray and beige world.  A drab world heart-breakingly punctuated by the bright color of a little girl’s pink bicycle or a blue container by the side of the road.

I wish I could communicate to you the otherworldly silence that permeates these neighborhoods as the people, some still in shock, walk through the rubble looking for what remains of their life.  It is like something out of a Sci-Fi movie only it is starkly, brutally, in your face real.  It’s otherworldly because the silence is punctuated by the sound of chain saws and backhoes but it’s as if even the machinery is muffled and knows it must somehow honor the victims both living and dead.

I wish I was a seer like the Apostle Paul and I could pull back the curtain between this world and the spirit world to show you  what is “really” happening.  Because surely this is the collateral damage of the great cosmic war between God’s Kingdom and the kingdom of darkness.  Because things are not as they  seem.

I wish I was like the Apostle John and could post a blog that would give you a new vision, a new hope in the midst of the harsh realities of history.  What I can do is share with you some of the amazing stories I heard and some of the amazing  people I met in Joplin yesterday and perhaps they will give you hope.

We all heard story after story of “a power greater than this tornado protecting us.”  A woman named Krista told me how she and her two kids took shelter in the bathroom only to be sucked out  by the force of the tornado but then “It was if a giant hand shoved us under the stairwell of our condo and kept us there until the tornado had passed.”

A family who took shelter in a closet, holding one another close and praying in one accord for protection through the tornado. When it passed they emerged from the closet to find it was the ONLY thing left standing in their home.

The manager of the Pizza Hut who ushered all the customers into the walk-in freezer.  He attempted to hold the door closed with a rope only to be sucked out.  He was both victim and hero.  He lost his life as he saved many lives.  Every other person in that freezer survived.

Neighbors who were themselves critically injured digging through the rubble to rescue those even more critically injured.

Nutra Blend, one of Kevin’s customers, has been providing food for the relief workers and victims since the Wednesday after the tornado.  Mike Osborn, the President of Nutra Blend, estimates they have served over 3000 meals since they started.  Below is a photo of a family displaced by the tornado who come daily to the Nutra Blend tend for at least one meal a day.  They couldn’t say enough good things about how the churches, businesses and community in general have responded to those who lost everything on May 22.

And then there is Samaritan’s Purse, the non-profit disaster relief organization started and led by Franklin Graham.  Oh my word these people are amazing!  We were privileged to meet  Ron from Colorado.  I didn’t quite catch what his job title is but I would guess it is something like site project manager.  He and his wife have done disaster relief work in New Orleans, Nashville, Tuscaloosa and now Joplin.  Samaritan’s Purse is a first responder to natural disasters.  They are a faith-based organization funded by donation and run almost completely by volunteers.  Ron gave a tour of the Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Relief Trailer how they work out of the trailer and shared that all the disaster relief workers are volunteers and they come from all over the globe.  We met people from Illinois, Alabama, Washington State, Texas, Arkansas and California.  Entire church youth groups were there for a week at a time working.  And this is hard labor.  Cutting down trees, removing rubble and trash, putting tarps on structures.  I met a group of women from Rolla, Missouri who were volunteering for the week.  They had spent the morning climbing up on buildings and securing tarps to the tops.

Ron explained that when a work group from Samaritan’s Purse completes a work order at someone’s home every single volunteer signs a Bible and leaves it with the home owners and they pray for the victims.  This is truly the heart, hands and feet of Jesus on the ground serving the last, the least and the lost.

Below are a few pictures of the Samaritan’s Purse organization.  The first is of Ron.  The second is the  ladies I met from Rolla.  The third is Ron and Mary (not his wife, she’s a crew boss) holding one of the Bibles the workers sign.  The fourth is the Samaritan’s Purse rig.

Explaining the work Samaritan's Purse does for disaster relief.

The Samaritan’s Purse website is http://www.samaritanspurse.org/.  Check it out and if you are so inclined or moved by the Holy Spirit donate.  I have never met more humble people with servant hearts helping those who are in the most desperate time of their life than these dear people.  Kevin and I will volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse some day in the near future and we will donate to their work.

This has been a very emotional blog to craft.  I hope I have given you a small window into the reality of life in the wake of a natural disaster.

In closing I share one last quote from Johnson’s book as I think it sums up what I have thinking and feeling since yesterday.

“The foundational conviction of the book [Revelations] is that things are not as they seem.   Or more exactly, things are not only as they seem.  John is convinced, as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ that there is more to reality than meets the unaided senses.  John would say to us something like the following: Look around you, and take in al the data you can with your eyes.  Listen with around you, and take in all the data you can with your ears.  Smell.  Touch.  Taste.  Take in al the data you can gather through your five senses.  And then realize, as I did on the prison island of Patmos, that there is more to what we call “life” than we can know with our unaided senses and intellect and emotions. 

It is the purpose of Revelation–the down-to-earth, this-worldly, pastoral purpose–to open that up more.  Things are not as they seem, not only as they seem, in your life or in mine.  There is more to this present moment than we can know with our unaided senses.  There is more to the flow of history than we can know with our unaided intellect and emotions.

And the more we see this, the more our whole perspective on life changes.  We are given, as some like to put it, “an alternative reading of reality.”

If we only see this historic natural disaster with our natural senses we will miss the bigger, cosmic thing that Jesus is doing on the earth among His people, his crowning jewel of creation.  And so my, Pam’s, prayer is “come Lord Jesus, open up my eyes, ears, touch, smell, taste to the “real reality” of Your Kingdom.  Let me see what is behind the cosmic curtain that I may more deeply and obediently trust you.  Amen.”

Finally she’s posting!

This is it!  After weeks of researching, consulting, praying and pondering I am ready to launch this blog!

I am sitting outside of a Hampton Inn in Rolla, MO this morning.  Kevin and I are on our way to Joplin MO later today to help out with the relief efforts there in the wake of the most devastating tornado in over 50 years.  I will post pictures and thoughts on the blog tomorrow.

So, why “Living Out Loud?”

First because it is how I have lived my life, apparently from my first breath of life!  My parents both say that I was a gregarious child from the get-go.  I rarely walked into a room, I bounced, twirled or danced into the room.  If I had a thought, I shared the thought.  If I had a question, I asked it. If I didn’t like something, I told you.  If I LOVED something, I told you, loudly.  As a grade schooler all my teachers commented that I was an excellent student, fun to have in the classroom but needed to work on talking less.  My 4th grade teacher went so far as to say that perhaps not everyone wanted to know what I knew in the moment.  It wasn’t until college that I learned there was a word for my personality: EXTROVERTED!  So I wasn’t a freak of nature after all.  I process everything out loud.  Most of the time I don’t even know what I think, feel or believe until I can say it out loud and it is especially helpful to say it out loud to someone else and get feedback.

Second because, until recently, my career was in the helping profession as a Pastor who labored primarily in the fields of helping others heal from the pain and darkness that leads to addiction and bondage of all kinds.  Since I have overcome addiction and my own personal demons resulting from much childhood darkness and pain through the wonderful grace and mercy of Jesus Christ I have been compelled to live my life out loud before others in the hope that they may also find the same freedom and life in Jesus that I have.

Third because I am no longer on my same career path but still long to live my life out loud so that others might find freedom and life I thought, why not blog it?  Perhaps someone will find one small nugget that will help them in this life time.

And why that silly tag line?

Well, I do love music, movies and books so I gave you a song, movie and book reference.  God has spoken to me through all of these genres and I intend to share out loud with you every time He speaks through one of them.  Words, titles, phrases, names have meaning to me.  Also, I weirdly spend time thinking about the last line of the last page of the book of my life and what it would say.  What will Jesus’ final word be about me?  I hope with all my soul that the last line of the book of my life is something like this: “Well done Pamela Sue!  That was a story worth reading!”

I am also in a season of tremendous transition, both personally and within my immediate family.  For me, leaving the  job that I adored as a Pastor serving people that I loved threw me into such an identity crisis I wasn’t sure who I was any more.  I had so identified myself as a pastor within a certain denomination that I lost focus.  So, I have literally been in the process of losing my religion these past few months.  Shedding the religious trappings that had become my identity and discovering who I am meant to be in Jesus Christ.

In the process I have rediscovered my first love: Jesus Christ.  I am finding out who He really is and I am super excited to share these discoveries with you on the blog.

BUT, the road I have traveled has been one of the most painful and challenging roads I have ever been on, and I have traveled a few painful roads in my life’s journey.  On the one hand, I wouldn’t trade what I have learned and am learning for any amount of money, on the other hand, I wouldn’t wish this path on anyone.

Just to let you know, I am currently reading several books on transition and one of the best books on Revelation I have ever read so I will be sharing my thoughts and insights with you.  I will have a list of the books and authors on the blog soon.

Well, we are ready to load the jeep and head to Joplin.  As promised I will blog tomorrow about this experience.