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Today, the third day since the healing began (just like the last time)  the pastor spoke about a prideful king whom God brought low, stripped of his securities and idols , and afflicted with a mental disorder.  I am that king.  I am the prideful one who worshiped self.  I am the violent one who sat on a throne of anger against God’s people.  I am the arrogant one who oppressed His anointed.  I am the lowliest one whom he has chosen to use and restore after a time of severe judgement.  I was prideful and angry at God and his people.  I was humbled and brought low by his judgement.  I have been miraculously restored by his amazing grace.  I know this is true.

When the sermon came to a close and pastor spoke the name “Jesus” many times in the conveying of the gospel, each time I felt the Holy Spirit physically act inside my body.  The power I felt as the name of Jesus was spoken at this time is inexplicable.

It is no coincidence that today, the daughter that was not to exist was dedicated to the Lord.  This one – who came years after a physical surgery preventing her.  This one – who came just one year after a marriage thought surely lost.  This one – a Son-ny whom God promised before she was even physically possible or logically believable.  This one – who moments after birth fell silent at her Daddy’s calm voice.

Neither is it a coincidence that afterward I saw my spiritual father at a picnic where I brought blackberry pie and picked wild ones.  Daddy was there.  Father God was there.  Redemption is here.  Restoration is complete.  I am free.  That, friends, is how God heals the broken.

As I write, my 11 year old daughter cries because she thinks her Daddy is sleeping.  She thinks he has forgotten about her and all their plans to finish building a chicken coupe.  She does not know I have already told him to attend to her.  She does not know he is awake.  She does not know he has not forgotten and cannot wait to go outside and work with her as long as it is Day .  “Why don’t you go wake him up?” I ask.  “He won’t.”  “How do you know?”  “Because I know him.”

No you don’t.  I did not know either of my fathers the way I wish I would have.  One slept for sickness and one I thought was sleeping for neglect.  I was wrong.  I have learned not to presume upon His grace or lack thereof any longer, though.  My Father is not, nor ever was he sleeping.  He wants me to come jump on the bed and tell him how much I cannot wait to do with him every single day.  I will be silent at his calm voice.  I am, after all, the daughter who was promised to a Son long before it was either logical or believable.

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The next day, I prayed again.  I went early to a triathlon race where I ran into a man who had acted as a father figure to me for several years in my mid twenties.  I had not seen this man in quite some time but ten years ago he taught me to swim and trained me for my first marathon.  He always encouraged me like a dad would.

As I got into the pool I realized my goggles were not adjusted right as my kids use them often.  I tried to fix them, but every time I swam a stroke, water entered into my eyes.  I made several attempts but I could not get them right.  I began to swim backstroke instead because I cannot stand water in my eyes.

As I swam, I thought about how I must live this way.  I must live looking up at all times or I am going to be completely blind.  God was teaching me.

When I began the bike portion of the race, I saw a church marquee that read, “Faith for your decisions, Part 2.” I literally laughed out loud because I knew what God was saying.  I have not made my decisions in faith in the past.  Part 1 was not faithful.  But he is opening a new chapter for me concerning how to follow him in true and saving faith.

I biked for several miles and just as I entered a hollow of shade trees, I thought of my dad.  Every time I go through a hollow on a country road, I think of him because when he got sick (when I was 11) we always took 857 to Morgantown to visit him.  I knew when we went though the hollow we were close to seeing daddy – whom I missed terribly.  I knew God would show up.  Just as I entered the hollow and thought of daddy, my friend who had taught me to swim and distance run appeared from around the bend coming the other way.  “Good job, Lori,” he said.  Those are words I never really got to hear from my dad.  What are the chances that he would enter that hollow coming from the other way at that very moment? It was not a coincidence. God, my Father whom I have missed so much was meeting me.

As I was running, I was coming onto the track toward the finish and a song I associate with the excommunication came on.  Next, a song I associate with a severed relationship from the dark period came on.  The two darkest realities I faced over two years ago were both associated with a song and both songs played at the finish of this race.  God was speaking.  He was in that and he is in this – healing.  He showed me that it is finished.

After I finished my father-like friend gave me a hug and said, “I’m proud of you.”  That’s what daddy would have said if he were there.

The doctor told me the reason God wants to heal me is for freedom.  So I will be free from anxiety and worry and discouragement and sin.  The race was put on by an organization known as “Faith in action” – a Christian hospice and home care agency.  Their sign at the end of the race had their motto which read, “A neighbor’s independence depends on you.”

Freedom .  Independence.  Mine and yours.  That is why I am sharing this awesome, bizarre, crazy story with you.  God wants to give us freedom from fear, discouragement, depression, and anxiety.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt he does.

As I drove home I noticed a cloud in the sky that was shaped like a heart and  – I kid you not – inside that cloud was a brighter white cloud in the form of a “u.”  Love u.  It was God.  No doubt.  Not a moment later a huge billboard read, “Who is Jesus” in all caps and another said, “A father is who picks you up after you fall.”  Then I entered back into Pennsylvania from West Virginia and the sign said, “Welcome to Pennsylvania, state of independence.”  Did you know that was our motto?? I didn’t.  I thought we were the keystone state or something.  God was lavishing his love upon me, assuring me as my father, giving me freedom, and bringing me back home.  That is what he is doing.  I have no doubt no matter how unreal this all sounds to other people.

I was so smitten and overwhelmed by God’s love by this point that I literally missed my exit and did not realize it for many miles.  When I finally realized that I was lost, I got on the toll road and came home a completely different, longer way.  As I came past a church the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to me and said, “Go to that church and pray for the person who is there.”

I second guessed several times but knew the command was clear.  I am not one to do this kind of thing – ever.  I have, but it has probably been fifteen years since – back in those early days when I trusted God like a child.  So, I reluctantly turned around telling myself surely no one will be there at noon on a beautiful Saturday.  No one in sight, so I pulled behind the church to turn around and a man sat on a lawn mower right in front of me.

I stalled a few moments wondering if I should just leave or pretend I needed directions but God said, “Pray for that man!”  So I got out and told him I was reformed but God made me.  He was the pastor and said the man who cuts grass was ill that day.  God wanted to encourage that man through me.

Later that night we went out to dinner for a friend’s birthday and to hear a band.  About halfway through the night, back behind the band I noticed a picture hanging on the wall at a table set back by itself.  As I got closer I realized the picture was of a red bird in the woods.  When I run I always look for red birds because they remind me of my dad.  I used to specifically ask the Lord to show me a red bird when I was thinking of my dad and he often would.

I have no doubt that these seeming coincidences are really and truly God moving in my life to restore, heal, and use me for his glory.

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The night before I was called to repentance, my thoughts were on my earthly father.  I was playing softball as we always did when I was young and I had a moment where I felt as though he was actually there with me.  Thinking of him on my way home, I saw a street sign that read, “Lewis Dr.” Lewis was my maiden name.  At that point I felt that my father was with me, just like I did while I was at the ball field and I began to remember a particular memory where he and I laid in the grass outside and looked up at the stars together.  It is one of my favorite memories of my dad.

The following day the man who told me God wanted to heal me (the doctor) told me to repent of my excuses and take time to sit still and pray each day.  That night I took my shoes off, stood in the grass, and I prayed.  I sat down on the porch and watched the sky.  I realized, but not until this point exactly, that I was told by the doctor to do exactly what I had done with my dad so many years ago.  A few moments later, I saw a shooting star move swiftly across the sky.  My husband and I began to talk about the shooting star and I shared how the first time I had ever seen one was with my dad.  I remember it vividly.  My dad had been drinking.  He did not drink often, and even more rarely in front of me,  but on this particular occasion, he was drunk.We had been at a Halloween party and it just so happened to be my birthday.  My mom was driving which is significant because my mom never drove when my dad was in the car.  My dad always drove.  This time, my mom drove and me and daddy watched the sky.  A shooting star moved across the sky and we took note of the time.  It was 10:30 p.m. on 10/30 – October 30, my birthday.  The star fell at 10:30 on 10/30.  Maybe that is why I remember it.

After I talked with my husband for a few minutes and shared this story about how the first time I saw a shooting star was with my dad, and he was drunk, and all about the party and how I was dressed up as a clown and my brother a devil and how he drove us into the woods because he had had too much to drink, probably out of sheer curiosity, he picked up his phone to look at the time.  It was 10:36 p.m.  That star we saw the other night fell at 10:30 p.m.

At that very moment, I remembered how after I had left the doctor’s office that day – after being told to pray – I said a prayer in the truck before pulling out.  I asked God to speak to me and I turned on the radio.  I put on WORD FM to maybe hear a sermon but all I got was static so I changed it.  The song I heard first was , “Drunk on Your Love.”  The Holy Spirit came over me and I began to cry tears of joy.  I knew God was speaking to me about how much he loved me and I could physically feel his love and joy pouring into me in a way I have never experienced before.  This went on for more than 15 minutes or better and I understood it as God’s divine healing for me.  When I saw the shooting star later that night and was reminded of my father being drunk when we saw my first one, I felt my entire body freeze up in utter disbelief.  When I heard the song I did not know yet about the star I was about to see.  When I spoke of his drunkenness I did not think anything about the song until after Tim checked the time.  At that point I felt like I was in the movie interstellar where the father was talking to his daughter from light years away in space.  It was a surreal moment in which I almost felt afraid – not scared, rather, known and as one who had just seen something unmistakably supernatural.

I was listening to a song called “Invisible City” afterward and I decided to look up the meaning of what an invisible city was or if there was a legend about it.  The invisible city was a city who, when under attack did not move or prepare to fight, rather bowed and prayed, and sunk down under the water where their enemies would never find them again.

 Coincidence?  No. Confirmation.  God is calling me to be serious about prayer and he is showing himself time and again to strengthen my faith and so that I and those around me might believe.

 

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As I hid myself and my six month old in the church’s cry room to nurse and listened to the band rehearse over the speaker, I thought.  What a perfect place to worship.

How often do I come to church and speak to everyone but God?  How often do I come to His Word and write about him without talking to him first?  I mean, what if I came to your house twice a week but never spoke to you?  What kind of a friend does that?  Better yet, what kind of daughter does that?

A prideful one.  An arrogant one.  A full of herself fool does that.  A rebellious teenage-minded one.

For the past, well, I am not even sure how many years it has been now.  Let’s say four, maybe, although it may indeed be more like 6-10 if I get real honest.  For the past four years my relationship with my heavenly Father has been troubled.  Troubled because of trials. Troubled because of trust issues.  Troubled because of tiredness.  Troubled because of self-reliant trying.

I tend to go into self-protect mode and function as a selective mute when I am hurting; when I do not trust; when I cannot understand.  God is not a father who takes well to teenage talklessness, though.  God is a father who has a way of taking me to task when my pouting and pretense become terribly unpretty.

Familiarity breeds contempt.  God will not have me living under his roof without correction.

For two years I pouted and glared.  For two years I turned a cold shoulder heavenward.  For two years I attended church, Bible study, read and wrote on the Bible daily with nary much of a word or two sent up in faith.  I claimed I did not know how to pray.  I studied the psalms intensely.  I wrote on every single one searching for a supposed answer to my prayer problem.  A year went by and still no speaking.  Not to him.  Not about truth.  Maybe for you.  Maybe for food.  But not about the truth.  What I had was not a knowledge problem.  What I had was an obedience problem.

The truth was too terrible.  It was too terrifying.  I was too angry, too depressed, too discouraged, and too temperamental to talk to a God I no longer trusted about the truth in my heart.

Another year went by wherein I worked harder than I had ever done  to earn his favor – which I thought I had most certainly lost somewhere along the way.  I worked and worked and worked for the approval of his people who, in his divine judgement on me for my pride in self-sufficient works, trampled every last effort until they were all completely obliterated.

I was wrongfully, yet sovereignly, excommunicated.  I left the church.  I left my marriage.  I departed from the truth altogether for a desperately dark time.

Six months later I ran into an old friend who was now a pastor.   Since that time the Lord has been relentless on his mission to restore me.  He took me back under his roof.  He redeemed my marriage.  He restored my spiritual life.  And today, I fully believe he has finally closed the darkest chapter of my life.

A month ago I met a man who told me God wanted to heal me.  He told me to pray.  He told me unorthodox things like to stand in the grass with no shoes on and wait on and feel the presence of God.  He told me stop making excuses about stopping to spend silence with Jesus.  So I did.  Just two days ago, I did.  For the first time in a long time, I sat completely still.  I folded my hands.  I bowed my head and I prayed to God.  I listened and he spoke.  I spoke and he listened.

I put my feet in the grass, I looked up at the night sky, and I prayed.  He spoke to me as a father in ways whose explanation elude me almost completely.  With equal intensity, he placed a burning in my heart to tell someone – anyone who will listen.

I believe he may be calling me to write a book concerning the details of my journey of faith and faithlessness.  In the mean time, I am going to try to share some of the moments God has given me over the past week in the next few posts. He has been reminding me over and over and over and over again of my earthly father with many convincing proofs.  I believe he is reassuring me that HE is my Father who loves me, calling me to some kind of ministry, and giving me a gift.  I do not fully understand all of what God is doing in and through me at this time but I do know a few things for sure: it is real, it is God, and it is more amazing than anything I have ever experienced.  Praise Him!

Centerfield

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For the first time in 14 years, I stood in the outfield. I stood in the outfield remembering. As the ball was pitched and the bases run, I remembered.  I remembered a simpler time, a wholesome world, and a good man with whom I enjoyed a place just like this.

The older I get the more I realize how much of a gift reminiscence is.  Remembering.

I love people of every color. I love protectors of every kind. There is only ONE side in this spiritual war our beloved country finds itself engaged in: LOVE. LOVE is the only house I will ever choose to live in. I love people.  Therefore,  I am so very sorry for what we lose every day through ignorance, anger, hate, and bitterness.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember.

We live in a world where nations rage and people plot in vain.  We live in a country where rulers set themselves and take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed.  We live communities where people kill each other based on beliefs, backgrounds, and bloodlines and where pastors and leaders avoid one another because they cannot agree on faith or doctrine or duty or delegation.  We live in churches divided by nepotism, preferences, pettiness, and pride.  We live in houses with absent daddies, desperate moms, and disrespectful, drug-laden children.  We live in bodies that set themselves daily upon idolatrous thrones and build our own kingdoms right over-top of the monuments made to make us remember God himself.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. ~Psalm 77:11-15

There is a time for everything.  It is time to remember.  It is time to remember where we came from.  It is time to remember our one and only true God.  It is time to remember how to blush.  It is time to remember how to love.  And when the world does not follow, it is time to mourn.  Surely, there is a time for everything and now is the time to mourn.

You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” ~Psalm 77:4-9

I will appeal to the Lord.  I will remember the Lord.  I will mourn.  This, for us, for our homes, for our churches, for our communities, for our country, for our world.

I love people of every color. I love protectors of every kind. There is only ONE side in this spiritual war our beloved country finds itself engaged in: LOVE. LOVE is the only house I will ever choose to live in. I love people.  Therefore,  I am so very sorry for what we lose every day through ignorance, anger, hate, and bitterness.  We have a beautiful, strong, great country.  Each day we lose that great nation a little bit more.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember and repent.  Amen.

Finding Lori

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I always look for heart shaped shells at the ocean.  I remember God’s love when I find them.  When my husband and I went away for our anniversary a few weeks ago, he found a heart-shaped rock laying in the sand at the lake and gave it to me.  “He knows me,” I thought.  There is just something about being deeply known and loved anyway that is amazing.

We are not perfect.  For perfectionists and idealists like me, the weight of that reality can be exceedingly heavy on the daily.  We want things to be “right.”  We want people to be “right.”  We, for the love of God, just want to be “right.”

Right how?  Right in every way possible.  From thoughts to work to clothing to diet to beliefs, every single piece of life has to have order; reason; rightness.

Unfortunately, we live in a world full of the fall.  Things are wrong.  People are wrong.  We, too, are so often wrong.  In thought, in word, and in deed, we fail.  We strive to grow and change and sometimes we do.  But we fail in so doing.  We fail in the preparation.  We fail in the process.  We fail in ways we did not even think possible.  We get where we are going and we fail some more in new, more mature and modified ways.

I am not perfect.  You are not perfect.  The world is not perfect.  I know I am not the only one who is often overwhelmed with the weight of that reality most days.  Humanity is not “flawless” and anyone who wears that trending label is either insecure or in denial.  Be it pride or presumption, put that thought away.  Flawless will never,ever be a describing word for humans.

My biggest struggle – the strength and the weakness I go to battle with every single day – is a derivative of a perfectionist mindset.  How can I strive to be better while learning to be content where I am – where God has mercifully brought me for today?  How can I maintain motivation to be the very best I can while still remembering with great assurance that I really am ok with where I have come; where I am right this very moment?  How do I learn to accept myself without being prideful and where is the fountain I can drink from whose fuel feeds the hope that one day in my future life I will for even just one moment not feel so much like a failure?

Spoiler alert.

Disney answers with a fish.  “Finding Dory” lures us in with a fish who forever feels like a failure – a fish who feels anything but flawless.  Enter: Dory.  Enter: Lori.  They are one in the same.  Funny, the flawed fish is the figure who reels us in.  The forgetful fish is the kind of friend we all want to find.

The sequel to 2003’s “Finding Nemo” takes viewers from theater to theology.  For me, “Finding Dory” was the most thought provoking movie I have seen in some time.

Dory always forgets…everything.  From her direction to her dinner, Dory just cannot get it together and she knows it.  She perpetually apologizes because she knows it so much. Dory’s humility makes her dear but her deepness often also defeats her. The one thing this fish dreams of doing – the one thing she is trying so hard to keep remembering – is finding her daddy.  Dory lost her parents early in life and has made it her great ambition to find them.  Her fateful flaw keeps her forgetting (and, consequently, makes it her fault) but her tenacious love and dire determination given to her from her parents’ great example drive her to stop at nothing to dive in to her destiny.

After almost two hours of discovering and rediscovering herself, Dory does it.  She does not give up.  In the end, no failure or friendlessness or flaw keeps Dory from finding her fate.  When she finally finds her father and mother, she finds what most of us flawed failure fish flop around faithlessly forgetting.  Dory finds that despite all her flaws and failures, she is not forgotten.  Dory is deeply loved by her father and mother.  Because she does not forget them, she finds them.  Moreover, every single day since she left they have been waiting for her, laying our her favorite shells as a path to help her find home.  In them, Dory realizes that it is ok to forgive herself – to be herself – because being perfect is not paramount.  Dory does not have to obsessively say that she is sorry anymore.  Her worth is not based upon her performance.  Dory is loved because her parents love her and that is all.

Lori is loved because her heavenly Father loves her.  He is waiting for her to stop faithlessly forgetting and remember again.  You are loved because Christ loves you.  He is waiting for you to stop faithlessly forgetting and remember again.  Follow the path he has laid out.  Surely you will find him waiting.

We are not perfect.  There is just something about being deeply known and loved anyway that is amazing.

Quiet.  It is just after one in the afternoon and only the sound of a ticking clock is heard in my home.  Quiet here is rare, but three kids are at camp and one is sleeping.

Time.  It is just after one in the afternoon and no tasks are pressing on my list.  Time here is short, but three kids are at camp, one is sleeping, and my house is decent.

Quiet.  Time.  Quiet time.  So scarce that I have usually to wake before dawn to enjoy it.  So necessary that I want to wake before dawn to get it.

Our homes and our heads are always so loud.  Our schedules are always full.  Could purposeful busyness be an idol keeping us from God?  Could busy family life be the idol keeping us from being a family?  In our homes; in our churches?

Those are questions worth considering.

Sitting under the shade of a tree I look up and see all that I have been missing.  I stare up at the sun peeking through leaves and recollections of childhood flood in.  How oft I would wonder.  I would swing on the swing set looking up through the trees and wonder.  I would lay in bed and stare out at the stars night after night wondering.  I would admire the beauty of creation for the sheer joy of admiring the beauty of creation.  I would wonder for the sheer joy of wondering.  I love nature’s wonder and I love to wonder about it.  Wondering is one of life’s greatest gifts.  But who has time to sit still and wonder?  Who has peace enough to sit still and wonder?  We have an abundance of worry, interruption, deadlines, and drama.  Taking the time to wonder is last on our list most days.

Could it be that we are missing the most beautiful things because we are failing to look up?  Always, everywhere people can be found looking down – consumed with the created.  Little wonder why that half eaten apple is applied on that which we and our children waste our lives consuming.  We are choosing the lesser over the greater day in and day out.

 When was the last time you looked upward?

After three days without her ipod, my seven year-old finally looked up yesterday.  She said something like I have not heard her say since she started looking down all the time.

 “God painted the clouds, Mommy.”

That is an observation worth making.

She and her sisters played cards together.  They played dinosaurs and Barbie dolls.  She brought me a storybook to read to her.  We went to the lake and they swam with Daddy.  I watched a man who is often consumed with looking down at his work look for struggling, wet locusts and begin turning them over. “What are you doing,” I asked.  “I’m turning them over so their wings will dry out; so they have a chance.”  He pulled live ones out of the water and set them right side up on the beach; on the boat.”

I marveled at his kindness, even for bugs.  Then, at God’s kindness, even for me.  I soaked in the wonder of creation and I remembered why these times and places are life’s true wonderland.  We cannot allow purposeful busyness to crowd them out or we will be missing out; our children will be missing out.

Quiet.  Time.  Quiet time.  Don’t let busyness crowd out wonder in your life.  Sit under the stars.  Stand in the rain.  Swim in the lake.  Walk through the trees.  Play dinosaurs with the kids.  Pray.  Ask.  Thank.  Trust.  Smile.  Wonder.  Rest.  Live.

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