Healing our nation at the cellular level

I can’t think of anything more polarizing these days than my social media feed. It’s easy to sit with my device and post arguments and counter-arguments, but it’s a whole different conversation with a family member, church connection, co-worker, or friend, face-to-face.  Social media affords us the opportunity to build personal communities of “friends” who vote, worship, eat, and work just like we do.

People who once were friends, “unfriend.” Posts often include, “If you voted for ___,” or “If you support ___,”  “Go ahead and unfriend me now.” Other posts state that if you believe/think/vote for/participate in ____ you are generalized into an extreme group of one party, category, or subgroup. Some include headlines, videos, or articles where the re-poster asks, “Is this who we’ve become?”

That question begs introspection of all of us. Who are we? Who do we want to be? What changes must we make to get there?

The more I ruminate, the more I’m convinced that healing for our nation must happen at the cellular level. We have to be able to see past the rhetoric, smoke screens, and talking heads, to see individuals who are often far more than a viewpoint. If someone is at a place where they simply cannot accept any perspective but their own, by all means, “unfriending” might be the gift they give the universe, but real change happens when we are able to find common ground and build on what unites.

We have to stop gloating when “our side wins,” and instead walk in humility! 

Cells combine to form tissues, organs, and organisms to form our bodies as a whole. They are the most basic structural units of the human body, and it’s often at the cellular level where sickness and disease take root. Social media posts and news headlines reveal that our nation is weakened at the most basic cellular level.

I don’t negate the issues that divide us are real, impassioned, cellular-level, core convictions that guide each individual and I’m not suggesting we sacrifice our beliefs on the altar of unity. I just can’t help but wonder what would happen if we put partisanship aside and truly focused on finding a way forward despite our differences.

Studies show that proper nutrition, especially a plant-centered diet, has the potential to reverse genes that cause heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses and turn on genes that prevent disease.  An article by Project CBD explains the benefits cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have on our body’s cellular system. Other studies show how meditation, exercise, and deep restorative sleep can change our bodies at the cellular level.

cellsshutterstock_88665217

If we can change that which causes disease and illness at the cellular level in our bodies, can we also evoke change in our nation with contemplative and intercessory prayer, positive social actions at the local level, deepened personal relationships, and increased involvement in our own communities?

In Romans 12:9-21 the apostle Paul writes, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NIV version)

Or in the words Henri Nouwen, “Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.”

What if we loved sincerely, hated evil, clung to good, was devoted to one another in love, and we honored one another above ourselves? What would that look like? Would that be the change that helps us become what we know we can and should be? What if we approached our conversations, our social media posts, our relationships with these measures? Could that help heal our nation at the cellular level and in turn, change our world?

Dog Therapy

These two make my world a much happier place. I need happy right now and thought maybe you could use some too.

Yo. That’s good stuff!

What? You’re taking pictures of this?!

Sheesh Mom, stop embarrassing me with all the photos.

Would y’all stop the shenanigans? I’m trying to sleep over here!

Oh shucks! Now she’s taking my picture too!

Hrrrumph….

Fear and Truth

Its tendons tighten ‘round her throat

Fear’s icy fingers grip

A lullaby in minor chord 

Echoes from fear’s lips 

Why isn’t she better? The words bounce ‘round

Why is it taking so long?

Did we do the right thing?

Did we make the right choice?

Is there something else going on?
She tries to hush fear’s haunting voice

Pry loose fear’s tightening grasp

But memories of another time

Clench fear’s fingers fast

The weight of a tiny cold dark form

Wrapped in blankets tight 

A final breath escapes her lips 

She slips into the Light
The scent of death and dirt and clay 

As they lay her down to rest

Still fills her senses to this day

And leaves her a broken mess

Trust in God, the faithful quip

He’ll never let us go

And the pious mourners leave her grave

Unscathed by the treacherous woe
Repeat, replay, those memories ore

Her mind cannot turn off

As another daughter suffers long

With pain, and rash, and cough

The surgery was supposed to help

Her healing to be quick

But the progress vacillates and slows

Because she was so sick 
Fear growls in guttural tones aloud 
“she’s mine, she’s mine, she’s mine”

And pins her to the chair, afraid

Immobilized, confined

“She’s not,” Truth’s voice commands 

With authority all Its own 

“She was never yours, she will never be

So away with you, be gone” 
Fear and Truth declare a war

For heart and soul and mind 

And somewhere in her deepest self

Truth’s Hope begins to shine

A knowing that when all she loved

Was ripped from arms and chest

The only thing that held steadfast

Was Truth that never left
Truth cannot lie and will not leave

Her heart to fear’s demise

Truth shrouds her grieving vulnerable soul

With Love from Heaven’s skies 

Truth lifts her trembling doubting head

And turns her face with awe

Plants deep within a greater peace

The Truth, she sees, is God

Rest

I heard the voice of Jesus say come unto me and rest…

But what about our sick child?

Come unto me and rest…

What about our finances? 

Come to me and rest… 

What about our loved one slowly succumbing to dementia?

Come unto me and rest…

What about the violence permeating our society?

Come unto me and rest…

What about wars and rumors of wars?

Come to me and rest…

What about political unrest?

Come to me and rest…

What about the anguish of the bereaved?

Come unto me and rest…

What about…?

Come unto me and rest…

I heard the voice of Jesus say come unto me and rest…

Come to me you weary one…

Come to me…

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you need encouragement in song, there are three links above the Scripture that will take you to three different songs. May we rest in the Perfect Love that casts out fear. 

Musings from a $1.50 retreat 

Sometimes gifts come in the most unsuspecting ways, like several weeks ago when I picked up a book for $1.50 at a thrift store. I was taking my mother-in-law to an appointment and she loves to stop by thrift stores along the way. The last thing I need is more books, but that section inevtiably sucks me in like a gnat to vinegar. This round of treasures included “A Seven Day Journey With Thomas Merton” by Esther de Waal. 


The point of the book is to intentionally carve out quiet time with God. I love that idea, but my prayers these days are often while I’m driving down the road with a million other things on my mind. 

Waal’s opening recognizes that taking a weekend or week alone is nearly impossible for many of us, yet we still need to create spaces of quiet time with God. For some that might be smaller amounts every day and for others perhaps larger spaces of time once a week, depending on our individual circumstances. 

“… if I am to take myself seriously,” Waal writes,  “to respect the whole of myself, body, mind, and spirit, and acknowledge how essential it is to nurture myself, I know that time apart is essential. It is essential to find time to stand back, to draw breath, not only for my own sake but also for my relationships with my family, colleagues, friends, and above all for an ever deepening relationship with God.”

 

As an extroverted introvert, I am often misunderstood as someone who functions best by being constantly surrounded by people. My chaotic schedule itself would be proof enough to some that I must always be doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I absolutely love people and relationships and caring for others, I get overwhelmed in crowds and am uncomfortable in large groups. I crave time alone, yet I’m regrettably negligent in making that priority. 

“The reason why we don’t take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving,” Merton says, “This is a real sickness. Today time is a commodity, and for each one of us time is mortgaged… we are threatened by a chain reaction: overwork – overstimulation – overcompensation – overkill.” 

Guilty. Right here. Those words are for me. And I try to pay attention to where that drive comes from for me. Ultimately, I believe, it is because I buy into the lie that I am never enough, can never do enough, be enough, care enough, accomplish enough. Always striving, but never arriving. I buy into the lie that solitude is selfish, there is too much to be done to rest. 

I memorized this poem by Maltbie Davenport Babcock at a young age and have too long kept it a personal mantra. 

Be Strong by Maltbie Davenport Babcock

Be strong!

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift;

We have hard work to do and loads to lift;

Shun not the struggle, face it, ’tis God’s gift.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

Be strong!

Say not the days are evil—who’s to blame?

And fold the hands and acquiesce—O shame!

Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s Name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

Be strong!

It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,

How hard the battle goes, the day, how long;

Faint not, fight on! Tomorrow comes the song.

Be strong, be strong, be strong!

I still love the message, but one cannot be strong without addressing one’s weakness. I cannot truly offer compassionate care to others without first offering it to myself. In solitude with God I can recognize and own my weaknesses and rest in His strength and sufficiency. It is in solitude with God that I more fully experience His love for me and mine for Him. 

“We have to remember that we look for solitude in order to grow there in love for God and in love for others,” Merton writes. “We do not go into the desert to escape people but to learn how to find them: we do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good. But this is always a secondary end. The one end that includes all others is the love of God.” 

In that time of personal retreat, the prayer and Scripture and reflection bring everything else into refreshing focus. Merton sums up the rejuvenation of Scripture-reading with the following, “By the reading of Scripture I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a purer, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green, light is sharper on the outlines of the forests and the hills and the whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music in the earth under my feet.” 



It is only in intentional retreat with God, that I can truly revel in the wonderful aspects of my life and find strength within the difficulties. In that time I am reminded of God’s love in every celebration and concern of life and see that God is with me in it all.  

“It is God’s love that warms me in the sun and God’s love that sends the cold rain,” Waal says. “It is God’s love that feeds me in the bread I eat and God’s love that feeds me also by hungar and fasting… It is God who breathes on me with light winds off the river and in the breezes out of the wood.”

In intentional retreat with God I am reminded of my uniqueness as a person and the specific tasks to which I have been called. I have never bought into the “I’m special and God has a great plan for my life,” teaching that makes everyone feel like they will produce profound and wonderful accomplishments for the Kingdom of God. My personal belief falls more in line with this quote from Waal. “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him… The more a tree is like itself it is like Him. This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or ever will do.” 


There are many trees in this world, some of which will never be beholden by human eye or evoke awe in those who see it, but they are nonetheless unique and praising God as no other tree before or after. Our names, our life’s work may never be noticed by others or recognized beyond our family and friends, and yet we can still give glory to God by being who we’re created to be in Him and living for what we are called to do. 

“If I am supposed to hoe a garden or make a table, then I will be obeying God if I am true to the task that I am performing,” Waal writes. “To do the work carefully and well, with love and respect for the nature of my task and with due attention to its purpose, is to unite myself to God’s will in my work. In this way I become His instrument. He works through me.” 

I am still working my way through this sweet little gem of a book from the thrift store, but I am so thankful for a this personal retreat for the price of $1.50. The price for not taking this to heart is much costlier. 

Beauty from ashes

Nearly every day I travel the same road and turn at this intersection where a house once stood. The vacant house burned to the ground a few months ago. 


The rubble so changed the landscape that the first time I went that way after it burned, I missed my turn.

I took the familiar route for a second time today, but this afternoon was stunned to find merry little daffodils poking through patches of snow and ashes and concrete. 

If you are looking around in your life today and all you see is ashes, rubble, ruin, despair, coldness, hardness, emptiness, I pray for you glimmers of hope. 

When we are in times of great distress, it can feel like our landscape changes. Our sense of direction becomes unclear, landmarks crumble. What was familiar becomes strange. 

But God’s promises are true and he is faithful. 

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 63:1

Like the seed that is buried in the ground, dormant, lifeless, and cold, eventually the seed germinates, a sprout emerges, and a bud bursts forth. 

At just the right time, when it seems there is nothing left to live for and despair seems to have the final word, hope springs forth from the ashes of our lives. 

These “dark nights of the soul” are potential times for great transformation. 

I am reminded of this “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie A Sleeth. 

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

May you sense these blessed promises in your own life today! 

Oops… cookie bars and accidental soup 

There are times I want cookies, but don’t feel like scooping out all the dough. That’s when I make my desired cookie recipe and bake it like bars. (This chocolate chip recipe also makes a great crust for a sweetened cream cheese layer and fruit on top!) 

There are also days I have supper in the works and plans go awry. Like tonight, when I wanted to make a Mexican casserole but the polenta had gone bad. Thankfully I tasted the polenta before pouring into the pan as a crust. As frustrating as it was to relinquish the idea of a casserole and toss the soured polenta, I used the exact casserole filling I’d already combined in another bowl, added a quart of tomato juice, and made taco soup. 

It’s a lot like life, really. You get handed all manner of circumstances for ingredients and what you make of it is up to you. 

I’m so thankful mom taught me how to assess, adapt, and overcome at an early age. Some days it saves my sanity. It reminds me of the gentle-natured painter, Bob Ross, who encouraged even the most novice painter saying, “there are no mistakes, only happy little accidents.”

What happy cooking accidents do you have to share? 

Unclenching my grasp and breathing peace 

Eight years ago I was balancing work and a newborn baby. My job as a staff-writer for a local community paper allowed me to work from home at times. 

One morning I opened my work email and in place of my signature and work title it read, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

The words took my breath away. 

The message was perfect for me at that time in my life, but I couldn’t imagine who, how, or why my work signature was changed to that sentence. I called my co-workers and they knew nothing about it. I logged back in and there was my original work signature as pretty as you please. 

It left me unsettled not knowing how or why it happened, but the message stuck. My co-workers were equally intrigued and so poignant was the message that one had it written in calligraphy on a beautiful note card and framed for me as a gift. That framed message sits on my desk at the Sadie Rose House today and it always seems to catch my eye at a time when I need to be most reminded.  

I never thought before or since to search the Internet for that quote.  

This past year has been one of grasping, clenching, holding, releasing, and growing with two foster children in our home. One has been with us for more than a year now and the tension of rooting for others to get their lives in order while loving their child that feels like our own has driven me to my knees many times. 

My grasp was firmly clenched, the little fingers wrapped tightly around my heart. Releasing this precious child to the process has shaken me to my core. I breathed way more anxiety and fear than peace. 

Another child joined us more recently. Again I find myself loving, grasping, clenching, and holding even though this one will most likely be temporary. 

I have known moments of peace recently, but the reality is that we are barreling through life at breakneck speed and the train is having trouble slowing down. We are fighting fierce battles against hellish addictions and patterns and learned behaviors. At the same time we are fighting stigmas that are coming from the most surprising places. 

Through it all, I have been grasping my own abilities, answers, sanity, and love, clenching tightly to my own strength. There are many days my well is dry. I open my tightly clasped fingers to see my own strength evaporating like a vapor. What little I thought was there seems more like an illusion in light of the chasm of need. 


Now we are here in this season of advent where, as Christians, we prepare for the coming of the Savior. I’ve said it, heard it, read it… Emmanuel, God WITH us. We celebrate a Savior who enters our darkness, chaos, mess, and brokenness, and whose love permeates every broken messed up hellish place of our life. And yet I’ve struggled to feel it in my heart even though I know it in my head. 

Where is this Emmanuel in the broken stories of our foster children? Where is he  in the grief of those whose children, spouse, parent, best friend has died? Where is “God with us”when nations and cities and regions are ravaged by war. Where is he when people are neglected and power abused, sometimes even in the name of this God?


And then today, my dear friend shared a post on Facebook that once again took my breath away. 

“Christmas at Midlife

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

-Mary Anne Perrone

Via Sacred Dreams”

Did you SEE that?! Did you catch it?! Right there, smack dab on the middle of this beautiful advent poem is THAT VERY SENTENCE! 

“I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

When I read my friend’s post, my breath literally caught in my throat. I have been grasping the wrongs things. I have been looking for Emmanuel in a God who comes and makes everything right, (and I believe one day he will.) But I’ve been caught up in looking for “God with us” in leaders and princes and kings and changed circumstances.  

But no, “Emmanuel with us” is right here in our home, wrapping his arms around broken hurting foster children. He is with us in the friend that walks with those in grief, sharing tears and offering shoulders. Emmanuel God with us is working through the lives and hearts of those who are silently and anonymously bringing Christmas cheer to the hurting and lonely. Right here in the middle of our messed up broken hellish lives Emmanuel is sharing coffee and bagels with those on the streets, loving the unloveable through very ordinary broken people just like me. 

Clearly this sentence, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out” is timely, poignant, and personal once again. 


I’m letting go of my own abilities, releasing my grasp and relinquishing all to the One who meets us at the point of our need. When my life is fully surrendered to Emmanuel’s love, mercy, and provision, then and only then can I truly unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out. 

May you also experience Emmanuel God WITH us this Christmas season and in the coming year. 

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Autumn has always been my favorite season. Initially I was going to name this my obligatory thanksgiving post, but there’s nothing obligatory about it. I wouldn’t have to share anything publicly, but I truly can’t help it. There is a well-spring of gratefulness inside me brimming with thanks, and I cannot help but let it spill over. 

I am thankful for all of the obvious things, freedom, faith, family, friends, shelter, food enough, clothing. 

But I’m especially thankful for small things too… 


Like Christmas lights. I hung this string in the boy’s room this evening and haven’t stopped looking at their beautiful glow. I am thankful for these lights and think of those who do not have the ease of electricity.  

And fun in the fall leaves. I love their crunch, their smell, their color, and the endless hours of fun they provide for childlike hearts. I am thankful for fallen leaves and think of those whose hearts are so heavy they cannot find the joy in them. 


I’m thankful for birthdays and feasts. We had a birthday Monday and Tuesday this week in our household, so Tuesday evening I made this spread of meat loaf, hippie loaf (a bean and veggie loaf), stuffing, herbed roasted baby potatoes, Dijon glazed green beans, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, and an apple, grapefruit, pomegranate salad. (All recipes except the meatloaf came from the Forks Over Knives App or the Meal Mentor app so everything except the meatloaf and cake were plant-based.)I also made the plant based pumpkin pie and pumpkin cranberry cookies the day before. I seldom cook so much at one time, but this was such a worthy celebration; my husband and our newest foster child whose life and presence is worth way more than a hearty meal. I am thankful for food, for abundance, and think of those who are hungry as we eat. 


I am thankful for frosty mornings. I know most people think I’ve lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love a good frosty sunshiny morning. I am thankful for our wood stove, for jackets and coats and a trusty old van with a heater on these beautiful frosty mornings and think of those who are shivering in the cold. 


I am thankful for the beautiful area we call home and that even though I am currently too busy to do much hiking or horseback riding there are scenes such as this that I can enjoy from my van. So often I stop for a five minute reprieve to enjoy the scenery and inhale the fresh air. I am thankful for tranquil places and spaces and think of those who live in fear and threat of violence. 

I am so thankful for the hope and promise of an eternity with God, where all these earthly cares will no longer plague us. I am thankful for this hope and pray for the hopeless. 

I could go on and on and could still never truly count all my blessings. I am bountifully rich in soul and love and even worldly things that to name them all would be an impossibility. 

I will leave you with a link to one of our children’s favorite songs. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

Wishing all a gentle and peaceful day of thanks. 

More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 


But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you.