God: the Mess We Make

I’ve been on a search for the holy grail of vacuums. This isn’t a new thing. I’ve been at it for years.  Other people travel the world, I buy (and, often return) vacuums.

I guess I am looking for the perfect vacuum that has among its features a desire to actually use it.  So far, all I have had is a longing for clean floors.  A friend of mine lent me one of those robot vacuums.  I figured even I could muster the motivation to try it since it only required me to push a button.

The dog and I suspiciously watched the wayward machine.  It was like a mini R2D2 after a night out at the bars.  It swayed in one direction and then the other, continuously running into things.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for it.  It was trying so hard.

It reminded me of humankind.  The way we set off definitively in one direction and then suddenly veer into a different one.  We repeat mistakes and sins in the similar way the miniature vacuum kept roaming over the same area when, if it would just move a tad to the left (like I kept telling it too), it would have picked up the orange Dorito crumb that mocked it.  I followed the robot urging, directing, and cajoling this blind machine to see what I clearly could, but avoided doing myself.

I guess we are always looking for the shortcut, hack, or magic formula to make life easier.  This is often true with our relationship with God.  We want to do the minimum: check the box of Sunday mass, grace before meals, and a bedtime prayer.  We compartmentalize our faith, so that it doesn’t complicate our messy lives because following God can be as cumbersome as lugging the big vacuum out of the closet.

You know, the one that actually works.

We waste so much energy trying to change our lives, fill our void, and find our purpose when in the depth of our hearts we know that God is the only one who can fulfill these innate desires.  I do it too.  I keep God at an arm’s length, because it feels too scary to trust him completely.  I’m afraid to surrender to him, because I don’t know what he will ask of me.  I search for answers in other people’s well-meaning advice instead of seeking him, who knows everything and wants the very best for me.  Without God at the helm of our lives we are wandering aimlessly.  Maybe eventually we will find that crumb that eludes us, but he wants so much more for us than crumbs.

After watching that poor little robot frantically struggle to find its path, I couldn’t help but think of my own.  I went to the closet, pulled out the big vacuum and began the messy work of cleaning up.


Do you find that you often repeat the same patterns in life looking for a solution that’s going to make your life better?  That’s a tough question for most of us.  So, if you’d rather just comment whether you like those robot vacuums, I completely understand!

Did you miss last week’s post?


Light: Out of the darkness


As a native Floridian, winters are hard for me.  It’s not just the closed toe shoes and the cumbersome layers of clothes that make me feel constrained liked a mummy wrapped in fleece.

It’s the darkness.

The shorter days, gray skies, and the browning emptiness leave flowers blighted and bare trees somber.  I don’t notice how much it affects me until spring arrives, and I am awed by the glorious light. I catch myself staring out the window. I see the green growth of new leaves on the mounds of sticks sprouting up from the earth and the reliable bloom of azaleas bursting bright with joy, but it’s the light, pervasive and ethereal, that captivates me.

It reminds me of my relationship with God.  How at times, he seems dormant and, despite my efforts to seek him, I feel alone wandering in a thicket of weeds.  The weeds of life are everywhere: dissatisfaction with our jobs, difficulty with our children, disappointments in our marriages, and disillusionment with our lives.

I hate the weedy parts, feeling out of touch with someone who I know is so beautiful.  They scare me and remind me of the fear and abandonment Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was knowingly awaiting torture and death.  My problems pale in comparison.  Still, I know they matter to him, just like Jesus’s did to our heavenly father.

During these times, I try to trust as Jesus did.  Thy will be done.  But mostly, I feel like a toddler writhing out of a winter coat.  It’s like Jesus is hibernating in my heart, and I badly need him to come out and warm the chill that aches me.  I am desperate for his light that helps me navigate the nuances of life.  And despite my wrangling, there are times he just seems asleep in the tomb, with that big heavy rock that might as well be a mountain sealing it closed.

This is the darkness I fear most, that’s the hardest to endure, and the loneliest feeling I know.  It’s also when I cling tight to my faith, remind myself I am rooted in his love, and redeemed by his light.  Knowing this doesn’t make the time in the dark any easier, but it reminds me that like winter, it will pass.

Light always returns. Once again, I see the bloom of his love, the light of his hope, and the color of his conversation that without words communicate his preeminent presence.  And because of that darkness I so dreaded, colors are more vibrant, the sun brighter, and the flowers more fragrant.

As nature dances briskly in the breeze, barefoot I step out of the shadow into the light that is no longer just a promise of what awaits, but the fulfillment of what was always there.


Lent is a time to grow closer to God, to weed out all of the distractions and disillusions that keep us from him.  How do you stay close to God when he feels far away? Did you read last week’s post?



Stillness — the action of finding God

Be Still. God knows I heard this often as a child.  I remember one time my mom promising me a new doll if I would just sit still for ten minutes.  When you are a kid, ten minutes is an impossibility, a lifetime, a duration that exists in fairytales along with “happily ever after.”

Stillness remains a challenge for me.  By far, the hardest part of writing is getting myself to sit down.  I reheat my coffee, let the dog out, tell the cats they are pretty, stuff my face with white cheddar popcorn, nibble chocolate, check email, Facebook, scoop kitty litter, and reheat curdled coffee again.  Then, I sit, twitch, and fidget for a bit before I succumb to the stillness that begets words. It’s like an exorcism.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I am part of a group of women at my church who will be hosting a retreat this month, and we chose this as our theme.  It’s not a message we hear often, and it is certainly counter to what society encourages. Stillness is a renegade concept, a weapon that destroys the inauthentic notions of life.  I associate it more with someone like Yoda in a galaxy far, far away than I do anyone on our planet.

Our world teaches us our value is tied to busyness.  Go faster, be efficient, do more, be more, make more, and have more.  But for heaven’s sake, don’t be still.  Don’t stop and smell the roses.  Get them in the ground and check it off your list. Or better yet, pay someone to do it.  Your time is too valuable.  You need to be producing.

The message is clear, if you are still, the world will pass you by.  You will be considered slovenly.   You will miss out.  You will fail to measure up. You might as well be a concrete statue for pigeons to stoop (and poop) on.

When we believe these messages, eventually our motion spins out of control.  We lose touch with who we are called to be, the things we enjoy, and who matters most. We get lost and dizzy from all our spinning.  And tired.  So many of us are tired.

Last year for Lent, I challenged myself to spend ten minutes a day in stillness with God.  I was terrified.  I didn’t want to commit to such an endeavor and not honor it.  Usually, the things we need most are the hardest to do, the least appealing, and met by the most resistance.  But I decided to be brave and embrace the stillness that always eluded me.

And you know what?  I didn’t turn green like Yoda or get soiled by pigeons.  I didn’t even feel like demons were being dispelled from my body like I do when I sit to write.  I didn’t miss a single day of my commitment.

Contrary to what we may think about motion, the real action begins with stillness.  I was more calm, aware of myself, closer to God, and felt a genuine sense of peace.  It was so much more of an intentional way to pray.  I even read scripture before I started my timer so I felt more deliberate about my conversation with God.

I continued my habit for a while after Lent and then slowly traded the stillness for the unregulated motion that’s so much easier to fall into.  Like a child, I resist.  But I know that stillness waits for me, wants for me, and will embrace me anytime I am willing to surrender to its calm.

And the reward for stillness is far greater than a new toy.  It is a chance to sit with the knowing that is God.

Want more to help you on your Lenten journey read this.  

Prayer and a Prostitute Ministry

I was reminded of the power of prayer by some of the people who need it the most.  I often travel on a portion of highway littered with seedy motels, drug dealers, and prostitutes.  It’s been that way as long as I can remember. My oldest son knows it as the road where we have the drug talk, again.

It’s easy to witness the devastation of drugs on that stretch of highway. Women of all ages, who I could easily portray with vivid and acute adjectives, I describe with only one word: hollow. They are a shell of who they are meant to be. Their eyes are large and blank. Despite their feigned hospitality, their desperation is obvious. The essence of their existence is missing, despite the sway of their bodies. Hollow.

And it feels wrong to just drive by.

But I do, just like everybody else. Well, almost everybody. A few years ago, I wrote an article for the newspaper about an organization called Grace Ministry of Helping Hands, a non-profit that helps women in the grips of drug addiction, alcoholism, and prostitution. Every two weeks volunteers minister to these women, bringing them toiletries, offering them a way out, and if they are not quite ready to leave their brokenness behind, planting an incorruptible seed that is the redemption of Christ.

I love their mission – the grittiness of it, the discipleship, the message of hope, and, more than anything, the mere acknowledgement of these outcast women. Just their willingness to see them as children of God instead of sexual objects, addicts, and throwaways is so incredibly Christ-like and beautiful.

Not far from that highway, I recently saw a woman slouched at the entrance of the post office. She was frail as if pounds were shed along with her dignity, and there wasn’t much left of either. I walked passed her and avoided eye contact. Of course, I didn’t feel like I had much dignity for my cowardly inaction. It bothered me to walk by her and do nothing just as it does to drive by those women on the highway.

It’s hard to know what to do. If I give money, it will likely be spent on drugs. I didn’t have any food to offer her, assuming it even appealed to her in her waif-like state. I couldn’t take her home with me, because my husband would have a fit, and I really wouldn’t know what to do with her when I got her there.

I kept thinking, “What can I do? What can I do?” And then I remembered, prayer. I can always pray. So I did, all the way home.

Later that evening, I got an email that Grace Ministries was helping a former prostitute and drug addict set up her new apartment. They were looking for household items. It felt like such an answer to my prayer. I donated some towels and a gift card to a grocery store. I knew it wouldn’t specifically help the lady I saw at the post office, but it would help someone in a similar situation.  I trust that God will reach that other woman, too.

It was such a gift to be reminded that there is always hope and there are more than addicts, dealers, and prostitutes that walk that stretch of highway.   There are disciples of grace, reminding us that the constancy of God’s mercy is a path available to us all. “Come, follow me” (Mathew 4:19, NRSV).


Have you ever felt like you wanted to help someone, but you weren’t sure how?  What do you do when you find yourself in a similar situation?  Please share your experiences in the comment section.  These issues are complicated and there is so much we can learn from each other. This is also about an answered prayer.   To read more on prayer: http://mercymatters.net/2018/02/06/stillness-the-action-of-finding-god/

To learn more about the work of Grace Ministry of Helping Hands visit their website at http://graceministriesjax.org

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – a patriot act

Who knew that dumping a bucket of ice water over your head in the name of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would become a favorite American pastime?  My Facebook page has been inundated with friends paying forward ALS challenges. I have heard the chilly screams of just about everyone I know, voluntarily drench themselves with icy water.

I am not sure if we are creating a country of masochists, but I kind of like it. Read more