Letting Go and Gaining It All


I sometimes wonder if we tire as often as we do because we are holding on so tightly to so many things. Our lives can be so cluttered with things we have done, left partially finished, or still have not faced. I think we hold on because we are trying to control more than we realize. We try to control what might be taken from us, how others may view us, what masks we wear, and whom we let into our stories.


Of course, from time to time, everything slips away from our grasp and it can be easy to feel frantic about gathering all the bits and pieces back up again. It takes a while for us to see it is all an illusion. We do it over and over again despite being sons and daughters of the Lord. His life models surrender, but we avoid that as long as possible when it is exactly what is needed to gain peace and allow Him to lead.


It is when we cannot hold on any longer that we discover the sweetness His arms offer. It is when our striving ends that we feel truly light.


The journey with Linda gave me many glimpses of what it means to let go, to surrender. Listen to what she writes in her journal about that:


“Surrender! It sounds like something bad – but it’s really good. It’s letting go of it all! It’s saying, ‘Here, take it!’ It’s turning things over to someone else’s control! It’s giving up what I want…and letting God control…my life, my plans, my steps…all of it.


Remember when you gave your heart to God and asked Jesus in? You said, ‘Lord, you take control. I surrender to you!’ Did you really mean it?

Indian Paintbrush Wildflower

I sat in church a few weeks ago and couldn’t sing, couldn’t stand – couldn’t even raise my hands! I was tired, sick, in pain, and I sat there and cried! I silently prayed: Lord, where are you? I want to sing and yet my tears and pain drown out the song in my heart! I want to dance and leap for you, but I don’t have the energy to stand! So I sat and wept.


Ever so gently the Lord spoke to my spirit and reminded me…I surrendered to Him. I gave Him full control. Even when I don’t understand. Even when it hurts. Even in the tears. Even when I don’t SEE what God’s doing! He asked, ‘Do you trust me?’ Yes, Lord, I trust you with my heart, with my very life! I have surrendered it all to you. Even my very life! I gave you full control! No matter what happens…!


I was once again reminded of that day in the hospital. The test over and done, yet something was so wrong! The nurses were flying about, doctors in and out.


As my blood pressure fell to 50/30 – the Lord’s peace filled the room and my heart. Once again He asked me, ‘Do you trust me?’ Oh, yes, Lord, I do! Then He asked, ‘Even if I take you home?’ My answer was, ‘Yes, Lord, even if you choose to take me home! I’ve surrendered it all to you – even my life!

 Stream at Blackberry Farm, TN


I still can’t explain the peace I felt! I could feel His presence and such a calm came into my heart! It was okay…whether I stayed or went home! I KNEW God was in control and he’d do what was best…for me, for everyone around! I’ve given Jesus full control. I’ve surrendered and I’m free! I know no matter what happens God will pick what’s best! He’s promised!


His peace is still with me…inside, real deep! Even when I don’t understand, even when I’m in pain, even when I can’t stand or sing or lift my hands in praise to Him! I trust Him…completely!


We struggle with trying to hold on, yet when we let go, we find You holding on better. It’s in the ‘release’ that we see Your hand clearer!


Do you? No matter what?”


There are other pages and other words in her journal, but let me close this four part series with the last paragraph in her journal before it became too difficult to write:


“I told one of my links (supports) that I can picture myself at the ‘end of my rope’ and I know Your hand, Lord, is right there to catch me. But even after I’ve let go…I’m velcroed to the rope…but it’s really You that’s still holding me up! Thanks, Lord!”

PPP 051 200




Can We Risk Being Honest with God?




I wonder how easy it is for us to be honest with God about our feelings and challenges (even with Him) after we have known Him for a little while. Do we lay it all out for Him or do we couch what we feel, fear, or think because we have learned enough about Him and how we know He loves us and will provide that we don’t risk it? Is it okay to know all that and still express to Him what He can clearly see we feel? If we can’t, how much do I/we really trust Him?


As I have shared some of the journal entries from my former client’s last journal in the months before she died, one thing I have discovered is how direct and honest she is with the Lord. At that point in time she was in her late forties and had known the Lord for some time. She had worked through a lot of losses and pain, served in various ministry positions and leadership roles. During these months near the end of her life, she was able to process with Him exactly what she was feeling.


Let me share one example:


“I know His timing is perfect, but my watch says this has gone on long enough.


I know He is my strength, but can’t this be enough? One more minute, one more hour, one more day! You are my strength…I know you won’t take me home one day before my job is done! But today in my anger I scream: ENOUGH!!


The world tells you to take a pill, read this, go here, go there, watch this, drink that, and smoke this! Divert! Deny! Pretend! Run away!


I can’t! My body goes with me. My pain is always here – it goes with me! And that’s why today, I’m angry! I can’t stop what’s happening. I can’t make it go away! I can’t ignore it or deny it! It’s here! And I’m angry! DAMN!


And you know what? It’s okay. It’s okay that I feel my anger, write it down, say it…whatever! It’s okay. God understands. He still loves me. I didn’t knock Him off His throne, didn’t shock him! Its okay! He still loves me! I still love Him! He understands! Thanks, Father God! Thank you for letting me be real!”


As I wrote down her words that I have read other times since her journal came to me, I smiled when I typed about God not being shocked or knocked off His throne because she was angry at the pain and agony she was experiencing. How often we feel those feelings and yet never risk processing those very things with Him?


She processed them and as you read her words, you see how once she said them she was free to remind herself and Him of the truth of what she knew about Him.


A few pages later, she describes anger in such a great way:


“He knows how I feel. And I know – He’s still here! Holding it in can make it worse; it will come out one way or the other. Shake a can of pop – then open it…it goes all over – spraying out in lots of directions.


Anger’s like that. Pressure builds till that last straw comes, then WHAM – it’s everywhere!


God has taught me – it’s okay. Let it out. Vent it. Write it, Say it, whatever! Then give it to Him!! He knows just what to do with it.”


Linda was real about the loss of so many aspects of her life. She named and expressed her emotions in her times with the Lord and then did give them over to Him. But anger was not the only enemy she fought with regularly. Another potent enemy was fear even though she knew her destination was with Jesus on the other side of death.


“FEAR! FEAR! Fear! FEAR!! It comes in all sizes, shapes, and intensities. It comes at all hours. It comes when least expected, but it comes. We all know II Timothy 1:7 says God has NOT given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind!


But fear still comes. It comes in the darkness of the night when the house is quiet, no one else is awake and your sleep is interrupted by pain or nightmares. It comes when even God seems so far away!


During the day I can fight the fear with God’s Word that comes to my mind from deep within my heart. Yet at times, panic comes. Help me fight the fear, Lord, in your name, amen!”


As you hear her words, as I type them, I hope each of us gains courage to be real with the Lord. It won’t knock Him off His throne!

Flight View

One Piece At A Time


This is the second post in a four part series.

Walking with someone who is dying teaches you many things. You receive the gift of intimate knowledge of them. They often share things then they would never have shared earlier. There is no longer any reason for holding back, keeping up appearances, or pretending. Pride has ebbed away. In the midst of presence with them you will also get glimpses into yourself you had not noticed when you were busy doing other things.


I experienced that with Linda when she asked me to be present with her on her way home. Before she had arrived at the “now”, she had already faced so many other things PICT0480that allowed her to often see both closer and farther. As I share from her final journal, I was reminded of a conversation she had shared about learning how to see. She had just returned from being with her best friend in Tennessee. She wanted to somehow take me to that mountain top to see what the Lord had taught her, see how she was learning to see.


She told me she had learned a new way to see. I was fascinated. Here is the way she described it in her final journal:


“How do you see? With rose colored glasses? With blinded eyes? Or with filters on? Or do you see with ‘spiritual eyes’? What are ‘spiritual eyes’, you ask? Well, they’re how God sees! You see – He sees the big picture! We see in small frames…just in bits and pieces. God sees the beginning to the end…all at the same time!


I’m getting ready to go back to Tennessee. I went there last summer with my best friend. One of the neatest things I learned there last year was how we see in pieces!


We sat on top of a mountain looking down into the valley and it was beautiful, but I could only focus on 1 thing at a time! It almost looked like a quilt pieced together, IMG_2954yet I could only ‘see’ one piece at a time! One field, one lake, one yard, one farm! We sat there for hours trying to soak it all in, but even now looking at my snapshots I discover I see the ‘whole’ picture and yet can only see ‘one piece at a time’!


Our lives are like that, filled with pieces, things that we see, feel, do – one at a time, yet all of them fit together for God’s perfect plan!


The problem is we can’t get past ‘right now’ and it throws us! We get frustrated, upset and even angry ‘cause we don’t see the overall picture! We ‘see’ with rose-colored glasses, blinded eyes, or through filters from our past!


We have to learn to see with ‘spiritual eyes’ and that takes time and trust in the One who sees the whole picture!”


“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)



Autumn Gifts


IMG_2950 (1)


In Ohio autumn has come late this year. We have just begun to have cool, crisp evenings and nights as well as a reduction in daytime temperatures and humidity. Only a few trees    are arrayed with leaves that have begun their showy fall display. I revel in these beautiful sunny days with crystal clear blue sky along with a few white fluffy clouds. They nudge me to go outside and let all my senses drink it all in before we dip into the late fall that ushers in winter.


Autumn gives me much to celebrate: my birthday, our daughter’s wedding anniversary, my dad’s birthday, memories of falling in love during this season on a college campus more than 50 years ago. But if none of those things had happened during this season, the season itself would be enough to celebrate.


During this season my thoughts often go to someone else who celebrated autumn and relished every aspect of it. Her name was Linda. I first met her a bit more than twenty years ago. She came to see me for a heart and ears to listen to her prepare for and grapple with her approaching death. Her various physical difficulties had been going on for a long time and she felt journeying with her had exhausted her family, friends, and church body. She had no questions about her destination, but the ever-present pain was wearying her. She sought a Christian clinical counselor for this last part of her journey home. I shared that journey with her for nearly two years.


This autumn season was her favorite and she especially loved a metro park not far from where she lived. She was unable to drive, but would often ask others to take her there and drive through the park noting her memories at various points along the way. During her last autumn she asked me if I would come and pick her up and drive her through her park. It was an hour’s drive to get there, but I agreed without question.


As I drove along the winding roads of the park, she bubbled with joy and conversation. She pointed out beautiful trees, the rocky bank of a stream, and more. She told me when a friend had brought her to that rocky bank where she had smashed eggs against the rocks to deal with her anger at the pain she endured. Her pain began early in life with abuse and then a serious heart surgery that left her with complications that led to the diseased liver that was killing her now. She pointed out the fire pit where she had once toasted marshmallows and the set of swings she loved to swing on. She asked me to stop so she could swing on them one more time and invited me to join her.


She told me at our last visit before she could no longer come to my office that she had learned a great deal from me, but I knew then that I was the one who had learned the most. Sharing her journey had become a precious gift. Her courage and unwavering faith provoked my own. Her well-honed faith was the kind that grew from telling the Lord exactly how she felt whether she was sad, angry, lonely, or afraid. It wasn’t the stained glass sort of faith that never seems to serve us well during difficult times. Her faith had been forged through much testing. She never minced words with the Lord and in return He met her at every turn with His presence.


It was only a few months after that late autumn drive together that she finally was able to see her Jesus face-to-face. Her funeral was a celebration of her life and included a videotape she had made while someone else was driving her through her beloved park on another autumn day. It ended with her swinging on a swing, encouraging all of us, waving good-bye. Linda blessed each one of us beyond measure that day.


Not long after that, a friend of hers brought me her last journal. She said  Linda had wanted me to have it. She thought it might be something I could share with others on difficult journeys. Today I sensed the Lord nudge me to pull out the journal and share some of her words with you. This is the first of three posts.  Perhaps He knows just who needs to read them. Linda left the gift in 1999 for you!


“Storms and boats! Ever been in a storm? The waves are crashing, lightening is flashing, the boat is rocking! Feel alone? Well, we aren’t! Jesus has promised to be in the boat with us! He’s promised to bring calm to the waves. At times though, I sure feel alone! But God’s promised He’d never leave us and never forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5) Jesus has promised to calm our storms! (Matthew 8:26)


We think He’s not even in the boat – yet He’s there…yet we try to calm our boat! Have you ever stood up in a boat? Just our standing up makes us rock the boat all the more! Yet, if we wait and trust in Jesus – He is sure to calm our storm, steady our boat, and keep us from drowning!


Jesus has even promised to be “our anchor” in the storm. (Hebrews 6:19) An anchor works best in a storm. It is our safety line in our seas of turmoil and crashing waves. It’s our footing on shaky ground – our lifeline! Out lifeline to Father God! Are you struggling in your storm? Well, put out your anchor in the storm and hold on! Our storms won’t last forever…God’s promised!”


PPP 024

A Bucket List….Hmmm



I cannot recall the first time someone asked me what was on my “bucket list”, but I know I began to hear the question more often when I turned 50. I didn’t have a “bucket list” (still don’t) and was never sure how to respond. I love visiting new places and trying some new things, but it would be difficult for me to create a list of specific things or places.


The 2007 movie, “The Bucket List”, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson likely added to the popularity of considering a bucket list. This unlikely duo presents a poignant portrayal of what life means when each unexpectedly faces a diagnosis that will end their lives. They begin to measure time through a different lens and consider what they had hoped to do and never did. If you have seen the movie, you know an adventure ensues that results in the two men taking trips to various places around the world. They risk skydiving, go on safari, and more. In the end what they discover is more significant than the exotic adventures they experience.


img_3433The idea of a “bucket list” seems to come from the anticipation of “kicking the bucket”, in other words…dying. It suggests this life is where things happen, where the good stuff is to grab and enjoy. It isn’t that I am in denial about the reality of death or that it will happen to me.  I think my awareness of that reality results more and more in savoring each day and living it to the fullest, cherishing God’s little surprises, and His gentle whispers with a clear sense that time is precious.


Recently I read something about this that John Eldredge has written in his latest book, All Things New, which gave me additional perspective. Let’s look at his words:


“A bucket list means those things we hope to do before we die. Meaning, it’s now or never, baby. Bucket list mentality is very revealing and even more tragic, because it betrays our belief that this life really is our only chance.”


 Of course John is referring to eternity and for those of us who believe, we often talk about the hope of heaven and life going on beyond this life on the earth we know all too well. Perhaps the hard part beyond that awareness is our difficulty conceptualizing what img_1052that “next life” looks like. There are hints here and there, but also a curiosity about whether it means as John later says, “…we go to the pews in the sky”. Yes, we look forward to being with the Lord and we know we will be worshipping and yet it can be easy to wonder how time is measured there. What else might we do? Mansions…what do they look like compared to what is considered a mansion here on earth? We go to a feast, but what will the taste of food be like there?


If we are honest with ourselves, there are some things in this world that we love despite all the flaws on this earth and with those that inhabit it. I love the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, the sound of a gurgling stream, the smell of roses in my garden, the taste of ripe blackberries, and the view of a velvet sky sprinkled with stars. There’s Boom Lake in Alberta, Canada that takes my breath away and the sound of a mountain stream outside a hotel in Lake Louise that nourishes my soul. There’s the view of the mountains of eastern Tennessee from the patio of a favorite resort where we have stayed. They all remind me of the One who created all this. I think He might even smile at the pleasure they give me (or any of us) along with other things He created that I haven’t listed. Will He have created anything such as this in eternity ahead?


PPP 026If I look at scripture about the future carefully, I see more than one or two references to a “new heaven and a new earth”. That goes beyond my imagination to conceive. Does a “new earth” mean something akin to what Eden may have been before the fall? Do our hearts have some awareness that we were meant for something more than what we know here? Is that what drives us with a hunger we cannot satisfy?


In All Things New John Eldredge challenges me to look more closely at the passages and the way the words appear:


“Notice also that God promises to make current things new—as opposed to making all new things. If God were wiping away reality as we know it and ushering in a new reality, the phrase would have been ‘I am making all new things!”. But that’s not what he says, and God is very careful about what he says.”


 Whatever is out there ahead of me or any of us, I think it’s going to be amazing. If God has created the incredible beauty we already can see, the hope and anticipation of His Stream at Blackberry Farm, TNperfection in the time ahead is a marvelous thing indeed. I wonder if it will be a little like going from the black and white TV’s of not so many years ago to the high definition sets we watch today that nearly makes us feel we are “in” the picture with the brilliant colors and full rich surround sounds. (I’m sure that is a pale metaphor, but maybe gives a sense of what may be ahead.)


As I think about it now, maybe I can’t think of what to put on a “bucket list” because even though I will face physical death here, I will go on living into eternity and life there is beyond description and life to the fullest!!


Being His daughter completed anything I would ever put on a “bucket list” even though I look forward to things I will still do this side of “amazing”!

PPP 051 200
Evening sunset