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 Blog of Creative Life Lessons

Stand in the Battles

October 23, 2022

A few years back I was in a very painful situation. In the moment it was the worst thing I had ever experienced, but now as I look back it was a time of significant refining and learning for me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was teaching me something about myself, about prayer, and about who He is.


During this season I began to study about the battles in the Old Testament. It all started when I heard a sermon about Jehoshaphat. Looking back, I truly believe that God brought the message to guide me through the situation. I am once again in a very difficult battle, and my loved ones are in the battle with me. In this battle there is so much at stake. For my own faith, I am revisiting this story, but I want to share it with others, it is relevant to all of us no matter what the battle is. You may reference this account in 2 Chronicles 19 & 20


Let me set the stage for you. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah after Israel was split into 2 kingdoms. At the time there was a severe back and forth between the kings who followed God, and kings who were evil. Ahab, the king of Israel was one who was evil. Jehoshaphat was one who continually wanted to seek God in his battles, but he was not perfect in his seeking God. We can see this in chapter 19.


Ahab wanted to go to war, and he asked Jehoshaphat to go with him. Out of loyalty Jehoshaphat wanted to go for support. Ahab had already sought advice from his own prophets, but his prophets notoriously were prophets of pagan gods. Jehoshaphat asked that Ahab ask a prophet from Jehovah. Initially, Ahab refused stating “I hate him, he only prophesies disaster about me, never anything good.” Ultimately Ahab knew he would not get an answer that he wanted by asking for advice from the one true God. Jehoshaphat persisted in seeking God for an answer. Finally, Ahab called the prophet from God who warned him not to go, but Ahab showed rebellion and entered into battle anyway. Jehoshaphat was hesitant, but followed Ahab’s lead. The decision to go to battle was because of man’s desire, not God’s, and it cost Ahab his life.


What price have you paid when you have entered battles that you wanted to fight, but God did not bless? I personally have paid dearly for my unblessed battles, I am thankful God has spared my life, because a few of those battles could have cost me that much.


After the war, a prophet named Jehu confronted Jehoshaphat. The actual words of Jehu’s rebuke was, “Do you help the wicked and hate those who love the Lord?” But one key phrase that is spoken next gives us insight into why God spared Jehoshaphat in his disobedience, “Some good has been found in you, for you have removed your idols, and have decided to seek God.” In contrast to Ahab, when Jehoshaphat was confronted by a prophet about his carelessness to follow man and earthly desires, he was quick to accept responsibility, and make the necessary changes in his life to follow God’s wisdom.


It was Jehoshaphat’s heart to follow the Lord that made a difference in how his story ended. God already knew Jehoshaphat’s heart; lip service is nothing more than words spoken unless the heart is soft to Him. We can’t hide the condition of our heart towards God, and ultimately, we can’t hide our heart from others either. It has a way of coming out in time. Sometimes we need to do some deep heart work to be able to follow God’s lead into battle.


I want to pause here to confess, I try to seek God in my daily life battles, but sometimes I really get things wrong. Sometimes I am even the one who carelessly caused the battle, but I am in a process of learning how to listen to and obey God better in my battles, there are so many lessons we can learn here by studying Jehoshaphat. We can learn a lot by noticing Jehoshaphat’s commitment to seek the Lord, his ability to receive rebuke with humility when he got it wrong, and his commitment to learning from his mistakes while pressing forward.


As we read on, we can see evidence that Jehoshaphat learned from his mistakes. In chapter 20, we read that three nations came together to destroy Judah. When Jehoshaphat was told about the attack, Scripture said he was “afraid and he resolved to seek the Lord.” I absolutely love that verse!! For so many reasons. First of all, it says he was afraid. Me too. Many times, over me too. I don’t have to feel shame for feeling afraid when I face a battle because even a mighty king was afraid. It is not a sign of weakness or a lack of my faith. But we cannot stop there, because the next part says that even in fear Jehoshaphat made a resolve to seek the Lord.


The meaning of the word resolve is “to decide firmly on a course of action”. In chapter 19, he wanted to seek out God, but was too weak to stick to it. He was persuaded by the circumstances to compromise. In his second chance, he RESOLVED to seek God. Thank you, Jesus, for second chances (and in my case third, and fourth, and fifth….)


Next, he called the people together to fast and pray. Sometimes we need support in our resolve to seek God. Sometimes it is something that is personal and should be done alone. In this case, he needed his nation to support his resolve.


Next, he prayed. I could get carried away about what this prayer consists of, but it may be good to save writing those details for another day, so here is a quick overview; He reminds himself about God’s power and how God has “shown up” for generations. He states that because of God’s faithfulness throughout the generations Judah will put their trust in Him to be in this battle. He verbalizes the commitment to stand before God. He tells God about his feelings around the attack, in essence he “tattles” on the enemy. Sometimes, we just have to vent, God is safe to vent to. But then he confesses his need for God in the situation. The end of the prayer says:

“For we are powerless before this vast number that comes to fight against us. We do not know what to do but we look to You.”


And then….

They stood

And they stood

And they stood

And they stood in wait for God to answer.


I love this!!!!!! I love it because I am terrible at the standing part. In this story, from beginning of the plot against Judah to the conclusion of the story is 10 paragraphs. In my real-life story, it takes much longer for everything to happen than the time it takes to read 10 paragraphs. I will say my prayer with resolve, and shortly after my resolve is weak or maybe even gone because God has not made the answer clear, or He has made it clear and I must wait on Him, but I don’t want to. Judah kept their resolve, they stood, waited, and listened.


Finally God gave His answer through a man named Jahaziel, who told them they would not have to fight the battle, but they needed to go, position themselves and stand still. God would fight the battle for them. So that is what they did. Judah went to meet their enemy, and all the way to the battlefield they praised God. Long story short, before Judah arrived, the enemy got confused and killed one another. By the time they reached the battlefield, the only thing there to greet them were corpses. God had already won the war for them. All they had to do was stand in their resolve to trust and obey God.


How much faith did it take a nation to trust that Jahaziel was speaking on God’s behalf? I know I would have a hard time believing it. If someone told me that God’s answer to the battle was that I just needed to do nothing but let go and trust, I would still feel the need to something, yet often that is exactly what I need to do. Stand, and listen, and only obey moment by moment.


With that said I would like to add a conclusion to the difficult time I was in when I first studied this passage of Scripture. I felt strongly in my heart that God’s answer was that I needed to pray hard and stand, until March. March was 9 months away, and I didn’t like that plan. But I stood. I did not stand quietly; I did not enjoy standing; I was very verbal to God about how much I hated standing. But I stood, and then something happened that changed my life. It was not what I thought I wanted; it was better. I am here to testify that God is worthy of our trust, even when the battle feels overwhelming. How many times do we miss out on God simply because we didn’t resolve to seek God, wait to hear from Him, and then stand? I am resolving that this time I will seek God, listen, and stand…quietly, because God is trustworthy.


Lord, I pray for myself as well as all my readers. May we learn how to fight our life battles like Jehoshaphat. May we learn what it means to trust in you, may we learn how to stand, may we learn what it means to listen for Your voice, but mostly may we learn how to have a soft moldable heart towards you. In Jesus name, 


The Story of Lucy

September 8, 2022

     The message of Jesus Christ has been so misrepresented by well meaning Christians that we have unintentionally caused a lot of spiritual casualties who are now emotionally limping through life, refusing to turn to the one who can truly heal. I confess--for a while I was one of those people who refused to go to any church function out of the pain inflicted on me from well meaning people.


     As a therapist who sits with people who are working through their painful life story, I know for a fact that pointing out a person’s flaws, shaming them, and pressuring them to become something they are not never works. What does work is accepting a person right where they are, understanding why they are there, and showing them compassion. I walk through their life story with them while identifying what lies they have believed that has contributed to the mess they are in.


     Research shows that our genetics and our experiences, starting when we are infants, create neurological pathways in our brains that lead to our behavior. We have little control over the initial wiring that happens. Research also shows that experiencing acceptance and compassion literally reconstructs the brain, and behavioral change will follow. If worldly professionals know this, wouldn’t the one who created the human brain understand this even more? Doesn’t it make sense that He understands that pressure and shaming doesn’t work? As I read the message of Jesus Christ, I believe the answer to that question is a clear absolutely.


     Many of us have a picture of God who is distant, or who sits on his throne ready to beat us over the head if we mess up, but the other day I observed something that I think is a much more accurate picture of God. 


      My man has this sweet dog that he rescued from a shelter. She very obviously adores this man who saved her from her bondage, and yet she messes up a lot.

 Her latest mess up actually began a month ago.


      He had been out of town and had to stay in a hotel. The bed was uncomfortable, people were loud and banging around, and someone’s car alarm kept going off. He couldn’t wait to get home and sleep in his own bed. Only he couldn’t. Somehow this sweet dog had snuck into his room, and in her distress of missing him peed on his bed. He did not bother cleaning it up, he simply bought a new mattress.


      Just over one month later, she once again peed in his bed. One may expect that he would be furious. Some may even see this behavior worthy of my man getting rid of his dog but that is not how he handled her. You see, he understands that she came to him with some experiences that left her very anxious. He knows that she loves him and does not mean to mess up the way she does. He loves her in spite of her flaws, and he is very patient and gentle with her. This is a much more accurate picture of the Creator of the Universe, than the angry distant God who waits for us to mess up so He can vengefully beat us down.


     I have often sat back and grieved that the message of well meaning Christians can feel more shaming than healing, while the message of our culture is that you are beautiful no matter what, and everyone is worthy of acceptance...not just a chosen few called Christians. 


     I want to apologize on behalf of the church to all who have felt that you are too messed up to go to a church. As I type this the conflict about LGBTQ comes to my mind, or the way some have loudly spoken their stance on the morality of abortion. Even the way divorce or pre-marital sex is addressed comes to my mind. God understands us better than we understand ourselves. These are all tender topics to be handled with caution and care. He puts boundaries around us to protect us, not to shame and humiliate us. Yet, we shame and humiliate each others around these subjects, and sometimes we even shame ourselves. 


     I want to encourage those of us who may have unintentionally turned people off to Jesus Christ  to be aware of how we may be received in our well meaning interactions. I include myself in this encouragement. I have been the shame-er, and I have been the shamed. It has been my experience that nothing of value comes from those kinds of interactions. 


     Our words and attitudes, affect those around us in powerful ways. Our words influence our culture and our children. If the world is happy to embrace those in the LGBTQ community, but we tell the world Jesus can only accept heterosexual people, we miss the opportunity to show others to the cross. They will feel "unfixable" and they will either push back, or stay away. When we begin to shut people out, our children will either follow our example, or they will walk away from our faith because it doesn't make sense to them. 


     Jesus didn't shame, he went to the cross to take it away. God understands all of us, all of our flaws, all of the lies we believe that perpetuate  how we interact with the world around us. He understands everything down to the minute details of our molecules and DNA. As in the story of Lucy, Jesus sees a bigger picture than we see. If secular humans can see and understand, even more so does God. 


   Dear reader, if you have questions, or have been victimized by shame, or harmful words from well meaning people, I would encourage you to seek out the healing truth. If you need support in that feel free to contact Hope Embers. We will support you however we can. 


Is God Really Jealous?

August 31, 2022

     I am reading the book “Is God a Moral Monster” by Paul Copan. In it he mentions how many people are turned off to the God of the Bible because He is so Jealous. I have also heard the same argument time and time again from individuals who claim to be either agnostic or atheist. In our postmodern culture I can understand why some people would feel that way. We are far removed from the days where technology was non-existent. There was a time and a place that God was a constant in conversation, nature was forever a wonder, and there was little else being circulated. Now we have options. Today we are distracted from the awe of nature. We take for granted that things that were once a mystery and explained only by the existence of God, are now one click away for an acceptable answer.

     In addition, the Bible does state that God is a jealous God. When we think of a jealous being, we think more about the jealous abusive boyfriend or girlfriend, than a reasonable form of jealousy, or at least I do. This appears to shine an ugly light on the God of the Bible, but there is another understanding of the word jealousy that is not considered in these arguments. Jealous can be healthy, and natural. It is only when our jealousy is used in an unhealthy way that it is ugly.

     Think of the term this way. A man and a woman meet, they are attracted to one another, and they begin a committed relationship. In his past there is a woman whom he was deeply in love with. In fact, he was so deeply in love with her that she was able to manipulate him for anything she wanted. As the new woman begins to date him, she is feeling very fond of him, they are beginning to make plans to have a future together. She begins to relax into feeling secure in the relationship. Then one night as they are at dinner, the ex comes up to the table and begins a conversation with them. The new girlfriend notices that the ex is beautiful, and she feels intimidated by her. Shortly after the encounter at the restaurant, the ex-girlfriend begins to call the man.

     Is the new woman out of line if she is feeling jealous, but this is where it ends? Suppose she does not allow it to end with the feeling of jealousy. Suppose she acts on the feeling and hunts down the other woman, slashes her tires, keys the car, and then puts a baseball bat in the windshield. After that she threatens to do the same to her lover if he ever speaks to the ex again. Is there a difference between feeling jealous and acting on the jealous feelings? One may feel jealous; this does not mean they have the right to act like a bully.

Here is another relevant scenario…

What if you had a creative project to do at work. Suppose you poured your heart and soul into it for weeks. The finished project reflected a piece of you, and you felt incredible for your accomplishment. The day comes for you to present it to your superiors, but someone else presents a replica of your creation just before it is your turn. It is clear the other party has purposely copied your creation and took credit for it. Now you look like it is you who is dishonest, and the other person is praised for your work. Would you be justified for feeling angry? Would jealous be an appropriate emotion in this case? Would it be different if you acted on your feelings by going on a tangent in front of everyone throwing things across the room, name calling, and cussing the other party out?

     Jealousy can be a healthy response to some situations. Acting out of pride on that jealousy is completely different.

     The word jealous has more than one meaning. One definition states that “jealousy is careful to protect; vigilant in guarding something of belonging.”

     Some would say the God of the Bible is not real, and that is okay if you are one of those people, just go with me on this for a moment. IF He is real, IF He created the heavens and the earth. IF He intimately created man and then breathed the breath of life into him, as the Bible says He did, doesn’t being vigilant in guarding His relationship with us (jealousy) seem like an appropriate response for Him. Doesn’t it seem logical that He would be upset when an imaginary god like Kaos gets the credit for creation? Or perhaps worse, if all His creation is dismissed as an accident as non-theistic evolutionists claim?

     If the God of the Bible is truly who He says he is, doesn’t vigilantly protecting what is His (jealousy) a reasonable response when a god like Molech is chosen over Him. If you don’t know who Molech is, he is a god who demands violent human child sacrifice to satisfy him. In contrast, the God of the Bible loving gave himself as a sacrifice. Why should a sadistic God get the relationship with God’s creation?

     It doesn’t matter what some people say about the God of the Bible and his anger, the truth is He is not slashing tires, keying cars, or smashing windshields. He is not even doing a “Deity” version of that. When was the last time you saw God strike someone dead for lying, as He is so often invited to do (“May God strike me dead if I am lying”)

     On the other hand, there is another version of God, and even His jealousy that is not understood and forgotten about. This version of God is very sweet, very personal, and very intimate. Once you have experienced Him for who He really is, you know His gentleness. Mine started with a simple heart felt prayer begging God not to let go of me if He is real.

     I had walked away from what I was raised to believe and I was living my own life, when something tragic happened that caused me to question my own choices. As I evaluated my life I didn’t like what I found. I told God I could not fix myself, but I wanted to be different. I asked Him not to let me go. 

     Over the next two years truth came to me and penetrated my heart. Little by little God was doing a healing work inside of me.

I felt Him, and change happened that has no other explanation than an intimate God doing a beautiful work in me. A spiritual calling happened that I cannot put words to, but this jealous God wanted me to turn away from things that were hurting me, and turn towards Him, the one who had my best interest at heart. The one who created my inner most being, the one who knew me by name before I was ever born.

     If you have not experienced this for yourself, I would like to invite you to do your own version of asking the God of the Universe to gently show up. Not in a demanding way, God is not that kind of God, but ask in a way that is open to letting Him show Himself to you. 


     Dear friend, I cannot explain to you what happens when you open yourself up to the God of the universe in this way, but it is my heart’s desire that you find the kind of healing I have found. The kind of healing that will only come when we seek out the truth of who the God of the Bible is. If I can be of any support to you on this journey, please reach out, no matter where you are. 

Phoenix my Shameful Dog

July 20, 2022

Phoenix was my second German Shepherd, and the first dog I ever had as a puppy. I decided to get him after my other German Shepherd Rex, got hit by a car. My grief was great, and for some reason I thought a puppy would ease the pain. I had dreams of Phoenix taking Rex’s place of being my running companion, and how we would have a special connection, since I got him from the very beginning. It did not take me long to recognize the error in my thinking. There is a big difference between a rescue dog, and one that has been in a loving home from the beginning, for sure. To be honest though, Phoenix was just a unique guy with a personality all his own, and a stubborn streak that went to the core of his puppy personality.

Phoenix was a very sweet and cuddly dog early in the morning, but that is where his sweetness ended. All day long, every day he tormented my older, and much smaller dog Tanner. He insisted we needed to play catch all day. If I ignored him, he would get more persistent with his request. He was not allowed in the yard without a leash on or without his run line on. He could not behave himself without it. He was fine in the yard as long as you played catch, but the moment he sensed you were done, he would run hoping you would chase him. I would have to get in the car and pretend we were going "bye-bye" just to get him back. We would pull in and out of the driveway a few times and then he would feel satisfied enough to go back in the house.  You could see his mischievousness just by looking in his eyes, he was smart, he was adorable, but he was naughty.

Phoenix would sleep with me sometimes, but more often than not he liked to sleep just outside of my bedroom door in the kitchen. He was a pretty good watch dog, and I believe he took the job seriously. But that may not have been the only reason. He may have liked to be out of the room because he had a better chance of getting away with things he wasn't allowed to do.

 One night just after I went to sleep I heard something banging around. I didn’t wonder what it was, I knew it was Phoenix getting into something. At first I tried to ignore it. It was late, I was tired, I’d figure it out in the morning. But the loud banging persisted for quite a while.

After the third time of being startled awake, I’d had enough. I got up and opened the door. Immediately, Phoenix’s posture changed from aggressively eating out of the pan that held fresh baked bread I had made earlier in the day, to cowering. His ears went flat, his tail low and tucked between his legs. He lowered himself to where his belly almost touched the ground. I took a step toward him and asked “What are you doing” he quickly slinked to the other side of the room. “Come here Phoenix” I called, but  he ran even further away. As I pursued him he refused to look at me, refused to allow me to approach him, refused to face what he was caught doing.

Here is the interesting thing, I have never aggressively disciplined my dogs, he had no reason to be afraid of me. There was no reference in his mind of violence towards him. It was clear in his posture and response to me that he was full of shame. In his shame he did not want to look at me, he did not want to be near to me. He not only wanted there to be space between us, he ran from me. He knew he was doing something wrong, but in the moment he didn’t care. When his bad behavior was exposed, he felt fear. Not fear that I would hurt him, but fear of my disappointment in him.

This fear is not unique to my naughty dog. We all have it. I have experienced this shame in my relationship with God. My "God shame" looks like this:

I do something wrong, I am afraid to read my Bible and pray.

 I have experienced this in my relationships with other people too:

 If I let someone down, I avoid them. 

I have had this experience in my relationship with myself:

 there is an honesty I need to have with myself, but I would rather avoid thinking about it. In this case I may become hardened, or numb myself, or dive into other things to distract me. 

I have also found that when I am humble enough to face it and be honest about it, the shame loses it’s power over my life.

Brene’ Brown, a researcher who studies Shame for a living says there are three important things we should understand about shame.

#1 We all have it

#2 We are all afraid to talk about it

#3 The less we talk about it, the more it has control over us.

I am going to throw a fourth one in here, which she also says, but it is not included in this list…

#4 Compassion will kill shame, Compassion for others, compassion for self.

I am going to invite you to join me in a journey to begin to recognize shame for what it is, and to take away the power shame has. I am going to invite you to practice with me "self compassion", as well as compassion for others. 

In John 7 there is an encounter Jesus has with a woman who was caught in a shameful situation. Jesus spoke words to her accusers that caused them all to examine themselves, and walk away. When they were honest with themselves, they had to face the ugly truth about themselves- they are also imperfect humans. 

If the creator of this world has compassion on me for my shameful behavior, why should I not have compassion on myself for being human? Why should I not have compassion for others? We accuse and have no compassion on others because of the shame we will not face in our own lives. How would compassion for self and others change the way we treat one another in this world?

Hope, the Story of Pain

June 18, 2022

As I continue to embark upon this journey of getting Hope Embers going, I thought it would be good for me to revisit the chapter in my book that I wrote about hope. I am once again feeling the "groan" of hope.

 I want to share my observations with anyone who takes the time to read my weekly posts. This was written as I really began to understand how often times we confuse holding on to hope for holding on to control. This was also when I began to understand that hope is a painful experience, it is beautiful, but painful none-the-less.

Taken From Chapter 13 the Dance of Hope...

Go to any Christian bookstore or gift shop and you will likely see wall decorations, little trinkets, and stationary with the word Hope scrolled across it. We use this word for encouragement. It is one of those beautiful concepts we depend upon in our society. It goes along with words like well-being, peace, grace, mercy; all words of optimism right? Well, not really. Not when you stop to really think about what hope means. Romans 8:22-25 tells us how it feels to hope and my experience is that Paul was right on when he wrote:

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (HERE IT IS) For hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we wait for what we do not have we wait patiently."

That is hope. Waiting patiently for what we do not see. This verse focuses exclusively on the hope of the Spirit, but hope can be about far more than our hope in Christ. We can hope to see a dream fulfilled too. Paul says it’s an inward groaning. Isn’t that how hope feels; the waiting, the yearning. Hope is painful, but hopelessness is even more painful.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

What are we to do with that? I have to tell you I don’t really know. I believe it has something to do with not holding on too tightly to the hopes we have that are not Christ himself. The only hope that is guaranteed is the hope we have in his promises. Hope in the tiny details of how we get there is a false hope. 

Where there is hopelessness, and I don’t mean in the small stuff like “I hope we go on vacation some day” but the bigger things like, “my marriage feels hopeless and I am dying bound to this person even as I try to make the best of it.” In those areas simply ask Jesus into the middle of it. It sounds silly I suppose, but perhaps there are lessons that you need to learn before he shows up. And by all means, know the difference between putting your hope in him and putting your hope in your marriage or in your spouse.

In the study “Hope an Anchor for Life.” Dr. David Jeremiah recalls a story written by Alfred Hitchcock about a woman who was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life. She made friends with the mortician, and was able to strike up a deal with him. The next person to die she would sneak into the coffin and he would bury her with the corpse, then later that evening the mortician would come back and let her out and she would be free. Her hope was set in the mortician keeping his deal. 

 The next time there was a death she waited patiently for just the right opportunity to crawl into the casket with no one looking. But once buried she waited and waited to no avail. Eventually she struck a match only to realize she was now buried with the mortician who was supposed to come rescue her. Her hope was dead, and so would she be soon. We must be careful about what and whom we put our hope in.

My hope cannot be about success, it cannot be about people, it cannot be about my skills. My hope is to only be in Jesus, in his power to do what ever his will is, and in my genuine relationship with him. 

From Loving Parent to His Loved Child

July 08, 2022

I created you. I hold you in my arms and look down at you with love. It was love that led to you; it is love that I feel as I look at you. I understand that you cannot understand me. You are but a mere infant. You haven’t seen the things that I have seen, nor have you done the things I have done. Your understanding is so limited. But I will smile on you. I will gently teach you, and help you learn about life.

Years go by and you grow, you grow and I lovingly smile upon you. You look to me for answers and you love how I know all things. But even now you do not understand me. How could you? You still have so much to learn and so far to grow. Your understanding is limited even though it is so much more sophisticated than it was as you were an infant. You gain understanding every day, but how can you know about physics, or molecules. You are but a child, still learning, still growing, still limited in your understanding of me…your parent.

You enter into your teens. You have no understanding of me now. All you see is what you want to see. You will only see your own perspective. As you yell at me about my selfishness because I won’t give my blessing on things I know are not good for you, I try to remember that you cannot understand. Your mind has not fully developed, and how can you understand that which you do not know. My heart breaks, because I only want what is best for you yet you rebel and spit in my face. You tell me that I don’t deserve your love, and I have never done anything for you. You can’t comprehend what you are talking about, you can’t comprehend the pain I feel, nor can you comprehend the role of a parent. You have never been one. Your understanding is so limited. How can you comprehend that which you have not experienced firsthand?

I watch you grow; your understanding becomes much sophisticated with every year you grow and mature. You begin to understand, comprehension slowly sets in and so does repentance. You beg for me to forgive you, but I already have. I love you. It was my love that conceived you; it is my love that compels me, even when you did not understand. But I also recognize, you still cannot understand me. I am too complex to be understood by any one person. Aren’t most beings too complex for humans to understand? What makes you, my child, think you understand everything about me just because you’re more mature now than you once were?

Even as you approach your death bed your understanding of life and relationships will grow, but you will never be able to fully comprehend all things. For you are my child, the created; I am your parent and the creator. The created can never fully comprehend their creator.

So true is this in human families, all the more true in the spiritual family…We can’t figure out our parents when we are children. We gain understanding as we grow, but even as adults there is no way to understand another human being; how they feel, why they act as they do, what they think. If a human that we see touch and feel is not able to be understood why do we think we can figure out God? Is this written about a human parent to her child, or is this about the heavenly Father to mankind of different mindsets?

I wrote this years ago about my children, but it was also as I was beginning to understand my relationship with God. How many times have I been upset with God for not answering my prayers the way I wanted him to? How many times did I almost walk away from my faith because I thought He should have come through for me in a different way than he did? We only have limited understanding of the God that we serve. How many times did I speak arrogantly about things I didn’t really understand? We can read Scriptures, we can draw close to God and we can try to gain understanding, but in the end he is a mystery that we will not understand.

I was thinking about the mystery of God deeply just the other day. I was thinking about how not only do we sometimes get mad at God when bad things happen that we don’t understand, but I considered how arrogant we can sometimes be when we are speaking about the things we think we know about God.

When Jesus came to this earth the first time, no one understood that the plan was for him to die on the cross, and be raised three days later. There were prophecies, and yet no one ultimately understood what was happening. None of it happened as they thought it should have. It was only when they looked back that things began to make sense. Why do we, in our age think we are any smarter? It is so important when we start talking about sin, heaven, hell, and what God thinks of other people’s behaviors, that we do so with caution. We may come to find that we have been talking of many things we did not understand. God is meant to be a mystery to us, though mystery can be uncomfortable, it is also beautiful.

The Bumpy Ride of Life

March 15, 2022

 Horses can be incredibly healing, and calming to watch, but not always. Have you ever watched a horse race? Have you ever noticed the demeanor of those horses on the journey from the paddock to the starting gate? They prance almost in place, they are chomping at the bit, they are impatient, ready to go. At times they can be even hard for the jockey to control. I can somewhat relate to what it is like to ride a horse like this, and it is not usually a pleasure ride.

I grew up riding horses with my childhood best friend Jen. Together we had all kinds of adventures riding around her hometown of Galien, Michigan. We would get up early and ride all day, stopping sometimes at the convenient store to get something to snack on, or coming home for a quick lunch, just to go back out and ride again. We rode through town, we rode on back roads, we rode through corn fields, and meadows. Throughout the years I rode several different horses, each one with different personalities and each one who to this day holds a dear place in my heart.

Candy was one of the horses I rode quite a bit. She was a Leopard Appaloosa, and a former barrel racer. Because of her history as a horse that raced, she did not like to go slow. In her own mind when the saddle went on it was time to let loose and go. When I did not give her the reign to do that, she would start prancing very fast, but she got very little ground covered for the energy she was using. She got even more upset if another horse was in front of her, which was often since I usually let Jen lead the way. She reared up on me more than once to communicate her frustration at me for holding her back.

 Riding Candy was always interesting, but it was never a ride that I could just sit back and enjoy. It was bumpy, I constantly had to be alert, and it was stressful for both her and for me.

Sometimes Jen and I would let the horses run full speed in a big field, racing to see who was fastest, but Candy never won. Perhaps it is because she wasn’t as fast as Jen’s horse Missy. To be sure, Missy was a well behaved fast little mare, but I am certain that Candy used up a lot of her energy getting nowhere fast. By the time I was ready to enjoy her full power and speed, she was tired from all her turmoil, panting, and trotting in place.

I can’t help but to think about Candy these days. I can relate to her readiness to go full speed, her impatience with me as I held her back, her anxiety, and agitation of going nowhere. I have felt the same about life and with God. I have had a year of heartaches, disappointments, and shattered dreams. The saying goes “when one door closes another one opens” but the last several months every time I got up, dusted myself off, so I could try another door it ended with either the next door remaining locked or it also slammed in my face. The more slams, the more determined I became to fight for the “right door”. The more I tried, the harder the doors have slammed.

I have been finding myself “chomping at the bit” prancing in place, expending energy to get nowhere, and breathing hard with anxiety. All the while God is trying to reign me in. He has been inviting me to be still and listen to His cues. But that feels too much like doing nothing to me.

I share this story because I don’t believe I am the only one. America has always been a culture of work harder, try harder, climb the greased pole of success, and it only seems to accelerate as the years go by.

 There was a time when businesses were closed on Sundays, but in the name of convenience, stores began to be open seven days a week, robbing some people of rest. Holidays were still sacred, until they weren’t. We are controlled by the almighty dollar, and success. In the process we are losing. Losing connection to our loved ones. Losing connection with ourselves. Losing connection to our heart’s true desires. Losing connection with God. And we are all so tired and weary. We are too “spent” to run the races that will bring us fulfillment because we have been prancing in place for hours before it is time for us to run fast and free.

I spent the past month and a half learning to “be still”. I have been amazed to find parts of my heart that needed healing, parts of my heart that was being demanding of God, parts of my heart that needed to grieve, parts of my heart where I compromised, parts of my heart that is full of unaddressed shame, and parts of my heart that I had abandoned. I have also become aware at how much of my decision making is driven by anxiety. 

I am suddenly aware of my need to relax into life; relax into the pace God created me to go at. I have a growing awareness that I need to learn to rest into my life circumstances and surrender into God and His timing. I have been burning up my life energy on things that are out of my control or meaningless.

What would life look like for you if you took time to be still and listen to the deeper parts of your heart? What would you hear if you stopped to listen to the voice that wants to be heard but does not use words? What would change if you found the courage to stop toiling and struggling and just rest, in quiet and in solitude, even if only a day, or an evening. Even if only for one short hour.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy. Initially for me it was painful, maybe even tormenting, until the clarity began to set in. I would like to invite you to join with me in learning the art of surrendering into life without trying. Join me in growing in the understanding of what it means to just be. We all need to learn to rest into the stillness of our soul and our creator. 

Thrown Off the Golf Cart of Life

November 2022

I have always been very squeamish when it comes to blood, or “owies”. Something in the way that God created my heart has not only made me sensitive to seeing those things, but I literally feel pain in my body when I see them. 

Even just a simple bruise on another person will cause me to feel pain shoot through me like an electric shock. In some ways I suppose this makes sense because of what I do for a living. I have no doubt I was created to sit with people in the midst of their emotional pain, so in some ways it makes no sense that God would create me to be this way. What doesn’t make sense is that God gave me this sensitivity and then blessed me with two boys.

Starting at a very young age, my boys were in and out of the emergency on a regular basis. I think the first time was before my youngest was even two. He had decided to climb up on a bunkbed when my back was turned, ending in a trip to the ER to get his face superglued back together. My oldest got butterfly stiches at 5 when he was playing tag and ran into an open car door. For a good part of 10 years we were in the ER getting stiches or casts regularly. In fact once they tried giving my son Jordan a stuffed toy and he said, "I already have 2 of those, do you have anything else?" Goodness knows that I love my boys, but I didn’t always know what to do with them.

When my oldest son, Austin, was about 17 years old he decided to jump off of a moving golf cart going top speed down the road. He claims he just to see what would happen. I will never understand why that was even a question in his mind. I don’t need to jump out of a moving anything to know that it will end badly, but he felt the need to try it.

 He came home with some pretty bad road rash. So I did what I always did in those situations, I covered my eyes, I told him I could not look at it, and I told him it was important for him to ask his brother to help him clean it out so it didn’t get infected. He somewhat followed my instruction, but not as thoroughly as he should have.

A few nights later he was in excruciating pain. He had been “pressing through the pain” telling himself that he “is a Kenney, and Kenney’s are tough”. That is true, we are tough, but we are not able to out tough staff infections which is exactly what he had. By the time I was aware of what was happening to him the infection was not only in the broken skin, but it had begun to affect the unbroken tissue as well. He had little puss filled boils popping up all over his back. I took him to a walk in clinic where the doctor had to literally cut out the infection.

Poor Austin was in so much pain as she did this, even though she had given him local anesthesia. He was brave through the whole thing, not making a sound, but I held his hand as she cut it out, I saw his face, I felt his squeeze on my hand. I know it was painful for him.

For days afterwards his wounds oozed with gross green and yellow puss. I should have just helped him clean it out in the first place, because I was the one who had to change his bandages. It was not fun for either one of us. He continued to be in pain, but the release of the infection had changed the kind of pain he was feeling. Eventually the oozing subsided, scabs began to form and eventually he healed all the way. Today he has been left with only scars and the memory of the incident.

The same thing happens with us. Sometimes we fall off “the golf cart of life”. It may be that someone pushes us off, it may be that we accidentally fall, or at times we may jump off “just to see what happens”(I have done this more than once by the way). If we ignore the wounds that are caused by our fall, infection will begin to set in. As we ignore that pain, the infection will move into our hearts and begin to affect even the healthy parts of it.

It is important for a spiritual surgery to cut out the infection, but many of us don’t want the surgery.

I work with those who believe in God, and those who do not. There are times that I am the one “holding the scalpel” so to speak, because it is the wishes of the patient that I leave God out of it. But I will tell you, that the best “surgeries” happen when we can give the scalpel fully over to the Holy Spirit. There are healing truths that only His Word can bring into any given situation.

 It is my desire that Hope Embers will be a safe space for all to come for the emotional and spiritual surgery that we all need. It is my prayer that God guide me in all of my interactions with those who come. Either way, I encourage you, if you are reading this and you have been thrown off the golf cart of life, to find the courage to come. Let’s heal together.

War of the Wills

October 2021

My dad has always been an impressive man. When I say this, I don’t just mean that he was a good father, which he was. What I mean is his impressiveness shows up in both good and bad ways. When I was moving into my first apartment, he carried a love seat up two flights of stairs all by himself, just to prove that he could.  It was impressive, but he could have hurt himself severely doing this. I guess as I’m writing this what I am saying is that my father’s tenacity and stubborn determination are impressive. He is well known for it.

Equally impressive is the stubborn streak he passed on to his only daughter--me. 90% of the time my father and I had a perfect relationship. I wore my “My heart belongs to daddy” jammies until it was impossible to save them any longer. I have memories of racing to see who get to the car first, and then get their seat belt fastened first. He carried me around on his shoulders until I was at least 9 years old.

 In fact, the picture I used of us in this blog reflects our relationship perfectly. It was unintentional that we posed exactly alike, my mother just called out to us that she wanted a picture, we both turned to pose. It wasn't until later that we realized we had the same pose, the same smirk and the same attitude.  We have had a very sweet father daughter relationship. But when we engaged in a battle of the wills it was something to behold.

These days I have mellowed out a bit, but my dad, at 70 is just as determined as ever. What​ is scary for me right now is that he is engaged in a battle with COVID. When he first got it, he was isolating, but not resting. I work out of the church he attends. As I left the building the day he knew he had COVID, he was in the church yard, by himself of course, but playing disc golf. I yelled at him to go home. He responded, “What for? I’m fine. I feel great, I just have a little fever.” He maintained this determination for a few days. But soon, when I called to check on him, I heard him gasping for air. Even still he insisted that he was fine.

This morning I was on the phone with my mother, who also was hit hard with COVID, but she went to the hospital and is recovered now. My dad is still (I have to be careful how I word this, as he will likely read this) regaining his strength, but at a slower pace than my mom did. I told my mom that he better watch out or we will have to go “Kenney head-to-head again”, only I’m not four anymore, and he’s weak from COVID. He responded and said he could still whoop me, and we all laughed.

After the phone call I reflected with a smile on my face about the war of the wills between my dad and me. When I was young without a doubt he won. I thought of my four-year-old self holding my blankie, tilting my head back as far as I could so I could look my father in the eye with determination. Back then he could carry me to my room if I refused to comply (which I always did). I may open the door and stomp back out, but eventually he won. I was physically no match for him. But as I got older there was a shift. A shift that has been healthy for me because it worked some of the defiant determination from my wild spirit.

The time I remember the best is the time I got angry at him I’m not even sure why. We had an exchange of words that were not nice. At the time my brother was in Tennessee in the military, so I decided I was going to move there with them. But by the time I got my stuff together, he disconnected something in my car so it wouldn’t start. Rather than taking time to cool down like any smart teenager, I decided I would win. I walked to a friend’s house, gave him gas money, and asked him to take me to Tennessee. I had clearly won that battle. But winning the war was a different story all together.

Within a day and a half, I got the worse case of tonsillitis I have ever had, I could hardly swallow and I had to survive on chicken broth. I remember watching everyone else eating steaks, while I sipped on bland broth. It wasn’t long before I broke, called home, cried, apologized, and my loving father bought me a bus ticket home. This story is not the only one like this, and it isn’t even the worst one believe it or not. In all the cases that my will was able to “win” I always wished I hadn’t. God bless my parents, but truly my father only has himself to blame, I got the stubborn from him (kidding of course).

I can’t help but make a comparison between those moments with my earthly father and similar moments with my heavenly father. There are a lot of protective instructions in the Bible. It is my experience that God puts the instructions to protect us from our foolishness. Many people are unaware of the beauty that is found in the Bible. All of mankind, those who believe as well as those who do not believe in Yahweh God, have a natural rebellion to His ways. I have found myself “taking on” my heavenly Father, will against will. There have been times that I do not win, but in those times that my rebellion does win, I always find myself wishing I had done it God’s way and not my own.

There is so much wisdom and healing truth to be discovered in the Bible. One of my favorite Scriptures in found in Romans 11, where the statements are made that his wisdom and knowledge are treasures, and they are unsearchable. He is a mystery that we will never understand because we were not meant to. My hope is that if you have never taken the time to read Scripture, and measure it against yourself, that you will take the time to do it. Proverbs and James are two of the best for this, or there are lots of study guides you can find, and as always if this is something you, my reader, are interested in, you can always reach out to me. I pray for my clients and my readers regularly. I have found so many answers to life’s hardest questions through a relationship with my Lord. I want nothing more than to guide others to that same healing presence. 

You Are My Sunshine

October 14, 2021

Before 2020, I never really had a cat as a pet. I always had dogs and I loved them. After I put my sweet TannerBug down in November of 2019 following weeks of ups and downs, I swore off ever giving my heart away to another animal. The cat that lived in my household heard my vow, and responded with actions that communicated “challenge taken”.

Suddenly I found myself looking forward to getting up in the mornings to give Ms. Kitty her morning “treat teats.” Soon she was suckering me into mid-morning, afternoon, mid-afternoon, evening, and night time treat treats. She began to join me for my morning coffee, and even sleeping with me at night. Sometimes she put her paw in my hand as if we were holding hands while we slept next to one another. She won over my heart, darn cat!!

I have fallen so in love with her that I find myself almost telling her that she is my sunshine, a phrase that has only been stated to my Tanner, and I have committed to keeping it that way. But it frequently wants to slip out of my mouth as I speak to her. I often stop myself from telling her that mid-sentence. She has stolen my heart, and I carry with me the knowledge that inevitably she will break it the same way that Tanner did.

Recently, my household grew in pet number by 2. Two cute little kittens were found on the side of the road terrified and in danger of getting hit by a car. These little guys were infested with fleas, ear mites, and their fuzzy tails were crusted with blood. What do you do when you are faced with such a situation, but to rescue the sweet little guys, and so that is exactly what we did.

These two guys are not mine, but they share my home, and they love to cuddle with anyone who will let them. They have adjusted well to indoor life, and to our family. Ms. Kitty on the other hand has not adjusted well to them at all. She is angry at the household additions, and even angrier when I show them any sort of affection.

Ms Kitty does not share coffee time with me anymore, and she spends a lot of time sulking. She still likes to have time with me, but she makes sure it is when I am the only one in the room, even if that means that she follows me to the bathroom. I have often looked over while petting one of her rivals, and noticed her glaring at us in disgust. I can’t help but feel like I am getting caught having an affair. No matter how I try to show her that she is still my sweet girl, she will not relax into the new situation.

I have been struggling through some very rough life transitions and difficult questions that seem to have no answer. I am a Jesus believer, but that can be hard to hold onto during storms of life. I find myself asking, “Why would God allow these situations?” “If God is here, why does he feel so far away?” “What could possibly be the purpose of what I have been going through?” "Will he make things right in the places where I have been wronged?"

Yesterday was a day where the emotional darkness felt so heavy I could hardly breathe. I certainly was not able to see past my grief and depression. In one of those moments, alone in my room, with my sweet kitty, I could see her need to connect with me. So I stroked her, continued to look straight at her and I assured her, “You are still my girl. I am your person. Why do you question that?” Instantly I felt a “God whisper” in my heart that said, “Same”.

Over the next several moments as I pet my sweet kitty, I saw flashes in my mind's eye of my own story. The story of failures turned into victories. Stories of how the crocus became my theme flower, how I accidentally discovered my love for writing, the way that some of my biggest tragedies, and worst abuses have become some of the most useful tools in my career as I work with real people. I saw the journey of Hope Embers. I saw God’s hand in every moment of my life, and I began to see the light in the darkness that I was feeling.

And so I share this, on my website, as my first blog entry, to tell you too. You are God’s child and you have not been forgotten, no matter what darkness you are in. No matter how you feel about him. No matter what your tragedies or victories, or story. His hand is on you, He has not forgotten you, and He loves you. You are His sunshine, He has not reserved that name only for a chosen child. He has chosen that name for you. May you feel His presence today…and even if you don’t, know that does not change the truth of it.

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