Monday, September 26, 2011

Brennen Manning-All is Grace

“For Ragamuffins, God's name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair - for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God.” -Brennen Manning

I don't keep a lot of books. The odds of finishing my reading list in a normal lifetime isn't even probable. If I'm reading a book you want, as soon as I'm done you can have it. No, really, you can. In recent years I've downsized my library from over 1000 books to less than 25.

I make a few exceptions. There's a shelf in my office of books you can't have. Although I can't be sure, it's quite possible I couldn't survive in their absence. They're books that have outlined my existence, saved my earthly life, and became better companions than most.

Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Life of the Beloved, and Can you Drink the Cup?

Robert Benson's Between the Dreaming and the Coming True, Living Prayer, The Body Broken and In Constant Prayer.

And Brennen Manning. Abba's Child, The Furious Longing of God, The Ragamuffin Gospel, and The Wisdom of Tenderness.

Added to my shelf this morning is Manning's soon to be released memoirs, All is Grace. Anticipated to be his final work, it is the crowning glory of a life openly embracing the God he loves. Not a perfect life. Not a life cleaned up and offered with the expectation that more people will run to God if we make Him more attractive. He found God from the place he was standing, and God accepted and led him from that moment on. His story is a symphony of grace.

It was Manning who first brought to my awareness that my soul has a voice longing to be heard. It was in his words I found the freedom to sit with darkness and still trust the Light. On pages he penned, I found the love of a Father. The same God, great Creator and Ruler of the universe, calls this sinner, "Beloved." He invites me, welcomes me, to come to Him. Not when I get it all together. Not when I'm worthy. Now. And to keep bringing this mess of an existence to His heart, over, and over, and over again until my faith is made sight.

All is Grace Indeed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And What if They Don't

I think dreaming is risky and settling in is boring. It's a problem. I can't hope for too much without being afraid none of it will come true. And being without a challenge bores me to tears. I would sum up my life so far as constant frustration mixed with just enough bright rays of clarity and balance to survive.

Last year one of the few people who speak absolute truth into my life asked me a simple question. "If you could do anything with the days you are given what would it be?"

Fear gripped my soul. Say it out loud? Isn't that like announcing your wish post blowing out the candles?

And, as it happened, I couldn't tell her that day without a full blown panic attack. But, a few months later, I did. I can't tell you how freeing it was to put words to my dreams. Scary? Yes. Immediately I found the most terrifying part to be the possibility they wouldn't come true. Then what? Someone else would know! I wouldn't go to my grave thinking, "So glad I never said that!"

After, I said, (Because I'm SO spiritual), "And I swear if God doesn't have similar plans I'm going to throw a ROYAL FIT!" I wish I was kidding.

I was thinking about dreams yesterday. The ones that come true. The ones that don't. The ones that leave too quickly. And the ones we're so thankful never came to be. It's a scary ledge to dream big dreams.

I remember building my house several years ago and refusing to get involved in the process. I went there when I had to, checking on electrical outlet locations and other things. I picked out door handles and cabinets. I went through the motions without a lot of heart. Somewhere I feared that it would never be mine. Self preservation prevents hurt in my mind.

The day they handed me the keys, I sat in the middle of the living floor and wept. My dream of building and owning a home did come true, but I had missed the experience. I didn't marvel at the construction or count down the days. I was present for the process, but only to the point I wouldn't be disappointed.

Last night I prayed, "God. What if my dreams do come true?"
-Then you'll be ready.

"And. And. And what if they......don't?"
-Then you'll remember the joy is finding Me in the journey.

Not all who wander are lost.
J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Going to Heaven?? Planning on it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,
not as a result of works so that no one may boast.

Eph. 2:8-9

Yesterday we were watching a sermon by David Platt, the author of the popular book Radical, at work. I think he has great points about a lot of things and covers most topics in ways that are challenging and Biblical. His message about eternity made me nuts.

I agreed with him that salvation is more than "repeating this prayer" signing this card and accepting a get out of Hell free card. I agree that perhaps not everyone who proclaims right relationship with the Almighty is correct. I don't agree with his mindset that we can't know for sure we're going to Heaven.

He mentioned that it keeps him up at night worrying that the people he ministers to don't really know God. He's worried that if he's not careful he will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and hear, "I never knew you." He mentioned that those following God should display works of God and bear fruit. True. But, his message tilted dangerously close to putting salvation back in my court. And that's not good news.

I'll never believe in a God who expects His children to live in fear and anxiety. (Do not fear/be anxious for nothing zips through my mind). God refers to us as his children. Loved. Forgiven. Accepted. We do make a choice to choose Him. We accept his plan of redemption and we fall on his grace and mercy. And then, I have to believe, for my own sanity, we can know where we stand with him. What parent wants their child growing up saying, "You say I'm yours, but I'm just not sure."

I'm not of the mindset that threatening people with Hell will make them come running to the Father. God is everything to me. The rest of all of my life revolves around my decision to be His. That's not to say I've "arrived" spiritually. The fact that we're always changing things so this life better reflects Him is proof that the relationship lives.

I can't live with anxiety that Heaven is not for me. I can't live in fear that I'll get there and He won't recognize me. I've accepted His gift of salvation. I've aligned my life with his. At the end of the day, I'm a human being with an eternal soul. God does not fall off his throne when I fail.

And I'm planning on going to Heaven.

It was love that drew me to Him. . . . .

and love that leads me Home.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Closing the Book on Reviews

Yesterday, after almost three years of continuous reading, I cancelled all contracts to review books for publishers. It was not an easy decision. I have loved reading books for the purpose of sharing with others how remarkable they are. I've found authors I never would have discovered if not for reviews. It's been joy.

But, over the last month, the pile of books not to review has grown to epic proportions. Books I want to read. Books I need to read. I have found myself reading something I don't want to while looking longingly at a stack of Yoga Journal magazines wishing I could flip through those haphazardly instead.

So, yesterday I sent out gracious letters thanking companies that trusted my opinion. It made me sad to hit send, but I knew it was the right decision. I will still review a small handful of books that I feel are important, but definitely not 2-3 per week.

I want to review books when I get nothing in return. Books I love. Books that have changed my life. And not always books that I'm reading just because I promised to. It's been a remarkable journey and if anyone gives you the opportunity to review writing-do it.

Thank you to the publishers who believed in me to pass on the messages of those they represent. I am better for it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

God in the broken places

A friend called me early yesterday morning and started sobbing before I finished saying, "hello." My heart broke.

"Bren? Where is this?"

I swallowed the urge to start rapid fire shooting Bible verses at her even though several came to mind. Cliches make me crazy. Christian cliches make me homicidal.

I didn't say anything, letting her weep for several minutes. When the storm had subsided, I said gently, "There's a purpose for the breaking."

"Bren. Promise me if I hold on long enough He'll put all the pieces back together again."

I wish I could have. I'd like to have that hope about some things myself.

I used to pray that God would fix everything with some magic spiritual superglue. I used to pray that He would shield me from being broken in the first place.

In recent years, my prayers have changed. I find myself often times quite literally on my knees praying, "Don't leave me alone in the broken places. Help me not to miss your plan for this moment in time. Be as real to me in the darkness as You have been in the light."


Night Night Blessings-A Book Review

Amy Parker writes great books for children and this one is no exception. The words are simple and the prayers sincere. The illustrations are super cute. This one has an audience of very young children who need books read to them. Gentle reminders of God's love, sweet prayers and beautiful pictures. Get it for the kids in your life.

*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ascent From Darkness-A Book Review

I appreciate spiritual journeys. I respect a great testimony. And I'll never stop being amazed at God's ability to take someone from darkness to light. His redemptive plan is freedom.

Ascent from Darkness tells the true story of Michael Leehan as he falls into Satanism and returns redeemed by God's great grace. It's a truly remarkable testimony.

The writing is good and the people believable. The story is fast paced covering several decades.

And I'm going to have to say I don't recommend it. The darkness is so dark. The stories so vivid. The animal sacrifices are heartbreaking and the fear palpable. I know that Satan is alive and well on planet earth and spiritual warfare is real, but personally I don't want to read about it.

It would appeal to a limited audience at best. I am grateful for his freedom from darkness into God's glorious light. A miracle indeed.

*For Thomas Nelson

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe-A Book Review

"You're my child, my love, my pleasure."

I'll have to admit, I get a little weirded out when people talk about the Almighty like they're dating him. I get easily frustrated with those who ride on the emotion of spiritual highs and lows. And I think it's flat dangerous to base an entire relationship with God on feelings at any given moment. I have, at times, been all over the place spiritually and it has renewed my commitment to take God at His Word. Period.

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe by Greg Paul offers a unique balance of both fact and feelings. It reminded me in the hard times to listen for his sweet voice of peace, "I love you." And it was a gentle reminder in the disobedient times to hear him whisper, "I love you too much for this." An overall feeling that God is with us illuminates every page.

Quite possibly there's a place for both great love and a mighty reverence in the spiritual existence.

*For Thomas Nelson

Sunday, September 11, 2011

More Lost Than Found - A Book Review

It may be just that I find the topic of particular interest, but I love to converse with people who have left the faith/church and are or are not returning. I love to know why, what happened, and what's still drawing them even after being deeply wounded.

Jared Herd's book More Lost Than Found provides a companion on the unsteady ground of a faith journey. I respect his honesty and appreciate that not all of the questions he presents have easy answers.

A few of my favorite parts:

"Paul was willing to let things be ambiguous and undefined, to let the Good News shape people where they were instead of indoctrinating them in a cultural framework that made no sense."

"Because the journey began two thousand years ago wasn't to become more sacred. It was to walk closer to what is true."

"He doesn't force us to paint over the mess either. He allows things to be ugly. He doesn't work around reality-he works with it."

"The spiritual quest begins when we assume something we can't see is more real than what we can."

"Jesus, who died a horrible death himself, didn't deal in pithy comments and trite explanations that skirted gritty reality. He faced them; and sometimes he did nothing. He just let it hurt."

Amen to that.

It's easy to read with a nonjudgemental tone. I want to put it into the hands of everyone I've talked to lately who has said in one way or another, "Church hurts too much. I'm never going back."

*For Thomas Nelson

Friday, September 9, 2011

There You'll Find Me - A Book Review

I'm not too ashamed to say I begged, borrowed, and almost stole to get my hands on this book early. I'm also not too proud to say, it's teen fiction. Could have fooled me-I loved it!

The common denominator of the human experience is that we're all searching for something. I loved following Finley (great name) through this book as a foreign exchange student in Ireland on her quest for answers. With her deceased brother's journal in hand, she's looking for concrete things and also evidence that God still cares.

Surprisingly enjoyable, she unwillingly becomes involved with a superstar from vampire movies who fills the void and offers the help she needs.

When life gets out of control, Finley takes desperate actions and discovers that the best way to look up is when everything else has come crumbling down.

I loved it.

*For Thomas Nelson

Waking Hours - A Book Review

The latest book by Lis Wiehl releases October 4th as part of the East Salem Trilogy. I love her writing and find stories where the line between crime and the super natural gets blurred. Solving the murder of a girl is made especially difficult when all the suspects are teenagers. With help from a former football star longing to be a PI, the mystery is figured out just in time for another one and inevitable relationships are just beginning as the book ends. It's page turning at the finest level and right on track with her previous novels.

*For Thomas Nelson

Great Book Titles

Probably my favorite book title of all time.
A close second.
And the book I can't WAIT to read. Releasing October 4th!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heartache via the church and her people

I wasn't going to go to church last night. I love my church, but I'm over the top irritated with all things Christian lately. I'm frustrated with some friendships. I'm annoyed that people have not turned out to be who trusted them to be. I'm tired of people wanting me to drop everything when they have a bad day, but can't be supportive for five minutes when I really need them. I'm tired of people putting denominational differences ahead of someone's heart. And I'm sad.

To be fair, I think church life is extra hard for single, divorced, separated, alone people. Just by social infrastructure, we don't fit. Thankfully, I've come to terms with worshiping alone after several years of resenting it. I almost, sometimes, prefer it. I can just be with God and not distracted. I certainly don't miss people elbowing me during parts of the sermon!

It's amazing how easy it is to get hurt in a church setting, and how unbelievably painful. Equally disturbing, how long it takes to recover. And once you've been hurt, it seems simple things get instantly multiplied way out of proportion. Once those you've trusted to hold your spirituality hurt you, it seems likely everyone will. Once harsh words are spoken within sacred walls, it seems hurt is lurking around every corner.

Humanity is fragile. The church is not immune.

So, in a brief moment of faith and maturity, I went to church last night. My current issue is not with those people. It's not their fault. I don't even really know most of them. But, they represent the church to me and I wanted to be away. I knew if and before I made my way to the alter I would have to forgive. Again.

Kneeling at the alter, I remembered life's a risk and church is not an exception. I forgave intentional and unintentional hurt. And as I heard these words. . . . .

Eternal God, heavenly Father,
You have graciously accepted us as living members
of Your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,
and You have fed us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Send us now into the world in peace,
and grant us strength and courage
to love and serve You
with gladness and singleness of heart;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

And I forgave myself, too.

Hermie A Common Caterpillar - A Book Review

Max Lucado has released his Hermie and Friends book again for starting readers. Cute as ever, Hermie goes on a journey feeling very ordinary when God made him special. He finds friends along the way who seem to have special gifts when he seemingly has none. Falling into a deep sleep, he transforms into a beautiful butterfly. Repetition is good for new readers. The story is enjoyable, the characters are likable, and the artwork is beautiful. I hope Thomas Nelson also updates the rest of the series in a similar format.

*For Thomas Nelson

Gabby, God's Little Angel-A Book Review

Sheila Walsh returns to children's stories with Gabby, God's Little Angel. It's a delightful story of a guardian angel who leans towards trouble sent to help a human just the same. The artwork is precious. I have to say the prayer she prays is one God would probably like to hear more from me (except I don't have a pony!).

"Dear God, thank You so much for sending Your angel to help me stay on my pony today. I'll try not to be so much trouble tomorrow. I'm so glad You love me. Amen"


*For Thomas Nelson

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I Just Do What My Row Is Doing

I know God has a killer sense of humor. I could list on here the zillion times He's shown up in ways that are profound, faithful, amazing....and humorous. It might be my favorite God quality. When it isn't-it isn't-but a whole lot of the time I think life is funny. We're human. We're flawed. We mess up. For whatever weird reason, I think spiritual stuff is extra funny

I was recounting this story to a friend of mine last night who said to me today, "Bren. You have to blog that. I was still laughing when I went to bed." So, here goes.

I'm getting WAY more comfortable in a liturgical church setting. I get it. I know what to say. I know when to say it. I'm getting to where I even kind of know what's next and whether it's in the Book of Common Prayer, the Service Book, the Hymnal, the bulletin, or the music book especially for the 1130 service. I swear whoever planned this church was ORGANIZED! Ha. So, anyway, now that I know where to find what and when-I'm starting to get the whole rhythm of the liturgical church......and I love it.

Enter Wednesday night several months ago. I'd never been to that service before. I went straight from work. I was talking to a friend on the phone while walking in (not paying attention) so I followed the people in front of me right into the overflow sanctuary. Quite frankly-I didn't know there WAS an overflow sanctuary. So, that's where I ended up-in a row with a bunch of random people which was fine but I got off the phone and thought, "Where am I?"

By then the service started and this room is kind of to the right of the front so you can see-but you can't. Anyway, when my friends ask about stuff at church I just tell them, "I don't know. I just do what my row is doing." :) It's the truth. So, I was paying attention, but this guy walked in and started doing something on his phone and I started thinking about what kind of phone it was and all the sudden my entire row (and a bunch of other people) stand up and start walking to the front. My thought? It's too early for communion and I don't remember seeing that whole set up, but again, I couldn't really see.

So, I either had to go with them or a bunch of people were going to have to crawl over me. I promise you not so long ago I was a "keep up appearances" at church kinda person. Apparently not anymore. So, I'm in the middle of all these people walking to the front when it occurs to me that...

A. I don't know what we're doing and

B. everyone isn't going.

It was too late. What to do, what to do? "Um, Lord?" Total peace. Okay! (Good thing the peace arrived because my other options were none!)

Everyone kneels at the alter. It's a lot of people. I'm somewhere in the middle. I wanted so much to worry, but I just couldn't. No one was looking at me anyway and I honestly just didn't care. I realize by now on Wednesdays they offer a time of "Special prayers for those in need." As long as it's "In general" I definitely qualified! (and thank goodness it wasn't "Confess your biggest sin in this line" Wednesday! I have GOT to pay more attention!).

In spite of myself, my vision tunneled on God showing up in this moment. Sweet indescribable peace. Literally drowning in grace and mercy in that moment. The whole world faded away. The priest comes to me, in the middle, FIRST (Um, why??? I'm in the middle!). He prayed the most beautiful prayer over this life. I can't remember any of it, but I feel like I've lived it out the rest of the week. I know it wasn't a magical prayer, but it was a fairly eternal moment.

I'm not one who gets all wrapped up in experience, but the bottom line is the peace at that alter now several months later-hasn't left. It's weird. And it's wonderful. And I'm so thankful. More than I realized, I must have needed that special God touch. That gentle reminder, "I'm here. I care."

And I had to laugh to myself last Wednesday when a lady sat down next to me and said, "Mind if I just do what you do?"

Not at all :)

Right From the Heart - A Book Review

I have a love/hate relationship with Daily Devotionals. For me they tend to be too much or all fluff. I was pleasantly surprised by Right From the Heart by Bryant Wright. The verse for the day is short and relevant enough to carry with me. The devotional itself is one page, concise, interesting and helpful. Conveniently sized at about 7x5 it's a go anywhere book. I love a hardcover devotional because it usually gets torn up by the end of a year. My only complaint is it really needs a ribbon bookmark. All daily use books should come standard with a bookmark in my opinion. Otherwise, I love it. I've already chosen it as my morning devotional to start again this January and read all year. It's a great book and would make a wonderful gift.

*For Thomas Nelson

Wrapped in Rain - A Book Review

I forgot how much I love the writing of Charles Martin until this book was re-released recently. I read a lot and don't always remember the details of every novel, but these are stories that stick with you. I was cleaning out some bookcases just last night and came across his other works, Down Where My Love Lives, Chasing Fireflies, and When Crickets Cry. I remembered how much I love the ways he tells a story.

I just finished Wrapped in Rain, A Novel of Coming Home.

"Tucker, I want to tell you a secret." Miss Ella curled my hand into a fist and showed it to me. "Life is a battle, but you can't fight it with your fists. You got to fight it with your heart."

It's a story of two brothers coming to peace with a tragic past in their own ways. It's the reminder that the impact we have on another can last long after we're gone. It's the conclusion that grace is always enough.

You'll want to turn the next page and you'll be sad there aren't more when you reach the last one.

*For Thomas Nelson

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sabbath September

In some little corner of my soul I want to be a contemplative. I want to enjoy centering prayer and meditation. I want to be quiet and still, connecting with the Divine in sacred moments of undeniable peace. And on occasion, I have. I can read the Bible all day long, but until God shows up and whispers, "I'm here," it's never enough for me. I find God in the ordinary continuously. I see His fingerprints in the sunrise, the sunset, and the seasons.

Spiritually speaking, this summer might as well have been winter. Rough, cold edges on a faith in transition threatened to plunge this soul into despair. It was an important season, but not one I'd like to walk through again any time soon. Prayers were hard to pray. In honest moments, through a veil of tears, my soul would whisper, "Where are You in this?" And faithfully God was there, "I'm here." No explanation, no apology, no deadline to the frustration, just, "I'm here."

And it was enough. He was enough.

September is my favorite month spiritually. It's as if the calendar page turns and peace descends for no other reason except it's September. I can breathe again. I can pray again. Regular, thankful prayers whispered to a God who is my everything. Hope has come in various ways-people, friendships, professional relationships and a church that is sacred space for me. And I'm thankful.

September feels like a long Sabbath for me, like a month of Sundays. I always let myself just "be" in these days. I let myself believe that where I am is where I need to be. I trust in Divine guidance and find permission to be still and know and wait willingly. I settle in with the questions, okay without answers. It's as close to contemplative as this life gets.

It's a month of prayer for me, connecting with a God who is always enough, redefining devotion, yoga, long walks in cooler weather, reading, quiet nights with tea and a blanket, long conversations, sleeping with the windows open and peace.

September, you have come with perfect timing and this life is glad you're here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stolen Plastic Numbers

True story. Monday, someone in Ohio, took my debit card number, made a card, and tried to use it. At Walgreens. Now, I'm no expert at theft, but Walgreens??? I'd take my stolen card to Tiffany's and the police can wrestle the little blue box out of my fingers, but that's just me.

Anyway, almost immediately I got a call from Bank of America. BoA usually makes me want to bash my head against a wall, but this time they were on top of their game. The phone call was not exactly my finest moment.

Me: "Hello."
BoA: "Are you in the town where you opened your debit card?"
Me: "Why?"
BoA: "Ma'am it's for security purposes. Your card has been compromised."
(insert FBI music from CSI running through my head)
Me-not paying attention: "What?"
BoA: "Are you in the town where you live, ma'am?"
Me: "Yes."
BoA: "Good. Did you use your debit card at a shoe store today?"
Me: Thinking- Hmmmmm.......Oh, those shoes are so cute! I can't wait to wear them this weekend!
BoA: "Ma'am?"
Me: "Yes, I did. I didn't like the sandals I was wearing."
BoA: "Just a yes or no will do."
Me: FINE. "Ok. Sorry." (Rolling eyes. This isn't fun anymore.)
BoA: (Suddenly talking 90-nothing) "Ok, ma'am your card number has been used illegally and your account is now shut down. Please throw your card away and a new one will be issued to you in about a week. Goodbye."

Me: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAIT a minute! I'm anti credit cards as in I don't have any. I have a checkbook. Somewhere. But, I can't remember the last time I used it. And my account forbids me from talking to an actual teller without a fee. I like it that way. I like the little machine thing.

Instantly I panicked. What if I needed food or gas or coffee or gum or water or or or or............I have money but I have no way to get to it! Finally I settled into the realization that I had a check I could cash and I would make it until next week without my card. WHEW!

Here's what I learned:
1. I'm not good at managing actual cash. It's dirty and I don't like it.
2. I like my whole life on one card.
3. Amazon will not send me my new yoga book and will send me an e-mail that my card has been reported stolen. Noted. I want my book! Cannot get it until new card arrives.
4. My phone bill also connected to that card will bounce back to me today as well as my car payment. Good times.
5. You sound like a complete liar telling companies, "My card was stolen. I have money. I swear." Might as well have just said, "I'm not payin it!"
6. I can't remember the last time I went into the store to pay for gas. Until today. And you still can, but people look at you weird.

Thank the LORD I loaded my Starbucks gold card last week. That's still safe. For now.

Blogs I Read

People always ask me what blogs I read so I'm taking the easy way out of a post today and letting you know. I've recently cut my blog reading list in half (and deleted a ton of facebook and twitter people) to clean up my social media life a little bit.

Blogs that aren't updated regularly usually don't last on my list.

Yoga Blogs:

Blogs/People of Faith:

Just for Fun:

I do check out other blogs occasionally, but these I go to all the time. And I love finding new blogs so if there are a few you can't live without - let me know!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Message from "God"

If I didn't find spirituality so fascinating, I'd be stuck in the mindset of how obnoxious it is. Everyone is right. My church is the only one going to Heaven. You can't do that. You should do this. Pray like this. Believe like this. That way is wrong. Blah, blah, blah. I could go on forever about that.

Currently on top of my spiritual frustration is a conversation I had a few weeks ago. I am not against taking advice. Well meaning people who can present their case without arguing are welcome in my circle any day of the week. And we don't have to agree. But, you have to be a grown up about the conversation. And head's up, if I'm going to take advice from you, you already know me well enough not to ask if you can. Enough said.

So, some well meaning lady approached me. I haven't seen her in probably six months. She does not have a pulse on what's going on in my life. She knows nothing of my Spiritual life. And she proceeds to say, "Oh, I'm glad I ran into you. God told me to tell you. . . . . ." And she insisted on telling me what is wrong with me in a harsh, judgemental tone.

Overflowing with grace that day (lucky her), I smiled and walked away. She could carry on with her life pretending to be the messenger of the Almighty if she wanted to, but that wasn't from God. And I would know.

Here's what grates my nerves:

1. Messages from "God" do not invite communication. By being God's messenger the other person can't give an opinion without allegedly arguing with God. Unfair.

2. God does not speak to me in harsh, condescending or judgemental ways. Knowing me better than I do, He knows that won't change things. I'm motivated by love and holiness and gentle discipline from the heart. This lady was pushing me down on the playground and calling me names. Immature.

3. And probably my favorite reason? I'm standing right here! If God has something to say to me I'm listening with the purest heart I have and ears to hear. I'm not saying I could be missing something. I'm just saying I'm not THAT out of touch that He would have to give the message to a virtual stranger to get my attention.

By contrast, someone I respect greatly called the other night. We had a conversation about some things that are working and some things that aren't. She said, "Do you think maybe God is asking you to let some things go?" That resonated with my spirit. That lined up with what God has already been dropping into this heart. That made SENSE!

God is always speaking in all kinds of ways surrounding this life. I'm grateful for His presence and direction. I'm happy when I know a message is from Him through someone else, and thankful for discernment in the times it isn't.