Mountains of faith rise from the valleys of failure. –Mart Dehann
Don’t hate your failures, learn from them.
This looks good on paper, but let’s face it, most of us hate failure. I know I do. I’m pretty tolerant of other people’s failure…it’s mine that I despise.
Failure is embarrassing, and what if people laugh at me…it’s happened before, and will probably happen again.
I guess that’s why it’s good to learn to laugh at ourselves. I’ve found laughter helps to ease the pain…and it lightens the mood of an awkward situation.
I like what’s written in Romans,
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, [failures] for we know that they are good for us–they help us to learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation…”
Now, I don’t believe God expects us to turn cartwheels over our failure, and he certainly understands our disappointment when we fail. It is for this reason–his understanding–that he seeks to encourage us in the midst of failure. God doesn’t kick us when we are down. He is our loving Father who picks us up when we fall, applies ointment to our skinned knees, pats us on the back, and whispers,
“…it’s okay my child…just keep keeping on…We’ve got this…”
Lately, I’ve been feeling God wooing me from my comfort zones, and it’s scaring me to death. I’m afraid I may goof up, look like an idiot, or a babbling fool.
And to that, it seems God is saying…
“You’re right, those things may happen…but so what…”
Looking at failure from that perspective takes away the pressure for perfection. It’s as if God is giving me permission to fail!
And…you know what? It feels good deep in my soul.
“God, I’m scared to death of what you are calling me to do, but I’m going to do it anyway; and if I fall flat on my face…I know it’ll be okay.”
I’m sure I have, but at the moment, nothing comes to mind. Perhaps, even if I could, I wouldn’t share as “eating your words” is considered quite distasteful.
Often, the words we have to eat are bitter.
I believe the words we say never disappear. They linger and take their abode within the minds of those who hear.
I remember the day, Corinne and I left Josh, our son, at West Point. As a new cadet, he was about to enter basic training, or “BEAST BARRACKS” as it is referred to at West Point. Beast Barracks is a 7-week program designed to transform young men and women into cadets worthy enough to be sanctioned Plebes, the lowest rank on campus.
My heart hurt at the thought of what he was about to face, and as most moms in this world, my imagination soared beyond the realms of reality. Sitting in the auditorium I heard an officer beckon the new cadets to come forward, and I knew this would be the last time I’d see Josh for what would seem an eternity. I looked at him and he looked at me, and I’ll never forget the words he said, “Write and write soon.” Tears ran down my face as I watched him walk away and disappear from sight.
I was able to write him immediately; however, it would be weeks before he would be allowed to write home. When those letters came, I couldn’t wait to open the envelope and devour the words on the page. The words were few because he rarely had a moment to spare during BEAST, so I hung on every word. His words were important to me. Finally, after seven weeks, we were allowed to go and visit him at West Point, and that is a moment, and a hug, I will never forget.
When we love someone, their words matter.
This was true of King David’s relationship with God. In the book of Psalms, he has this say about the words of God,
“They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.”
The more we fall in love with Jesus, the more we want to listen for his still small voice. They become a balm for our soul.
On the flip side…guess what?
Our words are just as important to God. He loves us so much, that our words matter, and he waits patiently to hear them.
Okay, I remember a time when I had to eat my nasty words…I even wrote a blog about it. Almost two years ago on election night, I colored the world of Facebook with a wide array of colorful expletives. As a result, there were consequences to bear. I was unfriended by friends and family. Those family members, to this day, ignore my Christmas cards, and of course, I get none from them. Words matter.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Would it be too premature if I said, “I’m enjoying Heaven on this Earth?”
Well, lets take a look-see…
So, first of all, my description of Heaven is anywhere I can commune with Jesus.
Yes, I know that one day this body will die, and my spirit will ascend into Heaven, and I realize Heaven to be a tangible…touchable place.
After all, Jesus said this about Heaven,
“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you…so that where I am you may be also.”
So, yes…physically I am far…FAR away from the physical Heaven. Even the Pharisees, of long ago, questioned Jesus about the whereabouts of Heaven, and He said,
“The kingdom of God does not come with observation;nor will they say,‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed,the kingdom of God iswithin you.”
Jesus proclaims that His kingdom abides within us!
There may be thousands, upon thousands of galaxies that separate me from Heaven, the place, but guess what? Nothing, absolutely nothing, separates me from Jesus or His Love! Even the Apostle Paul agrees with me on this one, for he writes in Romans,
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So, who freaking cares how many galaxies exist between me and Heaven! It doesn’t matter because God has already set up His Kingdom within my heart! Jesus lives within me, and He wants to live in you too!
Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
As a tiny girl, often, my mom and I, prayed the prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.” I was always comforted by this bedtime ritual. As an adult, when I think on the memory, I find I am blessed just as much now, as I was then; perhaps even more. Thus was the inspiration for this poem.
“Mama, thank you for the foundations of strength you’ve given me. I am a better woman because of you.”
My morning devotional, that I try to consume every day with a cup of coffee, told me, “We can live by the truth of God’s word and not by the way we feel.”
I grew up with low self esteem. I never felt good enough. As a child, I didn’t understand this to be a lack of self worth, rather it was just “my normal.”
One of my earliest memories of this was when I was in kindergarten. A symphony came to visit our school. It was a beautiful day outside, so the group set up their instruments and played under the pine trees of our school yard. As a poor kid, living in a cotton mill town, I had never heard such beauty. Spellbound, I sat crossed legged in the pine straw, trembled, and thought, “This is too beautiful, and I’m not good enough…”
At five years old, this was my realty.
Forty some years later, my knee-jerk reaction is to fall back into that same crippling mentality.
I want to be a writer and I think…“I’m not good enough…”
I want to be an artist and I think… “I’m not good enough…”
I want to be a friend and I think… “I’m not good enough…”
I want to be accepted and I think… “I’m not good enough…”
…and the list goes on and on…
Now, that I’m older, I realize I can rise above these feelings, …but sometimes…sometimes…I…. well, sometimes I just don’t…
So, it’s always refreshing when I read or hear words of encouragement. They become a balm, soothing and healing my soul as they are applied.
Eagerly, I hold fast to what God says about me. I eat it all the day long. I breathe into my being. I long for it to become my reality.
What does God say about me?
You are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)
Whatever God says about me, He also says about you.
Sometimes I shiver with the thought of getting old. This shiver, like a wave of panic, reminds me: Time marches on and stops for no one. Logically, I knew this all along; however, now that I’m over fifty, it’s beginning to really sink in. It’s quite the paradox, for as I gaze into the mirror, I see a body consistently aging, but my soul seems to remain young. I ask myself, how can this be? When did my body catch up and pass my soul? My body descends into frailty, but my soul remains a kid of yesteryear.
I have come to the conclusion, that the soul never ages. Bear in mind, I have no scientific proof to backup this theory; it is just that…a theory…or simply put, reflections from my redhead. I hold to this logic because, as I said before, my body is beginning to feel its age-parts of me hurt that I never knew I had; and, all the while, as this daily decline marches on, my soul, on the other hand, desires to frolic like a freckle-faced kid running barefoot, and climbing trees. Could this mean, I’m still a kid at heart? I’m not sure, but this I know: The melody of my soul, still plays an energetic tune.
I further, believe it possible, that at the moment our soul entered our body, whether in the womb or upon birth, it came to us fully whole and fully competent. The soul, the essence of us, came to us “ready to roll,” and was only limited by our lack of cognitive development.
In theory (mine of course), as our mind matured, we became aware of our soul, and this awareness, was the key, that unlocked the knowledge and power held within. Our “soul power” has always been inside, waiting patiently to be released. The more we tap into its power, through thought, prayers or meditation, the more spiritual we become. And so, this continues, until we reach a point in our life, where our soul grows stronger, as our bodies grow weaker. I think this true, regardless of one’s religion or lack thereof. It’s a matter of tapping into the soul and everyone has a soul.
Often, when I think about getting old, I liken it to a bird, captured within her cage. My soul, of course, is the bird, and my aging body, the cage. Like the bird, I presume, the soul will be agile, still yearning to play; but my body will be too tired-too old-to satisfy her cravings.
I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s words, from her poem Caged Bird:
“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.”
And so, when I’ve come to the end, as stand upon my own “grave of dreams,” will my soul, like Maya’s caged bird, still sing and fly free upon the melodies of her song? I hope so.
As a Christian, I believe God lives in my soul. Many years ago, by faith, I invited Him into my soul, and I believe He put His Spirit inside. He promised He would, if only I’d ask, and I take Him at his word: “For His Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am the child of God.” (Romans 8:16)
And so, my hope is in God, and I know when I reach the valley of the shadow of death, God will be there, in my soul, so I will not have to face death, alone. And when, death has come, and my last breath expired, the cage door will open, and this soul of mine will fly away and into a beautiful place, that my God has prepared for me.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” Psalms 23:4
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2
God: Good morning, Lisa. How are you feeling today?
Me: Well, I’m on my second cup of coffee so I’m feeling better. I was a bit stressed at first.
God: Tell me about it.
Me: Well, Gracie woke me up at 3 am needing to pee…which is okay because I’d rather that than having to wash the pad in her crate. I’ve already had to do it twice this week and it’s only Wednesday! I let the girls out-Danica, Dolly, and Gracie-before 6 am and when it was time to go inside, Gracie saw me and shot off, like a bullet from a gun, in the opposite direction. She barks like a crab, chases the cats and chews the walls. Just thinking about it makes me want a third cup of coffee!
God: It’s true, all babies of any kind can be quite the handful.
Me: (smiling) I still love her, though…
God: Stress will come to you in many various forms. It can be annoying, challenging or out right debilitating. Meet it head on…whether it be large or small. Don’t deny its existence but acknowledge it. Naming the problem makes it manageable and solvable. And always…always talk to me about it, for I am interested in every facet of your life.
Me: Thank you, God. Sometimes it seems the silliest things get under my skin.
God: And such is life, my child. Bring it to me-silly or not-and I will help you refocus and then you will see it through My eyes. I will renew your mind and then you’ll be able to put things into proper perspective. Even when the outer man is tired the inner man can be on vacation.
Me: God, you never make me feel stupid…You always seem to understand…thank you for that…
God: I know what it’s like to be human. I left my throne, descended in the form of man and walked this earth for 33 years; so you can rest assured, Lisa, I do understand.
Me: Thank you, again Lord. I love you.
God: I love you too, Lisa.
Me: Yes, Lord?
God: Crabs don’t really bark. (God smiles and winks)
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… John 1:1,14
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16
Be renewed in the spirit of your mind… Ephesians 4:23
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
That is why we never give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.We have small troubles for a while now, but these troubles are helping us gain an eternal glory. That eternal glory is much greater than our troubles.So we think about what we cannot see, not what we see. What we see lasts only a short time, and what we cannot see will last forever. II Corinthians 4:16-18 (ERV)
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things. Philippians 4:8
Me: Lord, the cicadas sure have been loud this year.
God: Yes they have…and do you know why?
Me: No, Lord. Why?
God: Well, you see, in 1999, a brood of cicadas hatched and burrowed beneath the ground to feast upon root tissue. It took 17 years but finally they matured and this year the millions emerged from the ground to begin their mating cycle. It’s possible, and even likely, there to be a million of my little creatures per square acre; and with so many, it’s no wonder the Shenandoah Valley resounded loudly their serenade.
(God smiles and chuckles)
Me: Wow, God…that’s just amazing! I love how diverse your creatures are!
God: Yes, I do enjoy diversity.
Me: Gracie…she’s my little Golden Retriever puppy…
God: Yes, I know Gracie.
Me: Well, just yesterday she scampered inside with something hanging out of her mouth. After close inspection I realized it was a cicada bug. I tried coaxing it from her but was only successful with the top half of its little body. Gracie ate the other half. Then she sat on her haunches, looked at me as if to say, “Okay mama, fork it over!”
God: Such is the cycle of life, my child.
Me: Yes Lord, but it made me kind of sad…I’ve always liked cicadas, even as kid.
God: You sure did! I remember you, pigtails flying, scavenging the neighborhood for their exoskeletons. (God chuckles) I also seem to recall the time you found some sort of cocoon during the cold of winter. Not knowing what it was you stuffed in your coat pocket and kept playing.
Me: Yes! I remember that! I played outside for as long as I could stand the cold and then went inside to warm myself by our wood-burning heater. I laid my cocoon treasure on the bookshelf beside the heater and went into the kitchen to make a sandwich. Later I went back to get my cocoon and found the bookcase crawling with hundreds of baby praying mantises!
(I pause…lost in the nostalgia)
You know, Lord…I really do like the way you created the praying mantis. They look wise and somehow…kind of… ancient.
God: Yes, they are amazing creatures as is all life. Life is precious…very precious…for it is a gift only I can give. So go out today and enjoy my world …celebrate life…all life!
Me: I will Lord. I will be mindful of your people and all of your creatures.
Me: Yes, Lord?
God: Remember, the way to celebrate life is to be kind to life.
Me: Yes, Lord
He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches.
He waters the hills from His upper chambers; The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the service of man, That he may bring forth food from the earth, And wine that makes glad the heart of man, Oil to make his face shine, And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
The trees of the Lord are full of sap, The cedars of Lebanon which He planted, Where the birds make their nests; The stork has her home in the fir trees. The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.
He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night, In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God.
When the sun rises, they gather together And lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to his work And to his labor until the evening.
O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions— This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great.
There the ships sail about; There is that Leviathan Which You have made to play there.
These all wait for You, That You may give them their food in due season.
What You give them they gather in; You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever; May the Lord rejoice in His works.
He looks on the earth, and it trembles; He touches the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the Lord.
May sinners be consumed from the earth, And the wicked be no more.
Me: This world scares me. I feel as if I’m waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
God: Come away from the world for a few moments and listen to my word.
Me: Okay, Lord.
God: Walk with me in our garden …our secret garden, meant only for you and me. None of the happenings of this world can enter unless you open the gate.
Me: Open the gate? How, Lord?
God: By your thoughts, my child. Be careful what you let your mind dwell upon, for sure enough, when you are unaware, the seeds of those thoughts will enter our garden. Our garden is so rich and fertile the seeds will take root and grow wherever they fall. Then the weeds of the world will, slowly but surely, overtake our garden of peace.
Me: No, my Lord…I don’t think I could live without spending time alone with you in our garden.
God: It’s up to you my child, for you are the caretaker of our garden. So be diligent to recognize the fear, pull it from our garden and give it to me.
Me: Lord, sometimes there is so much fear, I’m overwhelmed, and don’t know where to begin.
God: That’s exactly the way fear wants you to feel. Keeping you overwhelmed is its strategy. Fear knows if it can keep you busy with worry, you’ll least likely pull it from its roots. Fear left to itself will grow until you think I’m no longer here or even worse that I no longer love you.
Me: Yes, Lord…fear has done that to me. I remember many times when fear surrounded me, hemming me in…so much so, all I could see was fear itself.
God: Vision and where you place it is the key. Without the right kind of vision you will perish. Rest your eyes upon Me and My perfect love because love casts out fear.
Me: Thank you Lord for loving me.
God: It is my delight to love you. Be filled with My love and spread it everywhere, even unto the ends of the earth. Keep spreading My love until it overtakes and devours hate. Know this, my child, love always trumps hate, so receive my love…give my love…and repeat.
God: And Lisa…
Me: Yes Lord?
God: I’m always in the garden…come walk with me often.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear… I John 4:18
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you…(Psalm 63:1)
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day… (Genesis 3:8)