How to be an Obnoxious Parent

I wrote this post five years ago and it feels like it needs to be updated.  Because maybe you don’t know how awesome my kids are now in 2015?

Random person-“Wow, your baby is really smart (pretty, adorable…amazing)!”

Me-“I know, right?”

Am I really that obnoxious parent who unashamedly brags on her kids?

Yep. I am. I can’t stop myself. I hear the words slipping out and I want to grab them back, whip out my lasso and coral them in, but it’s too late. Once again, I have over-shared regarding my kid’s total awesomeness.

(2010) Have I told you about Kyle?  We call him six-pack in training, our movie-star handsome, 4.0 GPA, nationally ranked football player, stud pitcher, kindergarten volunteering, gentle, loving, Godly, ridiculously humorous almost thirteen year old son?

lu7a0170Five years later…

(2015) Kyle is a 17 yr old senior in high school at J Serra.  He still loves football–although he is now a linebacker, fullback and tight end, instead of a center. He is in the process of getting recruited for college ball–more on that to come soon. He is a captain of his football team, still movie-star handsome, a good student, not playing baseball now and thinking of playing a little lacrosse in the spring?  He has no girlfriend (heck yeah!), is still soooo funny, even-tempered, hard-working, and is a county music, Jesus loving boy.  He’s building houses in Peru next spring, driving our old gas guzzling Ford truck around, and enjoying every minute of his friends and youth. Strangely enough, he is now violently allergic to his favorite food–sushi?  Suckaroo!  Kyle loves the beach, working out and snowboarding. If he’s not at football practice he is usually hanging out somewhere with Brad and Kelly.

(2010) What about my little beauty Faith? Let me tell you about my sweetheart girl who dances like a fairy, cheers like a maniac, is smart, fun-loving, a talented actress(recently starred in Peter Pan as the Indian Grizzly Bear), is a great big-sis, and leads worship with gusto? Did I mention she is shooting a spec commercial for the Vizio tablet this weekend?

(2015)  Faith is a freshman at J Serra and joins the Lions with her brother.  She is a JV cheerleader and is on the yearbook staff.  She is artistic, fashion-minded and dedicated.  She works hard in the classroom and wants to pursue photography as a career. Faith loves Campus Ministry–mainly because the worship director is “so beautiful mom,” which I totally get, because I think pastor’s are hot too!  Faith’s personality is mostly sunshine with a few storm clouds thrown in for good measure.  She is extroverted to the extreme and so beautiful, inside and out.

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(2010) How about the Kolbster?  Baby Kolby is so freaking cute! She is months beyond her year, crazy clever, reads letters, knows every animal sound (including “hop” for bunny because I don’t know what the heck the bunny says), has killer hair, and talks incessantly about her big brother.

I just love Duck Chili mommy!

(2015)  Yep, Kolby still has killer hair.  I think we are all a little jealous.  Kolby is in kindergarten now–a real big girl–and the joy of our lives. She is clever and silly and smart as a whip.  Kolby plays soccer, does ballet and cheerleading, and is a part of a Daisy Troop.  She still loves her bro Kyle but talks about other boys now too (gasp!) On any given afternoon she rolls with the Claymont Street girls gang of blond beauties. She loves to color, play with Shopkins, read books with mama and play Barbies.  Kisses from Kolby are magical and her snuggles have true healing power.
KolbyK_selects_017I know. I know. Someone stop me from bragging. I have diarrhea of the pompous mouth when it comes to my munchkins. But, I’m guessing most parents feel thisway. They love their kids so, so, so much, they simply can’t help themselves.

But in my defense, even God brags on his boy a bit. “Have you seen my son Job?” he tells Lucifer. “He’s a total stud, blameless, upright and courageous.” (Slightly modified by Sam from Job 1:8)

Sounds like some swagger wagon to me…

So maybe my crazy love for my kids is annoying, boastful, and even bombastic.

But maybe it’s also… sort of a God thing.

When did Naked go out of Style?

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A few months ago as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I noticed an article on the role of sexual power and male/female demographics.  Since Tim and I write on this stuff, I clicked.

Two seconds later I realized I had been redirected to the Playboy website.  With cheeks flaming red, I furtively glanced around, hoping no one at Starbucks noticed where I had landed and then inhaled the info at high-speed so I could exit the site incognito.  In truth, the article was a well-written piece but Playboy is not my usual stomping ground.

A few days later, my husband mentions to me that he accidentally clicked on a link off Facebook and it went to Playboy.  He fessed up early because he knows I get an e-mail once a week with his browsing history.

How awesome is my husband?

So why do I get this  e-mail, you ask? Am I one of those freaky paranoid wives hiding in the corners and spying on her man?

Uh…no.  Although that would make for a good story.

Tim asked me to be his online accountability partner a while back and I am notified once a week if there is any questionable activity.  My husband initiated this self-audit–not moi.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never have anything to razz him about.

So when he mentions Playboy, I know I can mess with a little.

Husband: “Oh, uh, yeah…so there was this really cool article on Facebook and I clicked and I didn’t know it was on Playboy and…”

Me: “Yeah right, you just clicked on Playboy for the articles?”

Husband: “Yes, I mean, I know it sounds bad, but it was so innocent and I totally freaked out immediately.”

Me: Now dying laughing at his awkward attempts to explain this.  I poke a bit more and then fess up.

Me: “Hey babe, I read the same article.  I know you are telling the truth.”

And he breathes a big sigh of relief and then comes over to tickle me for busting his chops.

………..

When I saw the breaking news on Tuesday that Playboy will no longer post nude pictures it got my attention.  I guess it’s okay to read Playboy at work now.  Men for the first time ever CAN  truthfully claim they read it for the articles.

Playboy explained the drastic move away from their lusty roots citing that nudity is now “passe.” They will instead focus on writing and increasing their readership based on different parameters.  Because of the internet and easy access to porn, the “felt need” for nudity or what some would call “soft porn” has disappeared.  Apparently, twelve-year-old boys could care less about sneaking dad’s mag now since their iPhone is easier to take into the bathroom.

Wow.  It’s hard to believe nudity is so overdone now that iconic brands birthed on a provocative paradigm have transitioned to a less is more slant.  When Abercrombie and Playboy drop the sexy, it’s clear the titillation of a naked body is that of a bygone age.

Call me old school, but I want naked to mean something.

I want to get hot and bothered by my naked man.  (Just to be clear, I’m talking about my husband here folks)  I don’t want to live in the land of rampant sexual inundation where naked is the new norm.  Have we become “so numbed out by porn” that Playboy isn’t sexy anymore?

Am I the only one who wants to struggle a little bit at the mall as I walk by Abercrombie when the half-naked ripped young man  is at the front door.  I want to have the freedom to choose to avoid the men’s underwear aisle because I find toned abs attractive and every package sports a six pack.

I’m the girl who didn’t see Magic Mike, not because I’m not tempted, but because I choose to honor my husband.  But darn it I want the freedom to choose right from wrong.  I don’t want to just assume our culture is perverse and stop caring.

I want NAKED to mean something.

It allows me to FEEL something called temptation. It means I get to choose to stay or walk away from enticement.

I’m bummed that sex on Tinder is given out so freely that it’s lost its sacredness.

Way too many young people are now so jaded that sex is like flossing. “It’s just sex”, they say.

But it’s not just sex and it’s not just naked.

Naked is beautiful and sex is a gift.  Our good God created them.  They are not passe.

This may sound bizarre, because I’m not supporting naked men’s mags, but I grieve the fact that we are so far gone on porn that a gorgeous naked centerfold doesn’t cause teenage boys to go bat-poop crazy anymore.

I heard a Playboy rep say, “The twelve-year-old me is sad at this move.”

Well buddy, the 43-year-old me is sad too, because in our overly saturated sex culture, naked isn’t very naked anymore.

–Samantha

 

 

How do I explain this Crazy to my Kids??

My friend is at the airport on her way to Hawaii.  Her family is pumped because they are heading to the Disney Island Resort of Mickey awesomeness.

But, six hours is a long time with three kids on a plane, so she herds her adorable brood of blond tots to the potty for one last go.

And this is what she encounters…

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Text from Friend: “How do I explain this to my kids?”

I won’t treat you to the text I wrote back because it’s politically incorrect.

But I will say this.  Be very careful near airports!

There are apparently uniboob half-skirted creatures walking around with surly expressions and no one can stop them from making weird faces and peeing in this airport bathroom because the government says you can pick your gender and expression.

I must confess some confusion over the peeing part.  If you are a dude and you get a sex change, do you lose or keep the unit?  Some do and some don’t right?

(In all honesty, my parent’s wouldn’t let me see the “Crying Game” which I’m sure would have explained some of this.

Do they have fake vajayjay’s?  And how do the doctors re-pipe?  Anatomy didn’t cover this and I’m afraid to Google it on my work computer.  It’s like Jr. High again.  I laughed with all the other kids about the “69” graffiti on the wall but I didn’t actually know what it meant until college.

So how do mommies and daddies explain trans-gender to the kids when we are clueless too?

I know there are a few TV shows on the Family Channel now to help us make sense of our changing culture–“I am Cait” and “Help..my dad is turning into a woman.”  But, strangely enough, I haven’t found compelled to watch.

So, here’s what I’m telling my kids.

Mommy doesn’t personally understand the motives to move towards trans-gender, but she does understand brokenness and its ramifications.  She know sadness and loneliness and the extreme measures people will go to find the elusive happiness that eludes them.

Your purpose and meaning go far beyond your sexuality.  Your identity is not in your maleness or femaleness or even in ambiguity.

Your identity is in Christ alone.  But  culture is sending a very different message to you.

The world says we can choose our identity by choosing our gender.  Mommy disagrees.  

Male and female God created them.  In God’s image.  We are all a reflection of our creator.

Our identity is in CHRIST ALONE.

I believe Trans-gender is throwing us all for a loop but it doesn’t have too.

It’s pretty simple.  Our job is to love God and love our neighbor.  And yes, that means the trans-gender neighbor-even if it’s awkward and confusing.

The truth is we are all in some type of bondage to the lies of culture.  Some of us just wear the chains on the outside and it’s more obvious.  I too have bought into the lies of sex, beauty and materialism equaling my worth.  Only a belief in something bigger can deliver us.

Trans-gender is complicated and messy and its’ really hard to explain to kids. But it’s a conversation we all need to initiate because it’s not going away. 

I hope you wrestle with this dialogue too.  Let me know what you think and how you are explaining it.

 

–Samantha

And please, I’m cool if you disagree but keep it clean. Only grown-up comments please.

 

 

 

 

Ooops…I lost my Tolerant Bumper Sticker

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I haven’t posted much this summer.  I’ve been writing up a storm, but not much has made it past putting down the words.  I keep asking myself why?

Why am I gun-shy?  What’s going on my heart?

After a summer of crazy headlines causing massive polarization in our country, I think I feel a little worn out, frazzled and defeated.

Is anyone with me?

Every day it’s a cacophony of doom and outrage–rainbow flags and Confederate flags, the Charleston Shooting, the warning of impending annihilation to Seattle from a catastrophic earthquake and tidal wave, the Greek banking failure, baby-parts for sale and Iran nuclear deals…and on and on it goes.  Benghazi and terrorism, ISIS and missing airplanes.

More BAD news.

But even worse is having an opinion about the BAD NEWS.

And as a writer it makes me SAD.  I’m grieving.

We are losing the fundamental freedom to express ourselves as extremest minority voices amp up their scare tactics to wipe out ANY voice of dissension.

How dare I disagree with anyone these days because I will be immediately labeled a bigot, a dumb-ass, a racist, anti-Mexican, intolerant, a religious fanatic, old-fashioned, pro-life and a million other slanderous titles.

Since when did everything become so black and white?

Is it possible to love people–all people–gay and straight and different colors AND the un-born?  I think so.

Is it possible to support the tax-paying people of America, the soldiers who fight for our freedom so we can whine like babies on safe soil and the police officers who risks their life on a daily basis without getting slammed?

Why do we need someone as brash as Donald Trump to speak up regarding border protection and scream in frustration because our economy is dangling on a precipice of debt and a falsely inflated dollar?

Why?  I believe it’s fear.

I don’t agree with everything the Donald says(and I sure hope he doesn’t go independent), but at least he has the balls (or enough money) to not care about the aftermath.  At least he’s speaking up about the things many of us are afraid to articulate.

I have never been a conspiracy theorist but it feels like something is about ready to blow…

…and I think it might be us–we, the American people.

I’m a student of history.  While many of you studied business and engineering in school, I buried myself in dusty books of the past.  And while I’m no Nostradamus, the signs are clear–our country has peaked.  We are on the downward slope.  It’s the classic rise and fall of an empire.

The more rights we give (without a moral compass) the more rights we lose. (see Andy Stanley video below)   And sadly, freedom of expression is only allowed if you are TOLERANT.

If you don’t have the TOLERANT bumper sticker, you can’t play the game anymore.

I don’t feel safe to disagree without getting blasted and my web site hacked to kingdom come.  I have spoken out against pornography in the past and how it negatively effects relationships.  Every single day I get hate mail.  My firewall has a firewall to protect it from attackers.

Here is where my so-called radical tendencies lie:  I don’t believe porn is art.  (OOOHHH crazy stuff, I know)  I’ve seen first-hand how the industry chews up women and spits them out.  I abhor the sex-trafficking trade and the violation of women.  I celebrate women who keep their babies and choose not to abort. I volunteer with single teenage moms and speak up for the downtrodden.   I believe the church should step in and care for the widows and the orphans, not the government.  I might even be a rather liberal Christian. No one’s ever accused me of being pharasitical or legalistic.

I’m not politically conservative.  Let’s all digest that for a moment.  When the moderate feels under attack it’s a big red flag that our so-called democratic system is about to implode!

Truthfully, I think I’m numb. 

My cousin-a police officer in California-has to pack a meal or come home to eat on duty because people at restaurants will put stuff in his food.  Huh?

What is this craziness?  We poison the people who are supposed to protect us?  And we aren’t supposed to stick up for cops for fear of being politically incorrect in our “anti-cop” trending culture?

The real persecution is going on right under our noses.  The more we revere celebrity and the socially “loud” the more we drown out the still small voices of our communal integrity.  It’s a subtle censorship based on our fears of being labeled Intolerant.

Today, I’m speaking out against the loss of something I love–my right to feel safe to write whatever I want.  Big Brother has arrived cloaked in social media frenzies, Twitter wars, and catch-phrases taken out of context to destroy people’s character and business.

And I am sad…

Any thoughts?  Join in on the conversation!

Letting God out of the Box

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Why do I limit God? 

My husband and I sit in a café and discuss buying a car.

Tim is the type of guy who becomes an expert on something before he pulls the trigger.  So by this point, he can now tell me the make, model and location of every top-rated used car under 10k in the OC area.

We’ve narrowed it down to two options—one is new and one is used.  The new car is a 2015 Hyundai Elantra and it’s AWESOME and has all the bells and whistles we “po’ ministry folk” are unaccustomed to.  It’s a deal beyond a deal but it’s also out of our budget.

The used car is well, ummm…used.  It has great gas mileage and it’s a 2006 Prius and more fiscally responsible—meaning we can afford it. it’s also good for the environment—right?

(did I mention the new car has a back-up camera, so cool!)

“What would our friend’s do?” My husband Tim asks.

“”Well we can’t compare ourselves to our neighbors because we make about a third of their incomes.”  I reply.

“Ok, who do we compare ourselves to then?” Tim responds.

“We compare ourselves to the Ramsay’s.  John is a pastor.  Deanna is a singer/speaker and works part time.  That’s an appropriate comparison.”

Tim looks at me wide eyed.  “Yeah, but Deanna won a car on the Ellen Show.”

I nod.  “Yeah, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen to us.”

We hold hands.  Our tummies churn and we contemplate our finances.

……

This whole car business started because of a few numbers.

  1. 366,000

A big number, certainly, It’s also the amount of miles shared between our two aging but faithful SUV’s.

  1. 16 ½

That’s how many years my son has been alive.  Not so big—but a big kid milestone.  In two short weeks, my almost senior boy/man gets his license and like any teenage boy, Kyle is ready to roll

So we start a search for an another automobile that get’s more than the whopping 12 mpg of our 2004 Expedition or the 15 mpg of my newer 2006 Xterra.

The budget is limited.  We have some money saved—enough for another really crappy car—but we also have mounting expenses from Tim’s hospital bills (spine injury and subsequent surgery), three kids this year in private school and college looming. Truthfully, it’s a tad overwhelming.

Tim finds some cars online and we debate each one’s merits like it’s a resolution in the UN.

Tim’s sweet father, upon hearing our car predicament, offers us a large chunk of change.  We are thrilled and so blessed to be cared for so lavishly!

Now we had enough to get a NEWER used car.  (And yes, for all those wondering, we could have financed a newer car but are committed to keeping our overhead low rather than raising it)

Through the car ministry at our church we are put in touch with the owner of the Hyundai dealership in Tustin.   After a great phone conversation, he invites us to his dealership and we test drive a used Elantra and with a little prompting from the salesman a new one.

(ok, it’s not like he had to push real hard)

With the tremendous discount the owner of the dealership offers us (did I mention he is a generous volunteer at our main campus?), the new car is only 3 thousand more than the used car, but still, 6 thousand more than our budget.  They are going above and beyond to bless us.  The discount is even more than employees get.

Now what do we do? Do we justify spending more because it’s a great deal?

We go and sit in the 2015 model and pray, lifting this car dealio up to God. The people in the dealership probably think we are Jesus dorks—whatever.  We close our eyes, hold hands and talk to God.  We surrender up the decision and go to lunch.

…………..

Back at the cafe we make the painful choice to let the shiny new car go.  It stings a little because it’s SO AWESOME, but we probably shouldn’t have been shopping in the lot we couldn’t afford to begin with.

I leave the restaurant and call my step-dad.  He asks what I was doing at the dealership.  I tell him about the two cars and how we have decided to stay within our budget, honor our financial goals to lower our overhead, and be responsible with the precious gift Tim’s father has given us.

“Why, don’t I give you the money?  Six thousand–I’ll just give it to you.” My step-dad offers happily.

Silent tears stream down my face.  “I wasn’t asking for money.”

“I know honey, he replies.  “I love you.  It’s a gift.”

And I think back to my own words.  “That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to us,” And like Peter I am blown away at my doubts and God’s provision.

The next day we return to the dealership and climb in the new car before we write the check to take it home.  As the ignition fires up a song blasts through the car.

God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping
God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
You are everything

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
Be my everything

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

Christ in me, Christ in me
Christ in me, the hope of glory
You are everything

You are everything, You are everything
You are everything, You are everything
Jesus, everything, Jesus, everything
Jesus, everything, Jesus everything

We look at each other in amazement.  “You think God is trying to tell us something,” I weakly laugh swiping away at the tears running down my cheeks.

Back inside the dealership, Tim asks the salesman, “Did you turn it to a Christian station because you know I’m a pastor?”

The salesman replies, “No, generally the boys in the back play the thump-thump music when they get the cars ready.”

We give each other the look—the “OMG, I’m freaking out inside look.”

I call my step-dad on the way home and tell him the story.

“I’m a part of an answered prayer?” he says.

“Yep, you are.” I whisper.

“Huh.”

I can picture his bemused grin over the phone.

Later I thank God in my prayers.

And I think about the love of a father—Tim’s father who blessed us, my step-dad who surprised us so generously, and our Father God who blew us away with this gift.

We didn’t ask.  We didn’t beg.  We aren’t worthier than any other person out there.  But God through our parents gifted us anyway.

Everything.  He is my Everything.

One day later we sit in church and the last song of the service sounds familiar.

God in my living, there in my breathing
God in my waking, God in my sleeping
God in my resting, there in my working
God in my thinking, God in my speaking

Coincidence?—I don’t think so…

–Samantha

The Day I Met Jesus–Why it’s a Must Read

The day I Met

A few years ago I had the privilege of meeting the author Mary DeMuth at a writers conference.  I confess I was a bit nervous–I mean, she’s kind of a big deal in the Christian world.

I was already a fan–her books are beautiful and raw, with words woven together like tapestry–but Mary put me right at ease with her humble and loving spirit.

Fast forward to now: A few weeks ago, Mary sent me a copy of her latest book co-authored with Frank Viola–The Day I Met Jesus.  It’s the stories of five women from the Bible turned into narrative.

And don’t we all love a good story?

The book came at a time when my own family has been clinging to our faith and crying out for Jesus in a tumultuous and stormy season.  My husband’s back injury, nerve damage and subsequent spine surgery have been challenging, to say the least.  I’m not complaining, OK, maybe a little…but it’s been really, really hard over here. (Tear, tear, hiccup…tear)

And I have been on my knees clinging to hope.  Reading these stories resonated in my own parallel struggles.  In the dark moments, I too, am the broken woman waiting for the stones to be thrown and looking to Christ for mercy.

(Not adulterous…just broken)

But I think we can all find ourselves in these women.

Until March 17th Mary and Frank are giving away 7 bonuses to those who purchase the book from Parable.com and I wanted to share this with you because I love it and I’m guessing you will too!

I’ve included their interview here if you want to learn more about the book.

–Samantha  (And please keep up the prayers.  We deeply appreciate all your support!  Tim has a long way to go in recovery.  We are praying for full restoration of the nerves in his leg)

Interview with Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth on The Day I Met Jesus
Why did you write this book?

Frank: Back in 2007, I got an idea to create a new genre of Christian literature. I call that genre biblical narrative. The new genre would contain autobiographical fiction closely based on the Scriptural narratives and faithful to first-century history. It would also contain a nonfiction section that practically applies the narratives to our lives. Finally, it would include a discussion guide so that readers could better digest and apply the content to their lives.  It was my first book in this genre. In it, Lazarus tells the story of when Jesus came to His hometown Bethany and all the amazing things that took place there.  It is the second book in this genre.

I wanted it to tell the story of five women whom Jesus encountered, allowing each woman tell their own story. I also wanted to draw out practical lessons and critical insights from each narrative. Because I am not a woman, I couldn’t do justice to the stories on my own, so I asked the top female Christian fiction writer of our time — Mary DeMuth — to coauthor it with me.

Mary: I wrote it because I love stories, and I felt that some of these encounters with Jesus didn’t get the air time they deserved. By doing careful research and weaving more of a story arc into the five women and encounter, I hope to show people that the characters of the New Testament are actual, breathing people with stress and dysfunction and hopes just like us. Frank pioneered the idea of this book, so all credit goes to him for imagining it. I’m grateful he asked me to be a part.

Tell the story of how you two came to coauthor it.

Mary: Frank approached me about writing the fiction side of The Day I Met Jesus after he found out I wrote fiction as well as nonfiction.

Frank: When I began to think about a female coauthor for the project, I wanted it to be someone who (1) writes fiction (2) is a remarkable writer, and (3) believes in the classic tenets of the Christian faith (Jesus is divine and human, He rose again from the dead, Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world, etc.) As I investigated authors who fit the bill, I quickly thought of folks like Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury. But then I discovered that Mary DeMuth wrote fiction. I had known that she was a non-fiction writer, but had no idea that she could “switch hit.”

I also discovered that she was an outstanding writer of fiction as she was of nonfiction. (I regard Mary to be the Mickey Mantle of Christian literature — she has enormous power from both sides!) So Mary ended up being the only name on my “short list.” You feature five women from the Gospels. Why pick women in particular as your subjects?

Frank: Some of the most gripping, instructive, inspiring stories in the Gospels involve women. The longest recorded conversation that Jesus ever had was with a woman. And some of the most amazing things He said and did related to women. So I thought that a book in which some of these women told their own stories about Jesus would not only bring the Gospels to life in our minds, but it would also bring Jesus alive in our hearts.

Mary: Women had significant, personal encounters with Jesus, a fact that we sometimes miss, particularly since so many stories revolve around the 12 disciples(who were men). I love that we’re elevating these stories, helping people re-imagine just how radical it was that Jesus so beautifully interacted with these women.

Which one is your favorite and why?

Mary: For me, it’s hard to say. I love them all in different ways. This week, I’ll say it’s Mary of Bethany. She didn’t have a blatant “need” for Jesus. She was just downright faithful and often misunderstood. I think a lot of people can relate to that.

Frank: Mary of Bethany is my all-time favorite disciple of Jesus. This came home to me when I wrote God’s Favorite Place on Earth. (Mary was the sister of Lazarus, so she gets ample airtime in that book.)I love Mary because she knew Jesus better than most, anticipating His reactions and even His impending death. She also paid the price for loving Him, for she was falsely accused by both her sister and the other disciples (on two different occasions), mostly out of jealousy. In both situations, Mary embraced the spirit of the Lamb, refusing to defend herself. But Jesus Himself rose to her defense on both occasions. He also gave her an enduring honor that He gave no one else. would someone want to read the book?

Frank: If someone wants a good story to get tied up into . . . or if they want to see the Bible come to life in a compelling way . . . or if they want to experience Jesus Christ anew and afresh . . . or if they want to identify with people who were far worse off than they are, and see what Jesus did for them . . . or if they want to be given hope and encouragement in their situation . . . or if they are lacking love for the Lord and want that love to be rekindled . . . or if they want new motivation and fresh inspiration to follow Jesus more closely . . . or if they want to increase their faith and expectation in the Lord, they’ll want to read The Day I Met Jesus.

Mary: Someone would want to read it because it’s truly unique. It’s biblical narrative, but in short story form, but it doesn’t end there. After you’ve been absorbed into a page-turning story, Frank exegetes the wisdom from each encounter and helps you apply it to your life.ll us about the course upplements the book.

Frank: The Day I Met Jesus Master Course is designed for those who wish to delve deeper into the themes set forth in the book. It includes a workbook and 20 audio messages delivered by Mary and I. In addition, it includes 8 bonus eBooks from Mary and I. It also includes a closed forum where people can access us both directly for Q&A and dialogue. People can check it out at The Day I Met Jesus.Parable.com.

Frank: They’ll get these 7 exclusive bonuses. 1. An exclusive audio interview where Mary and I give a behind-the-scenes look at all the facets of the book. The interview covers where the idea of the book came from, why we wrote the book, what it was like collaborating, the hardest part about writing it, and much more. 2. Mary’s Book Beautiful Battle in Kindle & Nook. 2. Mary’s Book Beautiful Battle in Kindle & Nook. 3. My Book, Rethinking Spiritual Growth in PDF, Kindle, and Nook. 4. A never-before-released audio conference message entitled “A Woman Inside of a Man.” 5. Mary’s Book What To Do After People Poop on You in PDF. 6. A never-before-released audio conference message entitled “He’s Not Ashamed to Call Them Brothers and Sisters.” 7. A 15% discount off The Day I Met Jesus Master Course. Click here to order The Day I Met Jesus from Parable before March 17th and get your 7 exclusive bonuses.

The One Thing You Need to Give Up For Lent

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What the Rhema?

They call it Rhema—those really bizarre tingles down your spine you get when you go to church and it’s like the pastor is speaking directly to you.

You look around, casually wiping the sweat from your brow and mildly freak out.  Seriously, did the dude read your journal?  Does everyone know this is your message?

No…they don’t.

But it’s a real thing—a God thing.

It’s Rhema.  When the spoken word of God penetrates into your soul and moves stuff around in you uncomfortably.

You get convicted.  Inspired.  Repentent,

Rhema.

And Rhema happened this week to me.

The sermon was on judgment and forgiveness.

Oh, wait my favorite topic. Not.

Un-forgive-ness

It coincides with an occurrence in my life where I’ve been asked to forgive something big–a debt incurred against me of a large magnitude.  

Did I say it was big?  Yeah.  BIG.

And I’m sorry I can’t be clearer.  I really hate it when people are vague, but to protect those I love, I’m asking for grace on this part.

Anyway, I alone can forgive this penalty.

Hot tears of sadness fell from my eyes when I was asked for mercy—because the truth is I want a little vengeance or at the very least control of the situation.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”  I thought.

Flashes of hurt washed over me.  I considered the fear, the uncertainty and the overwhelming burden I carried for years regarding this matter.

And a part of me revels in the fact that the consequence for this sin is too big to ever repay.

Too bad sucka… you messed with the wrong girl.

I sit in church on Sunday.  I’m not even at my church; I’m at a different one.  It’s like God is following me.

Forgiveness.  Judgement.  Hello Sam?

Na, na, na, na na…I can’t hear you Jesus.  Not listening.

And then God whispers, will you forgive this person like I forgive you?

More tears.

No God…it’s too much.

And then I think of MY too much.

How much I’ve been granted mercy.  Not once, not twice but seventy-times seven.

God promises to forgive my past, present and future sin.  I’m covered for the crummy stuff I will say tomorrow (which I inevitably will) and the hurt I will cause to others because I’m human and fantastically flawed.

What about my debt to God and others that is big to ever repay?

Letting Go

My husband shared a true story with me not too long ago about a guy he knows.

Let’s call him Todd—truthfully I don’t even remember his real name and Todd if I’ve jacked up your story, please forgive me.  It’s an analogy based on truth.  Don’t judge me buddy.

Todd was difficult at best.  He struggled to maintain relationships.  He had a harsh and brittle spirit, was generally demanding and rather unpleasant to be around.

Ever heard of that saying—hurt people hurt people?

Well, at some point, Todd got hurt and everyone else was going to pay for it.

Todd, like many of us, internalized his pain and unforgiveness and became a bitter hard shell of the person God created him to be.

One day Todd was struck down by a widow-maker heart attack.  For a short period of time Todd was clinically dead.

During the time of his non-responsiveness Todd recalls he was lifted up to heaven and then straight out of the pit of hell a chain came flying up and wrapped around his ankle pulling him down.  He heard a voice say, “You do not offer the forgiveness I’ve shared with you.” God identified individuals that he had not forgiven throughout his life.

And Todd cried and begged for a second chance.

Todd woke up from his unconscious state after a quadruple bypass surgery and turned his life into a radical testimony of grace and forgiveness.  He went to each person and exacted forgiveness to each one, releasing his bitterness. My husband says his personality is now radiant, like pure sunshine.  Todd has transformed into a loving, warm and caring person.  Todd chose to allow forgiveness to transform his life and he gives all the glory to God.

I imagine the next time Todd dies—the flight up will be easier.

I thought deeply about Todd’s story this week.

I want to be like Todd.  And hopefully, I won’t have to have a near-death experience to understand this radical type of forgiveness, but I do believe I will have to spiritually die to self—once again.

(Oh Whoop-de doo! Does this Christian thing ever get easier?)

I use the mental imagery I read about in a book on controlling anxiety.

I imagine myself walking up to a waterfall with a heavy bag of burdens.  They are like boulders I carry around.  I pry open the sack and pull out self-righteousness, then hold it out onto the streaming water and let it wash away.  I hold out vengeance, then anger and bitterness.  And I drop them one by one into the raging waters.

I leave it all in the waters of the spirit in a symbolic language of release and redemption.

And the hurt washes away in the waters as I am stretched…open…wide.  Ravaged by my own indebtedness to my Savior and convicted of my own sin.

How can I not let go of this debt?  How can I truly follow Christ if I am not willing to extend the mercy given to me?

It’s the Lenton season.  Will you join me in ridding your heart of unforgiveness? I can’t think of anything more important than this one thing  holding us back from living  abundant and joy filled lives.

I know it’s hard.  And I am in this with you.  We get hurt and we hold onto the pain tightly like a prize to validate our identity—but God has a better way.

The truth is forgiveness sets me (and you) free—not the one who hurt us.

–Sam

Will you pray for me this week?  My darling husband Tim is having spine surgery on Wed the 25th of Feb.  Please lift him up!  

And please let me know how I can pray for you?

 

Matthew 6:14-15New International Version (NIV)

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

 

What if it was your last day?

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Barbie dolls line the wine holder—a doll in each individual wine slot.

“Kolby, what’s going on with your dollies?  I count about nine blond heads, “Why are they all in the wine holder?  It’s kind of creepy.”

“Mommy they’re dead.  That’s their coffin,” my preschooler replies.

“Oh?

“They got hit by a car and they died,” she chirps, unmindful of my startled face.

Oh Boy.  I sit down and cuddle her close.  “Let’s talk about dyeing, ok baby?”

 

Big eyes probe mine; tiny hands cup my face and questions tumble out, so big for such a little girl.

I guess she overheard us talking.

Maybe this is a gift, but it’s a conversation I’d rather have because her pet goldfish died, not because it was almost us.

……….

It’s Saturday night and Pacific Coast Highway in Downtown Laguna is jammed—the rhythmic thump of drums spill from packed clubs, girls giggle, catcalls fly, and wave’s crash in the distance.

With the window open, I point and search for just the right joint to stop at and grab an appetizer to cap off our date night.  We want good food—foodie food—with flavor and intensity

“There,” I pointed, “let’s stop there at Mozambique.” I know the food won’t disappoint.

Tim glances over at the hopping restaurant I gesture to, and pulls off PCH .

But he swerves to the left instead of the right and makes an abrupt turn onto the ocean side of the street.

“Honey, what are you doing?  Now we have to cross PCH.”

Tim shrugs, “If it makes you feel better we can walk back to the light.”

So, we hike up a block to the light, push the walk button, wait for the light to change and step out into the street.

My heels catch a pothole and I hold on to Tim tight for balance.

Then I hear the roar—a car accelerates fast.  Pedal to the medal, tires flying down the hill gaining speed from the steep incline of the cliff.

It’s so dark.  Lights blur my eyes—the headlights of the car descend on us.  It’s like an avalanche.  There’s nowhere to go.

I picture my body hitting the windshield. It’s going to hurt.

Then the push.

Tim yells and shoves me as hard as he can—still within range of getting hit, but more likely to hit the edge of the car, bounce and crack my noggin rather than go under.

My legs wobble.  I fight not to fall.

Then the shrill honk of a car trying to warn the oblivious driver, blaring sound, tires screech.

The car slams on the brakes, from 70mph to stop.

And right on top of us, the car reels back, like an attacking animal reigned in.  We jump out of the way as the front bumper brushes my legs.

I wave my hands around and scream “You Jackwaggon. “

(I might have said another bad word too)

I’m full of piss and vinegar.  I want a fight.  I want to sink my heels deep into her flashy red sports car and make her pay. I want justice.

The driver waves her hand at us and takes off. No apology.  Nothing.

I wonder if she’s grateful she won’t serve time for vehicular manslaughter?

Tim takes my hand and leads me to the other side.

“Are you ok?  I didn’t know how to protect you.” His voice is raspy and thick.

I wrap myself like a child into his chest; gulp in familiar smell, big hands smooth my hair, and he whispers, “its ok.”

Then the tears come—relief, shock, and finally thankfulness.

Thank you Lord.

Thank you to the angel in the car who laid on the horn like a lighthouse keeper warning a ship about to hit the rocks.  You are our hero!

To my husband, who tossed me (mostly) out of the way in the sweetest attempt to save my legs, I adore you forever.

I’ve had some close calls with danger, but nothing like this one.

Not both of us together.  Not leaving all of my kids without a mom and a dad.

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I’ve thought about it over the last week.  I’ve prayed and considered and reflected on our near brush with death or dismemberment, at the very least.

And I’m grateful I don’t have any unsettled matters—at least that I’m aware of.

I’m glad I say “I love you” and kiss my kids and hubby every chance I get.

I’m glad I get to do what I love.

And I trust my heart is right with God.

Not perfect, not even close, but right in the sense that I’m desperate to know him more and at peace that I will join him.

Dying isn’t the scariest thought for me these days—even scarier is living badly.

I don’t want to be so caught up in the rat race that I forget to follow my dreams or live a half-life of complacency.

I don’t want to take any of this for granted.

I want to know that what I do, as a mother, as a wife, and as a writer makes a difference in the Kingdom of God.

I want you to laugh and cry and think differently about a God who pursues you to the ends of the earth and loves you lavishly.

So, if I haven’t told you in a while, THANK YOU.  Thank you for being you!  Thanks for joining me and engaging with me and journeying with me.

Thanks for taking the time to read these words.  Thanks for making this life of mine rich and full of countless blessings.

And if I’ve pissed you off recently, let me know.

I can grovel.

We never know when our time is up.

And I sure am glad I get to have the dead Barbie conversation with my little girl and not someone else.  No matter how awkward and hard it was.

What if it was your last day?  What would you do differently?

 

 

Bear Hunt

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“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…” and in a split second the year 2014 ushered in.  I sighed and squeezed Tim’s hand as he leaned over and kissed me gently.  Our neighborhood ricocheted with cheers and the shrill blare of tinny paper horns. 

Normally, when the ball drops, I am jubilant.  I lift my glass and toast to a new year of life and love and adventure.  But this year, as I watched the ball drop and the confetti swirl, I felt a tickle of dread slithering up my back.

Anxiety doesn’t rest well on my narrow shoulders—I’d rather smile and live in the land of denial and lightheartedness.  If I could only push rewind on the clock and go back about six months to the days of summer bliss—before the tempest hit. I’d fork over my entire piggy bank for just one day of my old normal.

I sing a little ditty in the shower.  My husband quizzically looks at me.  “Sam, why are you singing about bear hunts?”

I guess it’s because I can’t get the song out of my head. So, I hum some more.

“We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one.  We’re not scared.”

This little refrain is my new theme song.   It makes me feel brave when life is overwhelming.  The bear represents my fears and I’m Katnis Everdeen hunting them down.  Even when I’m quaking in my boots, I do it afraid.  I chase the bear.  If God is with me, then what bear can stop me?

In the story, the family (a mom and dad and three tots) encounter a series of obstacles while chasing a large and scary bear.

Their journey is difficult and they do everything they can to avoid the roadblocks—the raging river, the perilous mountains and the roaring blizzard.  But there is no way around the storms.

‘Oh no,” they say.  “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, I guess we have to go through it.”

This is me in 2014.  I’m on a bear hunt.  I can’t gloss over it, or avoid it. I can’t stuff the emotions or hide from the inevitable, I must go through it.

I returned to my office last week—quiet and subdued, more melancholy than my normally chipper demeanor.

“How was your holiday Sam?” my co-worker inquired.

 “Well, my dad cornered my brother and step-mom on Christmas day and beat them with a bed post.  I spent an hour on the phone trying to talk him out of killing them.”

Pause.  Friend opens his mouth in horror.

The next day my father jumped off a balcony believing bad guys were chasing him.  It wasn’t suicide, it was paranoia—it’s evil twin.

I was in Burlington Coat Factory when I got the call–a broken back, compound fracture of the tibia and fibia, and a shattered ankle.  Three surgeries scheduled. 

I remember my dad saying only a few weeks ago, “At least I’m not in physical pain like your mom is with the pancreatic cancer.  She suffers brutally, Sammy, I’m just turning into a nutcase.”

I think it’s a toss-up now who’s in the most pain.  At least, my dad is psychotic–maybe his pain is numbed by brain atrophy? 

Christmas was a blur of beautiful and sacred moments with my mom–trying on dresses and twirling before her, watching the kids open presents, and having a Christmas meal on the sofa like a picnic because she was too weak to sit at the table.  Every minute with her, I pack into a mental scrapbook of treasures–knowing this is my last Christmas with her and cherishing every look, tear, and whisper of love.

There were many visits to the hospital to visit my dad.  It was gut-wrenching.  For a week his eyes were locked shut, his mouth open under labored breathing.  When he woke, he cried out in terror and punched nurses believing they were trying to hurt him.  The nurses retaliated by drugging him back into unconsciousness. 

I don’t blame them.  I would do the same with a random crazy guy, but it’s different when the crazy guy is your daddy. 

The family in the story finally finds the bear in a dark ominous cave.  They accidentally wake the beast and he roars a terrible roar and shows his sharp teeth. The family runs like hell back through the raging storm, the treacherous mountains and the wild river.

Finally they arrive home and lock the door.  They hide in a bedroom and hold one another close and sing, “We went on a bear hunt and we caught a big one.  We’re not scared.”  And they laugh in the nervous jittery laugh of those who have survived their worst fears and looked the demon in the eye.

And so when I answered my friend at work, I laughed this same jittery laugh and thought of the bear chasing me. 

While I’ve never been afraid to confront my fears, it seems like now my worst nightmares are chasing me.  The fear of being alone—orphaned without the safety net of my parent’s covering, the fear of watching a loved one suffer (much less two at the same time) and the fear of letting go and confronting death.

And like the family in the story, I can’t escape.  The pain is present no matter where I go and it doesn’t get any better avoiding it.

I have to face the mountains, the river and the storm. 

And one day, I imagine I’ll make my way home again and hide under the covers and look back in wonder that this journey didn’t kill me.  It feels like it should.  But it didn’t.

The bear hunt will be behind me. And I’ll be different because of it.

 

Two Donuts too Many

Sugar Glazed Donuts

It was a tough morning.  My dad was disoriented. 

It’s been one good day followed by two or three bad, and then a new level of normal is established.  His deteriorating brain condition is a descent into a valley of unexpected challenges and simultaneous sacredness.

We were at church on Sunday morning—the big campus of Mariners—mega Christmas awesomeness on display.

I handed him two donuts.  He looked at me baffled.

“What do I do with them?” he asked.

“You eat them.” I replied sadly.

“But there are two.”

I nodded and braved a tepid smile.  “Let me hold one for you, daddy.”

With one doughnut in hand my dad seemed to understand the idea of eating.  He opened his mouth wide and took a big bite.

Just then, some friends walked up. “Hi Sam.  We’ve been praying for you.  How are you holding up?”

I put on my fake pastor’s wife smile, choked back the tears, and said, “I’m hanging in there.”

And then my dad, who alternates between incoherency and moments of crystal clear clarity, minus a filter, and with the adorable impulsiveness of a toddler shouts out, “Why don’t you tell them how you’re really doing Sammy?”

He winked at me at laughed maniacally.  I stood there floored.

And then I laughed until I cried.

Ok, dad, how exactly do I let it rip?  How do I say, in the midst of church small talk and a gazillion people, that my world is tipping and swaying uncontrollably?  Sometimes I feel like poop and sometimes I feel so blessed.

That my days are spent balancing a big family, work, the chaos of Christmas and two terminal illnesses.  One day I’m decorating a Christmas tree and hanging Barbie ornaments and the next watching my step-dad weep with abandon as he faces a life without his beloved?  I swim in the pool with my toddler and growl like wolverine and then  walk upstairs and cradle my mom’s hands, the hands that raised me and calmed me, as she wince’s in pain as the cancer ravages and steals.  Do I mention the night terror’s that woke me up last night as my dad screamed and cried and slapped my step-mom believing intruders were in the house?  Do I say how hard it is to watch my daddy drift into a veiled world of paranoia, black spells and confusion?

I chewed on my thoughts as we entered the sanctuary.  And then in the mysterious way that only God speaks, we listened to a sermon about Jesus who stepped into the messiness of life.  My step-mom squeezed my hand and we sat back and breathed in the message. 

It felt like God knew EXACTLY what I needed to hear.  That he is with me in this mess.  That he understands why donuts will now forever make me cry and he doesn’t mind that sometimes I babble on and on—half in shock and half in wonder—at the beauty and darkness of my life all jumbled together.

And I knew God was reassuring me as I watched my dad lift up his arms with abandon and worship, punching his fists in the air like a little kid, just waiting for his heavenly dad to pick him up and carry him home.

So, to answer my friend’s question of “how are you holding up?”

I would say, in all honesty…I’m a hot mess.  A teary-eyed, wistful mess—anticipating unexpected lessons in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and both excited (and terrified) to see what the next day holds. 

 

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