My Selfishness as it Relates to Hamburgers

It all happened when I was mid-burger, 2 minutes in and 3 minutes left on the clock to consume the 67% remainder of the tomato-lettuce-cheese-pickle-beef creation in my hands.

I sat there with the tomato-y mayo dribbling down my hands and thought,

“How selfish I am! Here I am, scarfing down a 1/4 lb burger at the speediest (and messiest) rate known to mankind, and I’m hardly even tasting it!

How often do I eat a burger? Rarely.

How often do I eat a burger with the PERFECT ratio of pickles to tomatoes? Even less often.

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And I’m just here gobbling it down like my dog would do, and worrying that I’ll choke it my haste!

Now, IF I, as a Christian, am the bride of Christ… and IF all good things in life come from Him, it would make sense that He gave me this burger.”

So I put myself in Jesus shoes (well, I tried at least) and suddenly I felt so small and ashamed.

Here was Jesus, creating a masterpiece of a burger just for me, and watching me to see if I liked it.

And there was me, chowing down in a terrible rush and not even tasting what I was eating, much less thanking the Lord for all the work He put into it, and for choosing to give it to me.

Preposterous!

I have a ways to go towards living in the heavenly kingdom, especially when I’m late for my second job of the day.

But I have decided that this earth’s–and, sad to say, especially North-East America’s– style of enjoying food is not for me. I’m going to live out of the peace of the kingdom I was created for, and take time to taste my food no matter how late I am.

And thank the Giver.

So if you want to join me, come on over! We can have some coffee, and take an entire half-hour out of our day to drink it while it’s still hot.

And to soak in the warmth of thankfulness.

Because we are so very cared for, and so very BLESSED!

Pain is Holy

“I was on tour, and a friend who was on tour with me went through a really rough valley.

She experienced a miscarriage.

I was with her the day after, and I asked her how she was…. what was going on for her inside. She said, “You know, the only words that keep rising up in my mind are, “I’m sorry… I’m so, so sorry.”

Pain does that to us, ya know?

When we’re stripped low, down to that level, what’s deep within us comes out.

For my friend, it was taking blame. Shame. A deep-rooted part of herself… not created by her pain, but brought to the surface because of it.

We all know the story of Job, right? He thought his life was pretty rough… and then his friends came and made it even worse.

The last thing he wanted to hear was a list of condemnations…. a list of things he had done to deserve to be in this place…. a list of ways he could get out of his painful place and be “back to being a ‘good’, ‘normal’ person”.

The reality is, pain isn’t a wrong place to be. It is a holy place, because

it is a place God uses to bring the hidden places of our hearts into the light.

I remember another time when I was on tour, and wading through a really dark valley. A friend was with me in the back of the van one afternoon, and asked what was going on for me. I told him, but as I did so, I was constantly bracing myself, waiting for him to offer advice that would prove to me why, if I was a good person, I really shouldn’t still be in this place.

He didn’t say a word.

When I was done talking, he stood up, and made me stand up too. He told me to take off my watch. I did. He said, “I’m going to hug you. I’m gonna hug you now for two minutes, and I’m gonna time it, ‘cuz you’re not going anywhere.”

Now you have to know my friend. He’s a big, masculine, hairy-chested football dude. Not the kind you’d expect to go around hugging people.

I laughed at first, because it was awkward. But a half-minute into it…. I started to cry. Then I started to messy cry, blubbering all over my friends sleeve and just hanging limply, totally helpless.

The two minutes were up, and he hadn’t said a word.

But I knew exactly what he was saying, because his actions screamed, “You are not an outcast because you are in this place. This is a HOLY place, you are worth it, and I care.”

Pain is a holy place, and in the presence of holiness it’s best to just keep quiet.”

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As he told this story, the emotions on Jason’s face clearly showed that this was a lesson he had learned the hard way. And after a moment’s hush, he began to sing the song his own journey through pain had inspired,

“You could see the smoke from a mile away. Trouble always draws a crowd. They wanna tell me that it’ll be ok… but that’s not what I need right now….”

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Listen to the rest of the song HERE, and don’t forget to buy Jason Gray’s new album!

My Best Addiction

Now that you all know I’m addicted to gummy bears….. (and oh happy day, I got a whole 1-lb bag of them for my birthday) I gotta tell ya’ll about my FAVORITE addiction.

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The one I plug into when I get upset at my boss.

Or when I’m preparing to teach.

Or when I’m bored by a mindless task.

Or when I’m driving, sitting, chewing, moping, running, or staring for hours at a blank computer screen.

Pretty much, I plug in all the time. My father loves it. Tiny kiddos love it. Basically, a win no matter who you are.

Am I gonna tell you what it is? Ohhhh no. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

And join the stampede of audio/visual learners!

We’re happy to have you 🙂

(Oh yeah…. and it’s available on Audible for free, with a one-month free trial subscription. You’re welcome.)

The Time When I Started a Church

Driving along a cold, forsaken road one dark night, my radio croaking out a mournful song,  I saw a church. A church that had a lighted cross by the highway, and warm, welcoming lights on inside, as if it was open to strangers and a crackling fire was burning in the hearth.

How strange!” I thought, “How very rare it is to see a lighted church at this time of day. I wonder if their doors are unlocked?”

“Hmm. That sight is like rest to my weary bones. If I ever started a church, I would have a parsonage, and leave the doors open and the lights on all day and night and people could come and go as they pleased, and always know that my church was a safe, private haven, always at their disposal.”

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And then I thought, “Ha! Start a church? Never!

There never WILL be perfect church.

Even if I gathered the smartest, most on-fire people to start my church, they would end up fighting. Wait, I bet that’s why, in the old days, there was just one man spear-heading the church. The parson. And the only person he had to get along with, if he wasn’t musically inclined himself, was the organist. A strange lot, those parsons, but still….. I think they were on to something with this one-man deal.”

So I planned it all out in my mind.

IF I was a man, and

IF I became a parson in the mountains of darkest Peru,

and IF I had my very own parsonage, I would win the people’s hearts for Christ and have a perfect church.

I would work tirelessly (with the help of many cups of coffee, of course) to meet all of their needs. I would love unconditionally. I would study the Word with passion.

I would preach the Gospel tirelessly, and speak truth in the face of lies. (But if I was feeling insecure, I would be silent.)

I would spend my last penny to bring cheer to my discouraged parishioners. (But some days, I would squander my last dollar on a bag of gummy bears, and eat them all in one sitting.)

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I would pray without ceasing. (But on days of total exhaustion, I would cut it short with the excuse, “I REALLY need my sleep.”)

The rickety little sign by the door would say, “Come just as you are!” But on a bad day, I would add “…but not if you have a dirty mouth, fart without shame, or act inappropriately towards the opposite gender”, because those are three of my pet peeves.

I would never judge a soul. (Unless it was someone who deeply hurt me.) I would fight for spiritual victories in my parishioners’ hearts. (Unless I was in a No-One-Is-Fighting-For-ME sort of mood, in which case I would block everyone out for awhile.)

I would do a lot of things, if I was a man, with a parsonage, in the darkest depths of deepest Peru.

But it would never be perfect.

Because I’m not.

Why do you stare at the tiny particle that is in your brother’s eye, but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye.”, when there is the beam  in your own eye? First get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.

Keep on asking and it will be given you! Keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:3-5,7,8

Those words are for me.

“Keep on asking, Kara. Change begins inside of you. One day, when all of my children finally arrive in heaven, all of these imperfect temples will transform to become My spotless bride.”

5 Mantras I Live By…. (most of the time)

I was filling pots with dirt yesterday. For most of the day.

Filling pots with dirt is very different from any job I’ve had in the past. It’s good for my pride, I’m sure. But I realized that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I always think about and use my same old life mantras.

So, since I really have nothing else to blog about (unless you’d like to learn how to fill pots with dirt QUICK or hear my dream about a high-rise on fire) here are five of them.

1. Be A Machine.

This is my git ‘er done mantra. Seriously, you never see a machine running haphazardly around in circles, do you? I mean, other than Roombas.machine

My Momma always said, “Make your moves count.” I’ve learned that some simple thought can save a ton of time. Muscles have memory, so if I can do all of one ‘action’, or task, first, and then the next instead of running around doing random things in random order, I’ll be much more efficient. This is so weird, but I actually think to myself, “If I was a machine, how would I be doing this?” Don’t be creeped out, it really works! (P.S. Read Cheaper By The Dozen, the original classic version. It will change your view of efficiency forever.)

2. Do Something, Even If It’s Wrong

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Basically, try to figure out a solution to the problem instead of just waiting for help to arrive. Especially in fast-paced or emergency situations, it is much better (and usually much more appreciated) to at least try to do whatever needs done while you wait for help to arrive. Just standing around under the excuse of “I didn’t know what to do…” is an automatic lose-lose situation. Trust me. This actually applies to spiritual life as well, to be honest. And relationships. Just do SOMETHING. Even if it’s wrong, it’s the thought that counts. Unless you’re, you know, performing medical procedures or trying to fly a Jet. In that case, I’d be a lot more grateful if you’d leave the task to the professionals…

3. Make Choices Like Checkers

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In the board game Checkers, I always make my riskiest moves at the start of the game. I’m not sure if that is wise or not, but I figure that it’s best to be risky while I still have something to lose. To me, life is like that in social relationships. When I’m in settings where I’m meeting a crowd of new people, I try (emphasis on try) to be as “real” as possible and not focus on a good impression. My logic? If these folks get along with my strangeness, then it will be worth being friends with them. If not, why waste the time trying to force it? To be honest, I’d rather make a good impression on people I care about rather than people I don’t even know. And hey, someone’s gotta keep things awkward…

4. Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger

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I’m still working on this one. And it definitely doesn’t apply to the more complicated aspects of life. Think more along the lines of trying Braised Squid with Artichokes or conquering fear of the water. Or doing anything outside my normal comfort zone. I figure, the more experiences I have had, the more prepared I’ll be for greater challenges down the road. Just PLEASE don’t ask me to go over a bike jump. Yet…..

5. Laugh at Every Possible Opportunity

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I live in a world where everyone takes themselves wayyyy too seriously. My theory is, why not redeem awkward/humbling situations by allowing someone else to laugh at them? It makes me feel better about life in general. And, I’m guessing it makes other people feel better about their own mistakes.

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Photo Credits: Google.  It’s 11:54 p.m. and I’m feeling lazy. Yep, I’m forsaking one of my mantras already…..

There’s One In Every Crowd…

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“Hello, welcome to Verizon Wireless Tech Support.”

—–(Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztttt–chinga-changa—-bbbbbbzzzzzzzzzz)—–

“Please state your reason for calling.”

–(brrrrrrrrrr—zzzz—-zzzzz)—–

“What was that? Did Mr. Z– give you permission to make these changes? I’ll need to speak to him before we can proceed.”

—(BZZZZZZZZZZZ—-ZZZZZ——TTTSHHHHHHHH)—–

“You know what, Ma’am, I’m just like any other normal person, just trying to do my job, but you should really call back. I can’t hear a word you are saying.”

I could envision the weary, raw-nerved tech bowing her head over her electronic devices and PRAYING that she would not be the one to receive me when I called back. I could practically hear her muttering “Not ANOTHER of those clueless ones using up my entire afternoon…. please oh please oh please!”

I’ve had a bad history with Verizon staff.

It seems like if they haven’t been trying their hardest to convince me that my phone’s malfunction is not covered by the warranty or to buy overpriced accessories (read: $25.99 for the same charger I can get on amazon.com for $2.20 + shipping), then they have just been plain hurried, stressed and/or snappy. I’ve never had a good phone call with Verizon’s techs, and I’ve never witnessed anyone else having a good one, either.

That’s a very polite understatement, just to let you know.

My boss had to leave the office in exactly two minutes. I imagined myself switching up his mobile, office and house lines so drastically that not even the neighbors would be able to receive calls. Shoot, I’d probably rack up a huge bill for him too, on top of having my pride ground down to the size of a squirming flea by the harried tech support staff.

The phone rang again as I pressed ‘send’ and a fresh voice answered.

“Hi! This is Craig at Verizon Wireless. How can I help y’all out today?” I almost fell off my chair.

The cheerful southern drawl on the other end of the line walked me through the process in (don’t pass out) 10 MINUTES flat. Not only did he not make a single depreciating remark, but he anticipated potential problems before they arrived, patiently waited while I gathered information, and even went the extra mile and stayed on the line while I went through the last automated process.

Once everything was in order, he said, “Well, it was my goal to serve you, and I hope I accomplished that today.”

He wouldn’t have had to say that.

His voice, word choice, and tone had clearly portrayed patient servant-hood all along. And at that moment, Craig and his patient drawl smacked me squarely upside the head.

So often when I look at various brands of hypocrites parading around under the title of “Christian”, I think to myself, “Is there really any hope for humanity at all?? If the actual church of Christ behaves this way, how can we ever expect people to be interested in becoming a part of it? If our own vision is so narrow and self-centered, how will we ever have room to love up on people or introduce them to the freedom of the Father?”

Now, thanks to Craig, I have newfound hope.

There is a way to promote a change of perspective for humanity. It only has two letters. M-E.

You.

Us.

We have the power to entirely alter a person’s perspective about any given business, idea, person or cause.

Let’s get on it!

I hope you {dance}

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Life is short.

But I’m not afraid. When I die, I hope you dance. I hope you do a full-out jig.

Stop giving me that awkward stare. I’m really not that crazy.

I attended a funeral last fall. Unfortunately, I’ve been at quite a few in the last year. But this one was traumatizing, unlike anything I’ve experienced previously or since, from the about-to-rain suffocation of the low-hanging storm clouds, to the crunching gravel beneath the wheels of the hearse, to the utter silence of the people, to the tomb-like, clammy chill in the air. The ghostly rustle of starched black fabric of the people walking towards the graveside was almost more than I could bear. What was the worst, though, was the total lack of communication and expression. Almost no one–out of hundreds–spoke to the grieving family. Almost no one cried.

And even though the one who died was a jubilant follower of Christ, no one celebrated.

When I die, I hope you dance.

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I hope you hug my family, and cry if you need to and laugh if you want to and don’t feel embarrassed if you do both at the same time. I hope you’ll understand that if your heart is sad, you don’t need to say a word. Just be. And realize the truth.

I am safe from the world of harm, and have the rest of eternity to explore my Father’s nature, to bask in His pure, unspeakable love, to uncover the mystery and beauty of an unseen kingdom.

It is a time to celebrate.

When I die, please don’t wear black. I hope you wear all the colors of the rainbow. Blue and orange and turquoise and yellow and every shade in between.

I hope you sing Blessed be Your Name. I hope you raise your hands towards heaven.

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I hope you clap. I think the Savior deserves that much expression, at least, for redeeming a creature like me and leading me safely home. It’s a home I’ll be ecstatic to be in.

I hope you celebrate. You can celebrate my life, if you really want to, but what I really hope you celebrate is my King.

Celebrate the glories of heaven. I don’t want the pastor to talk about ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that racket. I want him to tell the gospel message. But don’t use the word “gospel”, please, Pastor. Use simple, everyday words like love, freedom and peace. Explain the Father’s love, because it is AMAZING, and I don’t think I told the ones I love enough about it and how it transformed my life. Vividly display it as best you can, Pastor. Jump around a little.

Get excited!

Tell about the passionate, unshakeable, transforming, peace-oozing love of an incredible Prince of Peace. Talk about His love for the downtrodden….. how He bore (literally carried, experienced, was wounded by) our griefs and carried (took upon Himself) our sorrows.

Make sure you mention that He definitely does not have a thing for flowery words or perfectly choreographed actions. He’s totally cool with the unspoken cry of a desperate heart or the collapsed form of a beggar. It’s the kind of medium He can work with best.

Basically, Pastor, just make sure you let everyone know that His love is here, now, forever and REAL.

When you lower my casket into the ground, I want the kids to have confetti and glitter to toss, because it will be a small chance for them to remember that they can join in the celebration of the angels, even though they are still stuck down here on earth.

I want a cloud of colorful balloons to be released into the air.

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I want the balloons to symbolize my spirit set free from the limitations of my old sin nature and flimsy body.

I want you to remember only one thing when I am gone. Eternity is real. Heaven is pretty unspeakably awesome, and I really hope we can spend it together. Cuz we’ll have way more fun than we ever did here on earth.

I hope that if you never thought about life after death, or a passionate Lover who can’t be seen with earth-eyes but can be felt when no visible person would dare to venture near you, or a Lord who is willing to forgive the darkest sin (trust me, you’ll never know what kind’s I’ve committed. I can talk.), if you never considered these things, I hope you’ll know that it’s not too late!!

There’s this cool love letter around. You don’t even need to go dig it off of some old dusty shelf. You can read part of it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKmdIdQg3Ks

I hope that if you thought you’d never see me again, you’ll meet the King of Kings, and reconsider.

And when you truly meet Him, you will fall in love. And then, when your heart is at ease like you’ve never known before, and the smile of forgiven wrongs splits your face, and your eyes shine so brilliantly with the light of heaven that you surprise yourself when you look into the mirror, and the overwhelming reality of the love of your Heavenly Father comforts you in a way that you never though could be possible….

I hope you dance.

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I’ll be dancing too.

Guardian of a million dreams

Life is a comedy for those who think; a tragedy for those who feel. Unfortunately, dream molders are feelers.

“Teachers. You are the molders of their dreams. The gods who build or crush their young beliefs of right or wrong.You are the spark that sets aflame the poet’s hand, or lights the flame of some great singer’s song.You are the gods of the young, the very young. You are the guardian of a million dreams.

Your every smile or frown can heal or pierce a heart. Yours are a hundred lives, a thousand lives, yours the pride of loving them, and the sorrow, too.

Your patient work, your touch, make you the gods of hope who fill their souls with dreams to make those dreams come true…” Guy Doud’s voice was strong and calm as he quoted the words penned by Clark Mollenhoff. He, if any, could utter them with conscience unashamed.

The twelve years that kids are in high school are the twelve most vulnerable years of their life. Dreams are made or broken there. Paradigms of values and self-worth are formed. A child’s place in society is clearly played out, and they discover whether they have what it takes to be loved, respected and wanted. They learn about themselves through the eyes of others. And unless someone intervenes, they will graduate with the hurts of a lifetime on their shoulders.

Dream molders are feelers. They understand that hurting kids aren’t afraid of failure. Failure is their life. It is normal for them, therefore, they can’t be motivated by the fear of it. Kids are motivated only by love.

This is why dream molders choose to see beyond the exterior, beyond the moment. A teen who others view as an obese, insecure adolescent, they see as a child who has incredible potential to change the world. Dream molders see beyond the external, beyond the mask, to the very soul of a person.  Like a diamond in the rough, muddy and crystallized, they see beyond the exterior to what it will be–a beautifully cut gem set in a band of silver or gold. An adornment of society. And they care, they care enough to invest their time, money, blood, sweat, tears and prayers into making a person become that gem. They care.  And because they care, they create change.

Dream molders? Ehh, they are an unstable and disillusioned lot. What would cause a gourmet chef to give a clumsy child free range of a kitchen–squandered resources, splattered woodwork, mounds of dirty dishes, and countless broken pots and pans notwithstanding? Is a smudgy, wobble-lined recipe book scrawled by the hand of a ten-year-old really a worthwhile result of all the hassle?

Not now, but the chef has a teacher’s heart, and she sees ahead. She sees down the road, to where the scrawling recipe book turns into seared scallops, juicy wood-smoked steaks, and countless batches of homemade cookies delivered to someone’s door. And what does the student learn? He learns that he has a gift. He learns that food can comfort the most ravaged heart. He learns that creativity and personal touch can bless far beyond words. And the teacher smiles, because she knew his amazing potential all along. But it would have been impossible for him to believe it. He needed to see it for himself.

We walk through life totally unaware of the scores of tiny mirrors who reflect the effects of our actions. I am–we all are–the guardians of a million dreams.

When will our actions become messengers of hope to fill their souls with dreams to make those dreams come true?

Goodbye Innocence

 I drove past a boy today, and as I looked at him, he swiftly turned his head in shame.

Who was he? Just a long-haired kid in a gangster hat, his tee ultra-baggy and his shorts sagging. He must have been, say, thirteen? As he stood there on the edge of a shady patch of woods in his front yard, he looked up, saw me, and quickly pretended to be bored.

WHY?

He had been playing with a stick before he noticed me, poking around the woods with carefree curiosity. But when he saw me, he was ashamed, and tried to nonchalantly bounce the stick in his hand and stare towards the house as if waiting for a friend.

The encounter took less than 10 seconds, but it left me feeling depressed. Who stole innocence from our society’s kids? When did carefree curiosity become “uncool”, even unheard of? When did it become not ok for kids to play with sticks and stones and just plain get dirty for no real reason? I felt sad for the boy, even though I didn’t even know his name, because I could imagine his life manual all too plainly.

  • Succeed in sports, or everyone will see I am not worth anything.
  • Succeed in flirting with the cute girls at school, or everyone will think I am a nerd.
  • Succeed in wearing cool clothes, having cool stuff, and hanging at cool places, or everyone will be embarrassed to be around me.
  • Succeed in getting away with dangerous stuff, or everyone will think I am a ninny.
  • Succeed in hiding my emotions, because no one really cares anyhow.

Life is a trap for teens today. We have scores of homeless teens, teens in juvie, teen parents, teen cutters, teen dealers,  teens hopelessly trapped by addictions, scores of teen suicides and homicides. Carefree has no meaning. Innocence can get you in a heap of trouble. Hope is nowhere to be found. Some seek it anyhow, but most are so practiced at wearing their mask of nonchalance that soon even they forget they have a problem.

Where are the kids who live out of who they really are inside… what they feel and see, what they wish and dream for? Where is hope, new birth, and a fresh start? Who is gonna’ step out, give instead of take, love like there’s no tomorrow, and be a crazy voice crying in the wilderness with a message of hope and belonging?

We need a revolution.

Desperately.

It can start with me. Or you….

But only if we care enough to be uncool.