The Terror That Flieth By Night….

It was three a.m. and I awoke to purring in the rafters above my bed.

If I would have woken up hungry for a snack, it would have been ok, and I would pilfered some cookies and gone back to bed. If it had been a housemate sleep-talking, no big deal. If it had been coyotes howling at the harvest moon, I would have enjoyed it a bit, and soon dozed off.

But no. This was purring.

Loud, unceasing, un-cat-produced purring that had disturbed my sleep the entire month.

THIS was war.

Slinging my slug-like body over the wrong side of bed, I punched that ceiling as hard as I could. My fist slammed through the drywall and out again in a shower of crumbles.

Before my sleep-numbed mind could fully comprehend the significance of that fact….

small creatures began pouring out of the now-gaping, fist sized hole.

Bees.

I careened out of the room as fast as my fogged brain would allow, and cautiously peeped through the crack of the door.

Yes. Bees were filling my room, pouring out of the hole in the ceiling in a slow but steady stream. I closed the door, and stared weakly at myself in the bathroom mirror for a good while.

A plan began to formulate in my mind.

10 minutes later, I climbed the stairs in full-on combat gear. Orange down winter jacket, water-proof hunting boots, gloves, insulated dungarees…. I had it all. Think, obese pumpkin merged with Si Robertson, and you’ll have a general picture. All I needed yet was a patch for the hole in the ceiling, and I would be ready to save the day.

Ri-i-i-iiip. RIP. Rippppp.

No matter how you tear it, silently creating a duct-tape patch in the still of night was impossible to do. My sister’s door opened and she blinked at me with groggy amazement.

“Don’t be alarmed! It’s just me.” I wasn’t sure what her reaction would be to a gloved, dungaree-wearing form in the semi-darkness. “It’s bees.” I said, and explained.

She, dear lamb, believed my dubious declaration that the situation was under control, and retreated.

Patch made, I shrouded my head inside a thin pillowcase, pulled my hood up, laid the patch across my open palm, and crept inside the infested room as quietly as heavy hunting boots would allow. The pillowcase was light blue and limited my vision quite considerably.

By the dim light of a small lamp, I could see that bees were continuing to swarm out of the hole in the ceiling. Their inquisitive buzzing throughout the room alarmed me. I shifted the pillowcase, but that did nothing to improve my vision.

Were bees…. landing on me?

Were they slowly crawling towards my NECK?

Would I be stung until my face looked like an Osage orange, and I was forced to spend my entire (tiny) savings on steroid shots?

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My face was turning bright red within the stifling layers of my protective gear.

Fight or flight?” I asked myself, and being as it was 3:30 a.m., and I had made it only half way across the room, and was even more overheated, and Osage-orange-looking-people are rather obtrusively unattractive (although I’ve never seen one, and was just going by intuition), and I really hate doctor bills… flight seemed much more logical.

So, 4:00 found a non-triumphant, non-osage-orange, non-obese-pumpkin girl curled up on the couch, asleep.

Victory could wait until daylight, and it did.

 

What I learned about Jesus from the Ironman Triathlon

Think about what it means to be strong in the Lord, and tell me what you see.

I always knew better in my mind, but when push came to shove I used to believe that God wanted macho, 6-pack body-builders of the faith. The ones who overcame all odds by pure determination.

Somehow, I switched out the word faith for the word strong, and lived my life that way. My hope relied on “My strength is made perfect in weakness”—but in a moment of trial, I added on to the promise with, “But since I don’t believe God is strong enough to be my strength, I’ll just help him out by being stronger.”

Ouch.

You know Samson, that 7-braided, rock-solid Jew of the Old Testament? Samson was strong. Crazily enough, he was also filled with the Holy Spirit, and didn’t even know it. Somewhere along the way, he threw away the fact that his physical strength was a gift from God meant to accomplish a specific work in the Heavenly Kingdom. He’d always had it, right? So why not rationalize that it was a part…. of him? He could do anything he set his mind to.

“Go ahead, woman! Cut off my hair… I’ll be fine.”

But he wasn’t. He spent the next age of his life building physical muscles in the mill. Now he knew what purely physical strength felt like, but it was too late.

There was once a young man whose body was trapped by cerebral palsy… but not his heart. His heart, he discovered, loved to race. Racing made him feel alive.

His heart also had the capacity to trust his father’s love for him. He spoke his desire to compete to his father…. and despite everything the world tried to tell him about who he was and what he could do, ended up competing in the Ironman Triathlon… the toughest one there is.

What if being a child of God made no earthly sense at all?

What if Jesus wants to literally BE our strength?

What if all we need to do is tell him our greatest desires, and he would accomplish them for us… but we got to go along for the ride?

What if we didn’t need to be strong…. we just needed to learn how to RECIEVE THE FATHER’S LOVE?

Another 8 a.m. lesson

My friends and I went camping on Assateague Island for my friend’s 21st birthday.

We camped in the State Park area, which was blooming with dune goldenrod (which is unusual), and teeming with people (as it is all season).

We strolled the beach as the setting sun tainted the cloud-filled sky with a hundred hues, roasted hotdogs over a smoky fire,

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wrapped up in blankets and laid on the beach to star gaze and watch the moon rise orangely over the water, snored all night in the tent like a pile of cats, and woke up with the first bird calls to watch the sunrise on the beach.

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And then….

the ponies came.

It was cute and kind of funny, really, to see 4 little docile frames trotting through a half-asleep campground, nosing at shrubs and tendrils of grass as if they had just been let out to pasture for the day–as if they never even noticed the entourage of 9-year-olds on bikes behind them, or the sleep-disheveled lady on her way to the bathhouse who stopped and ran back to take their picture.

It was funny to see them nose into the doorway of a neighboring camper’s tent and rummage through the contents of a Styrofoam cooler which was too weak to withstand their practiced ransacking.

My friends laughed, and as a joke we took pictures of them in the  background as we settled down to our long-awaited breakfast, prepared to watch the saga continue to unfold.

And then they turned our way.

Noses down, steadily they came towards us, but we knew what was up. My friends and I gazed longingly at our half-eaten breakfasts on the table, knowing we had to follow park rules and give the ponies a 10-foot wake.

“Don’t worry, guys. I got this.” I boldly stated, and walked towards them commandingly, waving and clapping my hands.

Noses down, they steadily advanced past me, eyes zeroed in on our breakfast.

“Never mind. HIDE THE FOOD!” I screeched, desperately swooping up what I could reach. And then I leaned against the car and laughed.

It was chaos.

One of my friends was grabbing the last cinnamon buns out of reach of the hungry jaws, one was taking pictures and one was literally wrestling a hot dog skewer out of a pony’s mouth.

With the innocence of a dove, Assateague’s native ponies had effortlessly taken over our picnic table, where a very pleasant breakfast HAD been taking place not 4 minutes prior.

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What goes around, comes around.” They say.

“Do to others what you would prefer them to do to you.” Those are Jesus’ words.

Both a good thing to remember at 8 a.m.

That is, if you value your breakfast.

 

 

10 Reasons Why YOU Should Take A Canoe Trip This Summer

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1) If you love nature

If you love to explore wild, un-touched parts of God’s creation, if you love to see the sun rise and fall on each new day, if you love the taste of the rain, the smell of the forest, the songs of a feathered choir, the gentle rocking rythm of the current against your canoe, if you want to effortlessly spy on a trout, or an eagle, or a deer or heron or bear quietly going about it’s business from your watery vantage point, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

2)  If you want to get up close and personal with Jesus.

If you’re tired, if you’re wounded, if you’re restless, if you’re running, if you’re seeking, if you’re on fire with a message from the Lord, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

3) If you want some peace and quiet.

If freedom from all schedules and technology, or floating quietly between solemn mountains, or solo time on a rocky beach or dappled forest floor, or worship around a campfire, or staring up at endless stars as you fall asleep sounds revitalizing to you, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

4) If you love adventure.

If navigating a boiling rapid, or learning to read a river map, or orienteering through the wilderness, or cliff-jumping, or rapelling, or learning how to make your campfire stay alive through a rainstorm sounds like fun to you, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

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5) If you want long-lasting relationships.

If you want to lay your burdens down and be held up through it all by people who truly care, if you want to have meaningful conversations that do more than just skim the surface of reality, if you want to encourage people, if you want to be encouraged, if you want to be prayed for, if you want to struggle, laugh, cry, rest, pray, eat, sleep, sweat and play with a group of people who start as strangers and end as tight-knit friends, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

6) If you love camping.

If you love the smell of wood smoke, picking out the perfect spot for your tent,

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falling asleep with the cool night air in your lungs, cooking food over a crackling fire, digging and using a latrine… COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

(Ok, I’ll admit, that latrine bit was purely cynical. But if you DO love it, I’d LOVE to have you!!!)

7) If you like to work out.

If you love to paddle, or if you love to hike, or if you love competing to see who can haul in the biggest dead tree for the campfire, and if you want to see how much stronger your muscles are after a week of exercise in the fresh, clean air, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

8) If you like to sport a good tan.

It can’t rain for seven days straight, can it? If you love the way the reflection on sunshine off the water transforms your skin into a deeper shade of brown and fills your body with energizing vitamin D, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

9) If you like swimming.

If the thought of water games like gallumping and splash wars, or the thought of a peaceful late afternoon swim after a day in the hot sun sounds refreshing to you, COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

10) If you want to learn something new.

The wilderness always has a fresh, new metaphor in store for what God wants to say to you and me…. each and every day! If you believe that technology can be distracting and demanding, and want to leave it behind and go to a place where Jesus is the primary teacher….. COME ON A CANOE TRIP!

“The wilderness is God’s place. He can do what He wants there, and no man can mess it up.” Dan Lapp, Trail Blaze Outfitters LLC

This is a statement I firmly believe in, too…. because I’ve experienced God’s transforming power in that setting so many times myself! There’s a reason Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days before starting His ministry… and there’s a reason He often went to a mountain alone to pray.

Being temporarily stripped of cultural noise, time, deadlines and expectations is a powerful experience! Would you like to try it?

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To see a list of available trips, or to schedule a private one for a group of your own, visit TBO’s website. We can’t wait to meet you!

Don’t eat in the shower, kids.

If you had an awkward week, let me tell you about mine.

Maybe it will make you feel better.

I had to practice my swimming this week, and this is how it went.

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I didn’t make my week’s goal.

I had to call someone I’d never called before, and I didn’t know his voicemail only lasts 15 seconds. It’s awkward to have your info chopped off in the middle.

“Hi, this is Kara and I’m calling to register for–BEEP.”—*Confused pause. Switches to Brian Regan accent.*—“For that class! You know, the one that most people named Kara like to register for! Just send me a smoke signal and we can communicate that way.”

Unfortunately the phone just stared at me blankly, unimpressed.

Shucks.

I went to work, and 30 minutes after I arrived the chef walked out. For good. One of the waitresses didn’t show up because she didn’t realize it was her night to work. So I and the other waitress each needed to do two people’s tasks.

When I got home in the dark of night, exhausted and FILTHY, I ran upstairs eating a snack. You know those Ritz cracker things that have chocolate and caramel in between? They are awesome, by the way, so if you’ve never tried them you should. Well, I jumped into the shower, still trying to chew the caramel and somehow I choked.

In. The shower.

Like, a much-worse-than-gagging-on-a-wayfaring-grape feeling. More like somebody-save-me-my-windpipe-is-98%-blocked.

Which is much better than if it had been 100% blocked.

Grabbing a towel and making LOUD gasping sounds like I imagine the ostrich doing when it swallowed Curious George’s bugle, I stumbled to my sister’s room.

She, her near-asleep stupor quickly switched to first-aid-instinct, stared in horror, and asked “Kara! Are you choking?? Are you choking?” while preparing to crush my ribs in a mighty Heimlich hug. Thankfully, by that time I had the presence of mind to bend over, and the wad of caramel-y cracker partially dislodged itself.

The frightful wheezes turned to coughing.

My mother appeared, and stared in horror. “WHAT is going on?” But what she really meant was, “Why is my daughter dripping wet, clothed like a roman statue, and gasping at the head of the stairs at this unrighteous hour of the night??!”

By this time I was laughing sheepishly between the coughs.

I could imagine trying to explain this one to an EMT. “Well yes, it actually is my common practice to eat crackers in highly humid environments, but I’ve never CHOKED before….”

“I think I’ll resume my shower now,” I said, and so I did, leaving my personal first responders to stand there shaking their heads.

Did you think life with adult children was gonna be calm and easy?

Ohhh, no.

It’s nothing like calm around here.

But at least the dog has finally stopped howling at the moon.

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!

Love Ambush

I’ve been a crab for twenty-four hours.

It all started when someone asked me a question, and I responded defensively and then the father of lies jumped in with all of his hogwash and made a mess of everything.

“You’re not worth fighting for.” he said, “You are selfish at the core, and think of no one but yourself. Your dreams are not reality. You have tricked yourself into following them as an easy escape from life’s problems.”

Because I was tired, weak in heart and still feeling defensive, I believed all of it.

My joy was robbed.

It’s messy enough trying to make big decisions for your future, but when you start believing lies… things get ugly pretty fast. Each lie is joined by it’s own disease until your heart is trampled.

Shame.

Defeat.

Anger.

People (and most animals) caught on pretty soon, and gave me a wide berth.

I sat at my desk the next day, trying to write encouraging words to a friend and finally decided that I needed some music for inspiration. The first song that played went like this:

“Whatever you’re doing inside of me… it feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace. It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see, but I’m giving in to something heavenly. Time for a milestone… time to begin again. Revaluate who I really am.

So show me what it is you want from me.

I give everything….

I surrender….

Time to face up. Clean this old house. Time to breathe in and let everything out that I’ve wanted to say for so many years. Time to release all my held back tears. Whatever you’re doing, inside of me…. it feels like chaos, but…. I believe. You’re up to something bigger than me.

LARGER THAN LIFE.

Something HEAVENLY.”

While the “You’re up to something heavenly… bigger than me.” promise was still reverberating in my mind, the next words came through my speakers.

“Lord I come. I confess. Bowing here, I find my rest. Without you I fall apart… you’re the One that guides my heart. Lord I need you, oh, I need You. Every hour I need you.

My ONE DEFENSE.

My RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Oh God, how I need you. Where sin runs deep, your grace is more. Where grace is found is where you are. And where you are, Lord, I AM FREE!!

HOLINESS IS CHRIST IN ME.

Teach my song to rise to you, when temptations come my way. When I cannot stand I’ll fall on you. Jesus, you’re my hope and stay!!!!”

“Jesus… MY righteousness??” “Holiness is Christ in me?” I was overwhelmed.

“For real, Jesus? But…. my sins. They are HUGE! ”

“I AM your righteousness. It’s not about you at all. Where sin runs deep, My grace is MORE. Come to me, and you will be free.”

“Ok. I will!!!”

He smiled, and I could have swore He wrapped His arms around me.

My heart jumped into the sky. And of course, the next song that played was,

“I’m trading my sorrow! I’m trading my shame! I’m laying them down…. for the JOY OF THE LORD.”

THIS. This was what my Loving Father was holding out to me.

I received it, and cried.

Forgiveness overwhelmed me.

Yes, Lord. Yes. I AM blessed beyond the curse. Get behind me, satan. JESUS HIMSELF is fighting for me, and He will never stop.

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My Jesus is up to something LARGER THAN LIFE. Something HEAVENLY.

He does not despise me, but instead holds out HOLINESS, FREEDOM & GRACE.

His promise will endure, and His joy’s gonna be my strength.

He told me so Himself, in one big love ambush in my old-fashioned straight-backed chair.

And I accept His words.

5 Things That Make People ‘Likeable’

At work last night, I realized that I’m just going through the motions, so now I’m trying to figure it out. How can I make a big impact in a short amount of time?

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What makes a person stand out in the crowd, and be the one whose words people remember?

People keep quitting at my job, and as new people come in, I’m observing that it doesn’t take long at all for people to decide whether a stranger is a friend or foe. Trustworthy, or an opponent. Likeable, or disliked.

As I watch people navigate life, I see certain people who have mastered skills that endear them to others. And these are five of the skills I see them practicing.

They Are Willing to Learn New Things

Likeable people aren’t proud, and are always eager to try their hand at something new… even if they make a total fool of themselves in the process. They are interested in the interests of others. And showing interest in what other people are saying/doing is a sure-fire way to win people’s hearts.

They Genuinely Like ALL People

Likeable people are friendly to strangers, kids, seniors…… everyone. They focus on the good in others instead of the bad. They add value to people by acknowledging them, remembering things from previous conversations and having a sincere interest in what matters to them.

They Respect Themselves And Others

Likeable people have respect for themselves. They don’t put themselves down or allow people to trample or use them. Because they treat themselves and others with respect, people respect them in return, and also trust them to a much higher degree.

They Make Their Purpose Known

Likeable people steadfastly follow their beliefs. They have a purpose for what they do, and share their ideas and vision with others. They know that people trust someone they understand.

They Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously

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They laugh at themselves, and enjoy the irony of their own mistakes instead of letting their mistakes define them.

I was in a class the other day, and a teacher I’d never had before got up to speak. My immediate reaction to his appearance was, “Ugh, this class is gonna be a monotonous BORE.”

Boy, was I wrong!

This teacher’s words over-rode his appearance in the first 5 minutes, and my assessment of him switched from “he doesn’t care” to “this man knows who he is and what he has to offer the world.” He made his beliefs known in a respectful way right from the get-go, but also knew how to laugh at his own shortcomings. I cared about what he had to say, and remember it to this day.

I want people to remember what I say just like that.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a list of things I need to go add to my “Work On This In Order To Become A World-Changer” list.

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.”