Tag Archives: believe

A Second Chance

I’m not very good at giving people a second chance. I have a tendency to pass judgment quickly, rely on first impressions, and hold grudges.

I don’t like this about myself, but I admit that it is a weakness and probably a large part of why I’m not a particularly fun loving, devil may care, gregarious, everyone-wants-to-be-her-friend individual.

On the one hand, I can accept that about myself, on the other hand I don’t really want to accept it. Because we should give one another a second chance. It’s our responsibility, and a lesson we should learn sooner rather than later.

In church the other week we were reading about Jonah, and I was reminded of Jonah’s poor attitude and the chapter after he returns to Nineveh. For some reason, I always forget about this chapter. In my mind the story always ends with Jonah becoming Whale spit up, fulfilling God’s will and then learning his lesson…but even after spending time inside a fish, he doesn’t really learn anything. Not a blessed thing and that is terrifying. I’m not going to lie, it worries me that one could experience so much and still have such a hard heart. In fact, he gets mad because his sermon to the Ninevites is effective. His ticked off that they turn from their evil ways and repent. He gets so mad that he goes out to the desert to pout.

God sends a vine to cover his head and provide him shade.

Then Jonah gets mad when the vine, which he did nothing to cultivate, dies.

And God speaks up. He asks Jonah an important question: Do you have a right to be angry about this vine?

Great question. Jonah didn’t do anything to deserve the vine, to nurture the vine; he didn’t plant the vine—he didn’t even say thank you when it grew. Then, when it dies he does nothing to change his circumstances. He just sits and lets his head burn. Stubborn, isn’t he? Of course, this is coming from the runner—the one who tried to escape God and when that didn’t work had sailors throw him into the sea, I guess he thought that would be a way to seal his fate—but you can’t run from God no matter how far you go and if God wants to teach you a lesson no matter how stubborn you are he’ll teach on.

It is up to you to decide to learn.

How many of us are the same way? We are blessed with health, family and sometimes even wealth that we did not earn and rarely deserve. We are living in a world of entitlement, but as Romans is so quick to remind us—all have sinned and fall short so we really don’t deserve anything but death, destruction and punishment. Some people, no matter what, some people are determined not to be happy. No matter what they are determined to be miserable. In fact I’m not even sure they would know what to do with happiness if it grew from a vine and slapped them in the face.

You see, it’s so easy to forget about Jonah 4 because no one wants to see Jonah as a whiner—no one wants to remember the man who survived a whale’s belly as a complaining, stubborn, unhappy man. Because it doesn’t make sense. Shouldn’t someone whose been given that SECOND CHANCE be able to empathize more with people who are seeking a second chance? Shouldn’t he rejoice with them, be joyful and grateful?

And yet, he’s angry! Angry that God would save them. He FORGOT too. He forgot his own transgressions and somehow I doubt he was as pure and sinless as he pouty face would suggest.

And then the bitter sting of hypocrisy sinks deep into my skin. Don’t we struggle with the same problem? We’ve all been given the same second chance, and we all think we deserve so much more than we actually do.

We think we deserve happiness.

We think we deserve contentment.

We think we deserve a life of leisure where we get what we want when we want it.

But we don’t.

We are all sinners.

We deserve misery.

We deserve sickness.

We deserve death.

Just as a murderer deserves to pay for his or her heinous crimes, each and every one of us deserves to pay for our sins. But OH how quick we are to forget our own sins when we look around and see someone else sinning. “Well,” we say to ourselves with our noses stuck up in the air, “at least I haven’t cheated on my wife like Bill. Bill deserves punishment. How could he show his face in church? He is such a sinner!”

What if Jonah had accepted their conversion? What if he’d stopped feeling that it was unfair, that they deserved less than he, that they were his equals? Now I don’t presume to rewrite the Bible, but I do want to look at another perspective, because after all, that’s what this blog is about. So Jonah 4 might have read a little like this:

1)And Jonah was pleased and joy filled his heart. 2) He prayed to the Lord, “Oh Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? How could I be so blind and flee to Tarshish? I know you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in Love. A God who relents from sending calamity. 3) Now, O Lord I see how it is better to live than to die. Praise your holy name.” 4) And the Lord blessed Jonah and the Ninevites…

Because the thing is we’re all sinners. Some of us don’t want to admit that we sin, and that’s worse in a lot of ways. We go to church, sing in the choir, attend Bible study, join every committee, but forget that we are more than just an organization. We are, and should be, designed to love everyone, not gossip about their shortcomings, or worse ignore and run away from their suffering.

We’re designed to be God’s image.

But we’re not in God’s image when we are unforgiving and self-righteous, sulking in the desert of our own iniquities and sin.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about what happiness is and why we pursue it. It’s not in our declaration of independence by accident. And we often take it for granted. I’ve come to the radical conclusion that happiness is not as illusive as we try to make it. Happiness doesn’t run from us, we run from it. Pursuing happiness may be a right, may be what God had in mind in fact, I don’t know. But what I do know is that Proverbs 25:26 says: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked,” but John 4:14 says: “ but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” All you have to do to quench the thirst is drink. But we resist the water just like we resist happiness. Why?

Because it can’t be that simple, can it?

Author and Perfector

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve chosen the right path. But then I suppose everyone has doubts about their life at some point or another. The fact of the matter is, we can’t ever be sure about every decision we make. When I was in college I watched a film called Run Lola Run (directed by Tom Tykwer).  The film centers on the idea that it’s not only the monumental decisions in our lives that shape who we become as much as every tiny decision we make—down to taking the time to tie our shoe or letting the laces flap in the breeze. These little moments can shape us as much if not more. The film shows the same event, three times with tiny changes that affect the overall outcome in enormous ways.

Which in turn reminds me of Esther. I’ve been studying this book and as I’m now in chapter 6, big decisions still hold value, but the tiny ones are every bit as important.

Esther had an opportunity to rock the Persian world. She was promised up to half the kingdom by her husband Xerxes if she asked for it—which though a figure of speech, is still a pretty amazing oath. She invites Xerxes and her mortal enemy, Hamen, to a banquet to make the request. At the banquet she has a number of options—decisions to make. And any one of them can alter the course of her personal history.

  • She could, like Herodias’ s daughter did for John the Baptist, ask for Hamen’s head on a platter (Problem solved!)
  • She could reveal Hamen’s evil plan—confront the beast head on (Uncovered, unfoiled, right?)
  • Wait (What? Why wait!?!)

The timing was right! Her life had been spared, the king had agreed to dinner—now hat do be the time. If Esther makes the request, the game is over. But she doesn’t. Like Lola, she stops to tie her shoe, altering the course of the future.

But that is a monumental decision, right? That’s certainly more than just tying her shoe. What happens next is what, combined with the monumental decisions, proving to me that our small decisions have just a great an effect on our lives as our big decisions.

That night, the king couldn’t sleep.

Now the king has some decisions to make. And he’s the King of Persia—he could get a glass of warm milk, count sheep, or he has over 100 concubines so I could think of a few things he could do on a sleepless night.

Instead he orders the chronicle of his reign to be read to him.

Well, now I can see why this might put you to sleep, but this decision becomes the peripety of the entire narrative, a seemingly insignificant event that changes the course of everything.

Elevating Mordecai in the king’s eyes just enough so that when Esther does reveal Hamen’s evil plan, the king doesn’t harbor resentment against his noble prince, but righteous indignation about the injustice done to his ally and queen. Outrage, not regret in the end result.

If Esther hadn’t waited? The sleepless night would have looked very different.

If he hadn’t read the chronicle? The timing may never have been right for Ether.

What kind of changes in history would we see if even one tiny decision had been made?

Every significant even has a place, but more importantly ever insignificant event does too. Our lives are arranged accidentally. They are carefully crafted and perfected to create individual lives and purposes that we can live to be proud of. When I write, I always start with a character: Andrea, Valerie, Clara, Lucy…How much more so does God start with us as characters crafting each even toward some kind of significant end? It’s only natural to question our decisions and actions, but in the end no matter what we choose—I’m comforted to know that the author and perfector of my faith is more than my calligrapher—He’s a master craftsman.

So sometimes I pray for a peripety.

A reversal of destiny—a change that will make its mark on me ant eh world.

Because you never know what decision today might lead to a monumental destiny tomorrow.

Local Paragons Part II: Camino Bakery

Camino Bakery is located at 310 West Fourth Street in Winston Salem, North Carolina. They are well known for their fresh pastries and coffee drinks made with Krankies Railhead espresso (also local), housemade syrups, and Homeland Creamery (Julien, NC) milk.

Food: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3                                                 Local color: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3


The smell of cinnamon and flour assaulted Lucy first, then the espresso, followed by the cacophony of voices. A veritable gaggle of locals mostly—all trying to escape the harsh winter winds that brought single digit temperatures but no snow.

North Carolina didn’t know what to do with snow anyway—ice, sure, but real snow was as rare as a three legged dog. And it shut everything down.

Lucy didn’t particularly like the cold, but she hated snow. Shivering in her hooded jacket, faux fur lined, she joined the line for a latte. The menu had changed again—winter drinks now. During the autumn she’d had a honey and cinnamon latte that she could still taste, and had dreams about every now and then. Now she would have to try something new.

Studying the menu she tried to ignore the delicacies in the clear case before her. Perfectly crafted soufflés, scones, custom pastries—at lunch she would sometimes duck in for the quiche, which (given the melt in your mouth pastry crust) she would never have guessed was flourless like many of their delectable treats. For this morning though, all she needed was the latte. It was going to be a long day working on the Miller-Jones wedding and she needed a good pick-me-up.

“What can I get you?”

Lucy smiled at the question. “French toast latte, please,” she ordered, pulling out a twenty to pay. Her phone rang as the girl handed back her change and Lucy slid to the side to wait on her order. Looking down at her work phone, Lucy groaned. She would be at the office soon, why couldn’t this wait for fifteen minutes until she got there?

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“What is it, Mark?” she asked a little impatiently—she listened as her assistant started to hyperventilate.  Finally she interrupted. “Mark, you’re going to have to breathe. I can’t really understand you. I’ll be there in like twenty minutes.”

“Lucy, the flowers, they delivered the wrong flowers,” Mark managed to say more coherently this time.

“Then call them and tell them to correct the mistake. Who signed for them?” Lucy shifted the phone to her other ear as she balanced her laptop bag on her shoulder.

“Theresa. The florist says they won’t take them back since someone signed for them,” Mark’s voice raised an octave. Lucy looked up at the ceiling. Working with dramatic people drove her batty sometimes—but she was an event planner at the Marriot. Dramatics came with the territory. Weddings were the worst.

“Get the wedding planner on the phone,” Lucy sighed. And working with a third party never worked out well—Theresa had a good eye, but she was flaky. “Tell her to meet me in the ballroom in thirty minutes. We’ll talk to the florist together. And Mark, you need to calm down. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened and I doubt it will be the last.”

Lucy hung up the phone.

“Americano. French toast latte.”

Adjusting her bag, Lucy turned back toward the counter to get her latte, her hand brushing the hand of Americano’s owner as she did so.

“Sorry,” Lucy murmured without looking up from her latte.

“No problem,” his smooth voice floated over her, sparking something in her memory. Lucy’s forehead wrinkled, as her eyes flickered up. Saul’s smile reached all the way to the corners of his mossy green eyes. “So is that why you didn’t call me?”

“I—“ Lucy blinked, her bag dropped from her shoulder to the crook of her elbow, spilling droplet of latte from the top of the lid to her thumb. Saul reached for a napkin and handed it to her while she readjusted the bag on her arm.

“Okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she murmured.

“So, how are the wedding plans?”

Lucy’s head popped up again. “What wedding plans?”

“I couldn’t help but overhear. Mark, wasn’t it?” He pointed to the phone that she still held in her hand. Saul was casually mixing the tiniest bit of cream into his coffee and not even enough sugar to taste. “I assume that’s why you never called.” He flashed her his dimpled grin.

Lucy looked stupidly at her phone. “Mark?”

“Your fiancé?” he asked.

“My what?” Lucy shook her head. “Oh no, Mark is my assistant.” She laughed now, shaking her phone back and forth. “We were talking about work.”

“Oh?” Saul leaned against the counter.

“Yes.”

“Cappuccino.”

“Excuse me,” a little woman with a tight bun leaned in between them and grabbed the cappuccino, but neither Saul nor Lucy moved far—just enough to allow her to get her beverage.

“So, Mark is your assistant. You are a…”

“I’m an event planner,” Lucy supplied. “I work for the Marriot.” She gestured with the latte, then looked down, flustered, and grateful it hadn’t spilled again.

“Ah, that explains the flowers and wedding planner comment then.”

“Yes. We do all kinds of events there, weddings, conferences, fundraisers…” Lucy trailed off, realizing she was rambling.

“So why didn’t you call then?” he asked, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Café latte. Americano. French toast latte.”

“I think we’re in the way,” Lucy said. Looking at the three drinks on the counter in front of them. Saul smiled, a dimple forming on his left cheek. He took a step closer to her so people could get to their drinks at the counter. Lucy could no longer smell the spices of the coffee shop, as her senses filled with cologne—fresh, but masculine. Tommy maybe?

“You’re evading,” he said.

“It’s weird,” she said. Lucy looked at her latte cup.

“Weird?”

“To call a stranger? It felt weird.”

“Well,” he glanced up. “We’re not strangers any more. I’m Saul and I work at Hutch and Harris when I’m not attending classes at Wake for Med School, and you’re Lucy—you work at the Marriot as an event planner. And we’re standing in Camino Bakery under the mistletoe.”

“We’re what,” Lucy followed his gaze. Hanging right above their head was a sprig of mistletoe.

“Must be left over from the holidays,” he shrugged. Lucy’s eyes dropped back down to his. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Call me?”

Lucy was still standing there, mouth open as Saul waved from the other side of the window, hurrying down the sidewalk of Fourth Street.

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Do Not Be Afraid: A Resolution

Don’t be afraid.

As one year now closes and another gears up, we all take the time to reflect and reevaluate. People take the time to make resolutions which they will earnestly break within a month, maybe two if they are more committed than most.

I’m not judging…well, I am, but I’m also empathizing. I do the same, and though I could wish for better resolve, if I had it (if any of us did), we really wouldn’t need to make New Year’s resolutions.

So this year, I’m trying something different. Instead of making a resolution that I want to stick to throughout the year. I’m going to reevaluate each month, because I learned something important about myself this past year. I have been breaking the most repeated command in the Bible.

And I break it over, and over, and over again.

Do you know what the most repeated command in the Bible it? I learned this recently. Right off hand, if someone had asked me this before, I probably would have said it is “love one another”. No, that’s not it. The most common command in the Bible is:

Do not be afraid.

I am not a risk taker. I make pro-con lists, I weigh the value of decisions, I look at the consequences of each moment that I live (or don’t live I guess)—and I live in fear that the decisions I make every day are the wrong ones.

And not only are they the wrong ones, but they are going to catastrophically alter the universe (or at least my universe) in some way shape or form.

Talk about some ego.

Which is why sometimes I feel like I’m stuck—frozen in this life I’ve cherry picked and carefully chosen and protecting myself right out of life or maybe even a calling.

Because we can do that—protect ourselves from something that we think will shatter us, but if we allowed it to, would actually help us. And I do that more often than not

Which brings me back to the whole resolution thing. This New Year I’m going to be less afraid, because I have dreams, big dreams and I have to stop protecting myself from them. So each month I’ll make a new resolution, then re-evaluate at the end of the month.

Because this is too important to wait till next January.

At the risk of alienating everyone sick of Frozen, I’m going to quote Elsa here: The fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all [in 2015]. Let it go.

Believe

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Believe

I am a realist.

Throughout my life I have struggled to grasp the concept of belief without proof. I need facts, I need evidence, I need witnesses, I need explanation. My brain thinks logically, linearly and rationally. Now before you start thinking I’m a robot, let me assure you I have my fair share of emotional entanglements, but when it comes to the concept of believing I struggle painfully to the point that I have daily apologies to God about my disbelief as I am constantly asking Him for explanation to that which I don’t understand because it frustrates me to no end.

For day two, Goins suggests that a writer should master the art of believing in herself as a writer (http://goinswriter.com/believe/).

I scoff.

Didn’t I just declare myself to be a writer? Now I need proof! I don’t need an esoteric exercise exploring my inner self. Now is the time to collect evidence to support my declaration.

Irritated, I ruminate on this suggested day two. I do believe I’m a writer, don’t I? I declared it.  But is declaring something and believing it the same thing?

What does it mean to believe that I am a writer?

I start to dig deeper into what belief is and I recall an NPR series entitled “This I believe…”. Over 200 segments made up of this series, and I use it in my classroom. I love listening to the creeds of various people from across the world, some famous like Amy Tan or Tony Hawk, and sometimes they are high school students just like the kids I have in class every day. Each and every one of these essays are filled with belief, deep rooted truths that people hold dear to their hearts for various reasons that show what unite us as humans.

So maybe there is something to this idea of understanding what you believe about yourself. If I believe I am a writer, what does that mean for me? The easiest way to answer that question is with a creed similar to NPR.

I believe that as a writer I am capable of producing works that people will want to read.

I believe that the more I write the more comfortable I will become as a writer.

I believe that to be a writer you have to commit to the craft and surround yourself with support even if inside you have screaming doubts.

I believe that to silence the screaming doubts you have to keep pushing forward and continue writing and that is the only way to truly accept your belief.

I believe that saying you are a writer is only part of the battle; to truly believe it you have to act on it.

Writing is like any other profession; you have to actively pursue your goals to believe that you can be anything at all. Tomorrow’s challenge is to get up 2 hours earlier to write. That means I will be getting up at 4 am to write before going to work. Better set the coffee on now, because I believe that determination is key to helping you believe that anything is possible.