I heard that petting your cat helps lower blood pressure. If so and if I had a cat, it would be hairless today. Alas, there were no cats available.

Coloring is also said to relieve anxiety and calm a person. Now, that was available for me to purchase so I spent an inordinate amount of money on colored pencils, an adult coloring book and a pencil sharpener. I guess I expected to color the pencils dull.

What exactly brought me to the point of needing an external source of calm? Let me take you to the beginning of the day!

My mom had a pacemaker implanted the end of March. Everything went splendidly and she continues to recover wonderfully, but I decided to make a trip to see her in the spring to help with her outside work rather than waiting until summer when I usually go to Montana. In spite of crazy ticket prices and indirect routes to where I wanted to go, I bought a ticket.

I left home before the sun was up to catch a 7 a.m. flight to Minneapolis where I had a three hour layover before going on to Salt Lake City and to my final destination in Kalispell. I was confident and calm, sure of how I would pass the time. After grabbing a bit of breakfast, I manuevered to my gate area and nestled into a seat a few rows away from my gate but still within my line of sight. Well, that is if my eyes were in the back of my head! Just saying…!

I played some games on my iPad, listened to the church service from where I attend, and watched people. I noted the passing of time, quite sure I was right where I needed to be to hear boarding announcements. At some point I lost track of time . . . it was like when you are going somewhere and you leave the house on time but when you get in the car which is literally just a few steps into the garage, there has been a time warp. Suddenly you are 15 minutes late!

That is what I was when I looked at the time. It was 11 a.m. That was departure time for my flight and I was not on that plane. Rushing to the gate agent, I asked if the flight was boarding. He looked at me so funny and said, “That flight left.” Well, how exactly could that happen? I am still right here!

Apparently he doesn’t have the power to call the plane back for this one person. So there I was. Not on the plane and quite steadfastly standing in the terminal. My heart dropped. What now?

It only took a few minutes on the phone and I secured a seat on another flight going directly to Kalispell later in the day. It meant six hours of down time in the airport but it could definitely be worse! I mean — it wouldn’t have been so strange for me to need to spend the night in Minneapolis.

As I adjusted my mind to this new reality, I felt myself wanting to find a reason. Surely there was a reason. Maybe those other planes were going to have trouble and never arrive at their destination. Maybe there was a troublemaker on board . . . and my mind threatened to go down the rabbit holes of needing to find some meaning or purpose in my delay. Surely there was something to learn. Something that I could take away from this experience.

Let’s just be honest. I wasn’t listening. Not only was I not listening, apparently I wasn’t close enough to the gate to hear announcements. And my back was toward the gate so I couldn’t even see when the boarding process started.

Perhaps the takeaway is a reminder to listen better, to stay alert, watch and see what is happening around me or I will miss the main event. That would be an excellent takeaway.

Perhaps the takeway is a reminder to be flexible; a lesson in letting go, realizing I really am not in control. Sometimes it is just not in my power to change an unfortunate event.

Perhaps I was too focused on what was happening around me to other people. I heard everyone else’s boarding calls, reminders and last calls. Learning to listen for my name, keeping my mind focused on what is being said to me is another good takeaway.

Perhaps I needed a lesson in humility. As I boarded the flight in South Bend, another passenger told the flight attendant this was his first time to fly since 9/11. He was noticeably nervous. I felt a bit smug. After all, I fly more than the average person and am quite calm about it. I generally move quickly and efficiently through the process and make corrections if needed. Perhaps I needed a reminder that arrogance and pride are not from the Father.

All of those are good takeaways from this experience. But after thinking about it and staying attuned to what the Holy Spirit might be saying, I sensed it was just an event. Life happens. I get distracted. I miss things. Not everything carries with it deep meaning and life lessons. It’s okay for an event to just be an event.

I am the first to say there is always something to learn when faced with obstacles. Today I learned to roll with the punches, take a few deep breaths and practice gratitude. At our house we have a large imaginary bucket called the “Oh Well!” bucket. This experience and the extra money it cost me to spend the day in Minneapolis went in there. It can’t be changed. I am not stupid. The day is not wasted.

What is it you struggle to make sense of? Are obstacles popping up like hurdles in the road? What if there isn’t some big cosmic lesson you are supposed to learn? What if your name hasn’t been drawn from the lottery box in the sky to be the next contestant on “learn this lesson?” What if it’s just the way life happens and that’s why Jesus said he wasn’t going to leave us alone? Instead of saying, “Why me?” what if you said, “Why not me?”

So, I’m giving myself a bucket full of grace for not listening, for not watching and for missing my flight. All is well, all is well and all will be well! And this scripture gives me a great deal of comfort too. I think more it’s more calming to my restless heart than the coloring. Now I’ve learned that too!

3You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. 4You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. 5You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! 7I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

Psalm 139:3-7

What is your passion? What drives you? What is it that you just cannot not talk about? What does your mind go to in every single conversation you have?

I didn’t use to know the answer to these questions. Vaguely, I might have answered “Jesus” because that seemed like the right answer and in many ways, it is my answer. But the last three years have helped to clarify my passion and formulate a response to these questions. More than ever, I desire to see fellow human beings live outside of the chaos of life in both the external world and the internal world of the mind.

Chaos exists in many forms. Sometimes, it is the sheer busyness of life. At times that busyness is a season such as when children are young or when transitioning to a new community. Sometimes, it is self-imposed busyness such as the inability to draw boundaries or to say no to the never ending barrage of seemingly good things a person can do. These things have a life span of their own – children get older, we settle into the new community, boundaries are set as a person learns to say no. Learning to live outside of the chaos in these seasons takes practice, but it is possible.

The other kind of chaos exists within our minds. It is unresolved hurts, soul injuries, wounds, places of loss, living with unmet core needs, believing lies about who I am as a person and/or as a child of the living God. These are sneaky, a bit more subtle, more difficult to identify and more destructive. They don’t tend to have a life span or season. In other words, they don’t just go away. Living outside of this destructive chaos requires intentionality in exposing the source and allowing truth to take its place.

I have sensed for some time that writing a daily post was coming to an end. I just wasn’t sure when that would happen. It seems now is the time. I believe there are those who are ready to step out of the chaos of life but they need assistance doing it. So, in preparation for working in a more personal, one-on-one capacity with individuals, I am making space in my life. That means letting something go, even when that something is good and enjoyable, like writing. I anticipate continuing to write, but not every day.

As I meditated on this the last few days, Moses and Joshua came to mind. Both were asked to lead the people through impossible situations – Moses through the Red Sea and Joshua through the Jordan River at flood stage. Neither saw the water part until they displayed their own faith. Moses lifted the staff over the sea and then the water parted. (Exodus 14:15-22) Joshua instructed the priests to enter the Jordan River at flood stage. The water didn’t part until the priests’ feet were wet. (Joshua 3:14-16) While I am not leading anyone across a dangerous body of water, I sense the need to step out in faith.

The Cabin is finished and is a physical space to step out of the chaos of daily life and take a few deep breaths. There is a bit of outside work to finish, but the Cabin is a refuge from the storms and chaos of life. We love seeing our dream come alive as we host guests who need refreshment in the chaos.

In addition to the physical space, I offer spiritual direction and guided retreat material. Spiritual direction is simply listening together with another for ways God is already moving in a person’s life. It is calling out what is already there and helping to identify next steps in the journey of becoming like Jesus.

Guided retreat materials help an individual by providing a plan for time away. It often isn’t the desire to have a personal retreat that is missing; it is knowing what to do when that time arrives. I help by providing scripture, thought provoking questions and activities that help a participant engage with the Holy Spirit in a directed way. You can check it all out on the website at cabinoff39.com.

Perhaps your thing is getting away to read or sleep for a few hours. The Cabin is the perfect destination. Maybe it is time for an intentional getaway with your partner. The Cabin is the perfect destination. Is it time to reconnect with your purpose? The Cabin is the perfect destination. Whatever your need, I invite you to consider the Cabin as a part of your plan.

Where does one start when summarizing a trip to Israel? Is it a day-by-day recap of sites visited? It is by recounting the food we ate? The weather we experienced? The lack of lines at the sites? Or is it my personal experience at each site, what I felt the Holy Spirit show me in fresh ways?

I think it is none of those things. The beginning point for my experiences in Israel is the empty tomb. You see, without the empty tomb there is no meaning in anything else I saw except a glimpse into times past.

1Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. 2Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. 3His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. 4The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. 5Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. 7And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

Matthew 28:1-7

As Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

Does your faith and hope rest on the risen Christ? Or are you putting your hope in something else? Good works? Right behavior? Kindness to others? Knowing the scriptures?

Without the resurrection, all these things are worthless. So, my beginning point is the empty tomb!

When you read this, I will be somewhere over Europe on a journey to Israel that has been in the works for over a year. No. This isn’t an April Fool’s joke. I will not post while I am there but look forward to sharing my experiences when I return. Your prayers are appreciated as our group walks where Jesus walked.

Lessons I learned on the run . . .

. . . another phenomenon I experienced while running is sometimes referred to as the runner’s high. You see, at some point in my daily run, I broke through the barriers of my mind and body and felt like I could run forever. Kind of like Forrest Gump.

Strangely, or not, the same high is experienced when I consistently exercise my spiritual muscles. It is said that gratitude and “fix(ing) your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think(ing) about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” produces the same kind of effect in our bodies. Paul, in his letter to Phillipi, says “you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7-9

So, today, as you live and move and have your being, practice. Train yourself for godliness. Take time to stretch (pause) to avoid injury. Look for the high that comes from consistently spending time in the presence of Jesus. Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

The fourth lesson I learned on the run is repetition.

In order to run, you need to run. There are no shortcuts to developing lung capacity and endurance. I started by running a half mile and then a little further and then I could run a mile. Soon, I could run three miles. After that, it wasn’t my lungs that wanted to give out or my legs, it was my mind. The battle for the long haul was in my mind.

The same is true in many areas of life. If we want to develop endurance and the ability to hang in there when life gets long and tedious, do the basic things over and over again.

Today as I sat down to journal and talk to God about some troubling thoughts, I was reminded that it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be consistent and repetitive. Stop. Listen. Obey.

I make it so difficult at times.

1Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. 2But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

There is the secret — coming back to scripture, meditating on Him day and night!

The third lesson I learned on the run is the value of stretching. Often times, after I returned from a run, I moved right into the rest of the day. I didn’t take time to cool down or to stretch. Then I developed injuries.

The days when I took five minutes to stretch at the end of a run were my best days. Running is hard on the joints; stretching helps muscles to remain strong, flexible and healthy. Healthy muscles maintain their range of motion and I needed that to run strong. Without stretching, muscles shorten and become tight, making a person more injury prone.

You know what kept me from stretching? Two things come to mind. First, it takes time. I had to slow down and put a pause on the rest of my day in order to stretch. I didn’t think I had the time.

Secondly, no one else was doing it. Specifically, my running partner didn’t stretch. It’s not that she didn’t value it or understand the importance of it; she just opted not to stretch. But that’s her story; I didn’t have to let it be mine.

I knew that taking the time and effort to stretch benefited my body. It is one aspect of running that I carried with me to my new exercise routine.

Stretching is to muscles what pausing is to spiritual health. We all need it. Physical stretching gives my muscles what they need to remain healthy, strong and flexible. Then when I use them, they are ready to work for me.

When I build pauses, times of silence, solitude, meditation or gratitude into my day, my spiritual health receives the nutrients it needs to thrive. When I consistently feed my mind and spirit in this way, it is ready to take on the challenges life presents.

5Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” 8So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 

1 Kings 19:5-8

Elijah had just fought a mighty battle with the prophets of Baal. He was emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I think it is the equivalent of participating in an Iron Man triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run). He needed to pause – the equivalent of an extended stretch.

Elijah did just that. He slept, ate, slept, ate and slept again. This strengthened him to be able to make a forty day journey where he met with God in a profound way.

Stretching is to exercise as pausing is to spirituality. Why aren’t you doing it?

Running provides a person many life lessons. My motivation to start exercising came from the rising number on the scales and the knowledge that my future health was, ultimately, up to me. While I can’t control everything, I can adopt certain habits that help my body to work optimally. For a few years, that meant running for exercise.

It was really before I had developed the lung capacity to run any distance that I learned the value of training.

In 2002, Dave and I were asked to speak on prayer at a young adult weekend retreat. We readily agreed and enjoyed interacting with the group of 20 somethings that gathered to seek God. Besides the times of reflection, prayer and listening, there was adequate time for social interaction and physical activity.

Saturday afternoon, I was sitting around with some of the participants when one of the young women asked if anyone wanted to go for a run. I thought, “I am interested in exercise. I have thought about running. I want to do this.” So, I responded affirmatively.

Now Abby was a runner. Not just a beginniner, but someone who had been doing it for some time. We started out and for the first 1/4 mile, I was doing great. The second 1/4 mile was more difficult and I wondered if this was a good idea. In the next 1/4 mile, I knew I had overestimated my ability. I told Abby to go on ahead and I would walk a bit. She smiled and kept going.

We were on a highway in I have no idea where, Michigan. Unfamiliar with the road and community, I quickly began to wish I had stayed at the camp. As Abby disappeared into the distance, I realized I needed to turn around and make my way back to camp. Tail tucked, I turned around and headed back toward camp.

The road leading from the highway to the camp was gravel and twisted and turned through the trees. I really did not like being on this road which seemed really deserted and I felt extremely vulnerable. No one was around and no one knew where I was. Then I heard a vehicle coming on this barren, deserted gravel road. I did the only thing I knew to do and turned off the road into the woods.

There wasn’t a neat little trail through the woods to the area where the others were playing volleyball, but I could hear them in the distance. I practiced my best Montana woodsman skills and blazed a trail through the brush toward the noise of the others playing games. I was unrelenting in my pursuit of that noise with no regard for the brush cutting my legs.

I finally broke through the woods into the clearing where the others were. Not wanting to appear desperate, defeated or afraid, I walked out of the woods as nonchalant as I could, like I was just returning from a walk. But inside, I was humiliated and embarrassed.

I came away with a great deal of respect for what it takes to run a distance. I was keenly aware of my lack of training but also strangely grateful that Abby didn’t stop to accommodate my slower pace. I needed to learn this lesson.

Just as I learned that the right clothes don’t make you a runner, desire doesn’t substitute for training. It is certainly a starting point, but only that. I had hours of work to do in order to be ready to go the distance and failure was my best teacher.

I didn’t stop. My legs were bruised and scratched; my ego had a black eye; I was embarrassed. This experience was to me the discipline I needed to take seriously what was required of me.

11No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. 12So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Hebrews 12:11-13

What are your desires and amibitions? Have you experienced failure that threatens to set you back? How can it be used as a springboard that motivates you rather than a hindrance that sidelines you?

Read again the verses for today and determine you will pause to take a new grip, strengthen your hands and knees and mark out a straight path forward!

No failure is pleasant at the time, but it produces a bushel of blessing if we allow it to do its work!

Years ago, I joined those who call themselves runners. I started out slowly, running a mile or two and then three. In a few weeks time, I ran a 5K and then another and eventually, I ran two half marathons — 13.1 miles. I felt quite accomplished.

One particular 5K I ran was in the middle of July. Indiana in July is hot and this particular day was particularly hot. With actual temperatures over 90, the humidity made it feel like 100+. The race started at 1 pm, the hottest part of the day. Besides being hot, my confidence wavered.

As the runners gathered at the starting line, I noticed the people around me. Many of them were dressed in well worn running gear, but there was one woman who stood out to me. She wore the latest running styles – new shorts, shirt and shoes – looking like an accomplished runner. It unnerved me for some reason; I found myself doubting my ability to run this 5K.

We weren’t halfway through the race when I heard the woman confessing to her friends that she didn’t think she could finish the run. She was tired, hot and worn out. Wearing the right clothes did not prepare her to run the distance.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he compared spiritual life to running a race and finishing well. He didn’t say anything about acting right, wearing the right clothes or saying the right words. He said this:

Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 9This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

1 Timothy 4:7-10

Training, training, training.

It isn’t about wearing the right clothes to look the part. It’s about spending time training yourself to run the race.

Have you substituted training for looking good, saying the right things, going the right places? Do you show up looking the part but without spending time doing the workouts?

And what does it mean to train myself anyway? Come back this week as I consider the lessons I learned on the run.

I just finished my workout. The instructor mentioned her motivation in life right now is to protect her energy. Protect your energy. What does that mean?

My first thought is I don’t have energy to do everything so I need to protect it, use it wisely. Protecting my energy means I say no. I say no even when the invitation looks good. I say no even when someone else wants me to say yes, might even be pressuring me to say yes. I say no to protect my energy.

Protecting my energy means I pause when I feel angry, nervous, anxious, stressed out or alone.

My second thought is I don’t have to keep moving until I am depleted. The instructor said it like this, “Protecting your energy means hitting pause.”

That’s what I said!

Why are we so afraid to pause? For me, I am afraid I will miss an opportunity or I might lose my place — whatever that means! Somehow, I attach value to always being busy, available or occupied.

I need to pause. You need to pause. Our culture needs to pause.

This is what Jesus said . . .

. . . “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Mathtew 11:28-30

I know a great place you can PAUSE! Check out the Cabin off 39 LLC and schedule your getaway today! You will thank yourself later!

Last week I talked about anxiety. As I consider pausing and anxiety in the same basket, something becomes abundantly clear to me.

Next week, my husband and I, along with about thirty-eight others, are traveling to Israel. Now, I have overcome my anxiety about air travel. I have overcome my anxiety about air travel across the ocean. I have overcome my anxiety about air travel over the ocean to a Middle Eastern country. This will not be my first visit to Israel, so it is like going home.

. . . speaking of going home. One of the greatest honors I experienced is when a friend traveled to my hometown with me. For one week, she submitted to seeing where I went to school, my childhood haunts, the church I attended, the places I called home. It was so honoring for an individual to display such love for me that she was willing to invest time and money to know me in that way.

That is how I feel about visiting Israel. There is this strange aura of knowing that I am walking where Jesus walked, I am standing on the cliff that people from his hometown were ready to push him off of, I walk the road he walked to the cross. It is amazing. And it is an honor to walk where he walked.

. . . now, about the intersection of anxiety and pausing. As the day approaches, I find it would be so simple to slip into anxious thinking. While I have overcome many things that caused anxiety in the past, I am not quite accustomed to the additional protocols required to visit a foreign country during a pandemic. There are just a lot of t’s to cross and i’s to dot. Testing before you go, but at an approved facility that will give you results in a format accepted for foreign travel. Testing when you arrive to ensure you haven’t contracted anything in the previous 72 hours. Then there is the possibility of needing to isolate at your destination . . . and it goes on and on.

Every once in a while I sense the little door to all the big worries sliding open and the slimy mist of anxiety wants to roll in and take over my heart.

And in walks PAUSE to confront anxiety. You see, it really is my choice. I can sit down and invite Anxiety in for tea and serve biscuits and jam. Or I can say no! And slam the door soundly in its face. I can pause.

Right now, on this day, there is nothing I can do to change anything that might happen tomorrow. Jesus said — well, let’s just see what Jesus said. . .

34“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:34

How is your tomorrow trying to budge into today? Seriously, is there anything you can do to change tomorrow? If so, do it. If not, let it go until tomorrow and enjoy today.

Here’s the funny thing – I find that the trouble for today doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Because, in the moment, trouble isn’t that troubling. Jesus gives us grace for the moment in which we now stand (check out Romans 5 for that one!), but he doesn’t give us grace for what is not yet.

So, at the intersection of anxiety and pausing, choose to pause. Ask Jesus for his perspective on it and then let it go!