'Fifty Shades of Grey'

It all began with Fifty Shades of Grey.

I should explain.  As many of you have kindly noted and inquired about, I haven’t written a blog for a long time.  Quite honestly, I didn’t have anything to say.  My own health struggles left me barely able to work and crawl home to sleep.  The heartache of my adult children — who I am powerless to help and who I am more in love with than ever — reminded me of my mistakes and longings for them that can’t be put into words.  And then my parents began to face the excruciating realities of my 81 year-old dad’s diagnosis of Stage 4 Cancer.  I didn’t have anything to say, and I know now that the tender heart of the Father toward those who know they cannot help themselves has been whispering, “Sharon, why don’t you just listen.”  Slowly, almost as if emerging from hibernation, I tentatively and fearfully began to have something to say.

And it all began with Fifty Shades of Grey.

When this book first made headlines, I read a few portions, wondering what 100 million people, in 52 countries were attracted to.  I knew it was not good writing or even believable characters.  It didn’t take me long to realize, though, that reading this book would make me feel much like I do when I go through the drive-thru to pick up “food porn” from Taco Bell.

The movie catapulted this book into the headlines again with over 1 million viewers during the first weekend it was in theatres.  On February 7, I headed to Orlando to teach at one of my favorite places, Reformed Theological Seminary; and at the last minute I was invited to be a part of a radio show — Steve Brown, Etc. — talking about this phenomenon.  The program aired on February 13, 2015 (you can go to to listen to the podcast).  I prepared for the program wondering two things — what are the shades of grey, and why are so many people openly or secretly interested in this story with a language of seduction that no one I know has ever heard or will ever use, like: “I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Steele, and I have expensive hobbies . . .,” to which she replies, “No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why.  Is it his looks?  His civility? Wealth? Power?” (and then she faints and awakens to find her “inner Goddess” who wants to surrender to this man completely, no matter what he asks).

Following the radio interview is a season in which I am teaching about Sex & Sexuality  in the Master’s of Counseling program at RTS, I am also scheduled to:

*speak to over 300 adolescents about What is the Big Deal about Sex?

*to co-lead a class about sex for engaged couples

*to speak to three separate groups of parents about how they can talk to their children about sex.

I have never felt more deeply that I do not have anything to say about this subject.  The Enemy of Truth taunted me: “What do you – a divorced woman – have to say about a subject that you have not had personal experience with in over 17 years!”  Because it’s all about sex, isn’t it?

Shades of Grey

I didn’t really want to show up for these events speechless, and so I took the safest route to confirm what all these shades of gray are about by doing a little research.

In 2014:

*78.9 billion porn videos where viewed, that’s 11 videos viewed by every person on Earth, 2.1 million visits per hour; 35,000 visits per minute; and 5.8 thousand visits per second.

*A 2014 study analyzed this book and reported that, not only is it written porn, but every interaction between the two characters in the book is emotionally abusive.

*The theme of this phenomenon is BDSM – a relationship of bondage, discipline, sadomasochism.  I was quickly gathering enough statistics to prove that 50 Shades isn’t gray.  It’s dark.

Maybe we should boycott it, start a petition, and let everyone know how offended we are.  And then I discovered this final statistic:

*Last year over 1 million people commented on porn websites and the most common word in the comments was Love.

Love?  As Tina Turner crooned, from personal experience: “What’s love got to do with it? What’s love, but a second-hand emotion.  What’s love got to do with?  Who can feel loved when their already broken?”

In the midst of all those awful statistics, I still didn’t feel like I had anything to say — even if it is about love, that would be painful, because love is a painful subject to most of us.  It’s our experiences with love that force us to grapple with inexplicable issues that make us ask, “Where is/was God?” Who is He, anyway?  What is He really about?”  I can’t explain what happened while immersed in statistics about sex, but I began to remember — heart and soul — that the answer, and the only thing I have to say is Jesus.  Fifty 50 Shades of Grey and Jesus?  Thank goodness.

Sex and Jesus?

Contrary to a culture that has told us that sex is just about biology, I know that sex is not about what we do.  It is about who we are.  Sexuality, in and of itself, is the basis by which we have been made in the Image of God – “male and female He created them”(Genesis 1:27).  As I have listened to stories just this past year from teenagers about having sexual intercourse, with their pants pulled down around their ankles, and their private parts hurting and bleeding; about predators who often look like pastors, family members, and strangers – who threaten and demand silence that eats away at their victims from the inside out until they feel like an empty shell; about men and women seduced by something more than their spouse; and about lonely men and women believing they are unworthy of love; I know what they’re looking for is not found in a silly book or movie.

How do I know?  I’m just like those over 100 million readers.  I have looked for love in all the wrong places and ended up feeling loverless, rejected, and unworthy.  In thinking about what to say about this cultural runaway train, I knew I might not have gotten on the “train” at the 50 Shades stop, but I’ve gotten on at others — looking for love in a bottle; in another flawed, lonely person; in performance and people-pleasing; and I know where the trains ends — in shame and self-hatred, in hiding and trying to prove myself, until hibernating makes more sense than anything else.

50 Shades of Grey is just another story that lies about ourselves; that perpetuates the most insidious of all lies — that we will never be loved like we really desire and so we should harden our hearts and consider that the best “lover” we will ever get is some version of a Hollywood movie.  Quite simply we do not believe that our “private parts” are connected to our hearts, and when we engage in sex functionally — even within a marriage — our hearts are fused to another’s heart, and then when that physical reality is over, a piece of our hearts is torn asunder.  Fuse and tear.  Fuse and tear.  It’s just quite possible that when we believe that all those dark shades of gray are the best we can imagine, we rape our hearts over and over until they are numb — hidden in scars, independent, and alone.

Paul, the Apostle, writes that when, ” . . . two become one flesh, it is a profound mystery that refers to Jesus and our oneness with Him” (Ephesians 5:32).  Jesus is truly the Ultimate Man — the spotless, unconditional Lover.  And all those statistics reveal that we do long for Him, don’t we?  We long for Him to touch us in our places of shame . . . and yet our hearts are too frightened to believe it’s true and surrender.

Somebody is Knocking at the Door

It didn’t really all begin for me with 50 Shades of Grey.  During my “hibernation,” there was seldom a day that I did not know Jesus was standing at the door of my heart and knocking.  Occasionally I peaked through a crack at the door and slammed it shut.  “Where is this Lover in the midst of divorce, addiction, failed relationships, cancer, and bone-chilling loneliness?”

He never stopped knocking and waiting.  I wanted Him to either leave me alone or barge through the closed door and take me out of a world with so many dark shades of gray.  But He is a Lover that won’t dominate me, won’t violate me . . . and won’t leave me.  He just kept knocking . . . for 1,500 days of hibernating behind a closed door He waited, knocked, and kindly reminded me that He would wait for me until the end of the world.  Whatever shade of gray my unbelief took, He continued to say, “Sharon, I’d like to be your Lover.  I want us to be one.  I hung on a tree, stripped naked, bleeding for the Love of you.  You are bone of my bones.  Flesh of my flesh.  I will never be unfaithful to you.  I will never leave or forsake you.  I will descend into Hell itself to bring you Home.”

His message was not new to me.  I have heard it before.  I have spoken about it.  But I got tired of truths that still left me feeling loverless, empty, and alone.  And then along came 50 Shades of Grey and all this talk about sex.  We may think those 100 million readers are at least getting a good story about adventure, power, and sex; and after all, God has not sent down lightening bolts from Heaven to destroy the movie theaters, burn up the bookstores, or even dismantle the Internet. The humility of Jesus is that He will write Himself into all our stories, romance us through this world and even our bodies, so that we can feel all that we’re without and will invite Him into our emptiness.

A Larger Story

Thinking about this story reminds me of something my pastor said in the best sermon on marriage I have ever heard, “The marriage covenant and the intimacy in that covenant takes two different, incomplete, sinful people and binds them together in nakedness, despite the shame, as a picture of Jesus and His union with us.”  He longs to enter us, implant the Seed of His Word, so that we might bear the fruit of love, patience, joy, gentleness, hope . . .  (Galatians 5:22,23).  However, humanly most of us would agree that, in theory, it is sheer and absolute insanity to join ourselves to another needy, sinful person.  Nonetheless, we can become desperately willing to consider or enter into porn love — to make up for the inevitable unmet needs we all experience in human relationships.

While the books and theatre tickets are selling by the millions, Jesus waits for us – with the scars of all of our sin, woundedness, and confusion still on His hands and feet – so that we might know heart and soul, that there is only one shade of grace and it is blood red.  With body broken, and blood shed He invites us into the communion of His strength and mercy simply because He is madly in love with us and He is bound and determined to show it.

If you’re like me, and you get lost sometimes in all those shades of gray, open the door of your heart just a little, and look at Him.  If 50 Shades of Grey made you long for More, look at Him.  If your “sex life” is filled with brokenness and darkness, look at Him who for the love of you submitted to the dark dominance of those who wanted to kill Him; who was stripped naked and experienced a level of sadomasochism that left Him, alone, mocked, and even sweating blood from every cell in His body; so that we could surrender our nakedness, self-hatred, and loneliness to Him.

The real issue here is not a book or a movie.  The real issue is that we were made for Love, by Love and when we get lost along the way, God will use our heartache, our silence, and our schemes to find love in all the wrong places, so that eventually all we have is Jesus.  If that makes you mad or sounds like a platitude, that’s ok.  If you loved this book and can’t wait to see the movie, that’s ok.  Somewhere in all those shades of gray, I feel confident that you will hear a still, small knocking at the door of your heart.  If you are deeply offended by this book, that’s ok.  Because once we go the Cross and we really see that it was our sin, woundedness, and confusion that nailed the Son of God to that tree where He bore hell for us; once we’ve really seen that, it’s hard to be offended with someone else; but when we see Him, we will have something to say or rather Someone to say.  Jesus.

“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to levee me also?’ They answered Him, “Lord, to whom else shall we go?  You alone have the Words of Life” (John 6:68).


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Botox, Brokenness, and the Smell of Booze – Salvation Story #31

We are almost there.  In a little over twenty-four hours we get to start a new year.  A new year.  In the past, I have anticipated the beginning of a new year with resolve to . . .

* lose weight — become a new me in a smaller size with new habits that include new routines of exercise and new foods that are not carbohydrates or peanut M&M’s

* get organized — arrange my closet with new, neat rows of clothes that are hung according to color and not thrown in piles, line up my shoes instead of throwing them in piles, and even organize the multitude of vitamins, face creams, nail polishes, and lotions so that they are easily accessible and not lost in piles.

* to try new things — salsa dance lessons, throwing pottery, cooking . . . any kind of food would be new, Zumba classes, the singles group at a nearby church, bowling, learning a new language

And I should do all of the above.  I want to do all of the above.  But as 2013 draws closer, I know what I really want for this new year.  I want something more new than becoming a size 6 (or 8 or 10).  I need to get rid of something much, much more life-draining than my “organize by piles” system; and I long for  something much, much more life-giving than dancing or learning to speak French.

I want to begin 2013 free of resentment.  

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous mentions resentment 17 times, warning: “Resentment is the number one offender . . . it is a deadly hazard . . . it is infinitely grave . . it leads only to futility and unhappiness.”  And perhaps most ominous, “Resentment grows.”

I’m not writing about the “paper cuts” of life that provoke anger or hurt for a short period of time . . . the slow driver in the left lane . . . the one clerk at the DMV who can only process two people every thirty minutes . . . the computer technician on the telephone who I cannot understand for a number of reasons, but is my only hope to solve the maddening mysteries of technology.

The resentment I’m writing about is deeper.  This resentment infects a wound of rejection, betrayal, or misunderstanding until it gets into your bones.  There may be days and even weeks when you forget that it’s there; and then a memory from the past, an empty space in the present, or overwhelming thoughts of no resolution in the future remind you that this is something that you just can’t shake.

You can’t let go and let God.
You can’t turn lemons into lemonade.
You can’t do it for yourself, even though you know that holding on to is like drinking rat poison.  You’ve tasted it.
You can’t will yourself to do seven steps, twelve steps, or even 600 steps to find a sense of relief from and control over the pain.

Anyway, that’s where I find myself as 2012 is quickly coming to an end and I am becoming more desperate to figure out forgiveness.  There was another time in my life years ago when I felt this bone-chilling resentment, and I know that the mysterious process of being set free back then began in a dark movie theatre that smelled of stale popcorn, while watching a scene from the movie, Bruce Almighty.  Something . . . or Someone compelled me to whisper, “God, I want to forgive.”   And God really did take from there.  He set me free.

But this time watching Bruce Almighty did nothing for me. I actually felt a little bored while watching one of my favorite movies. I talked to my sponsor and wrote out a Fourth Step, but as the truth of this resentment stared at me from the written pages — my failures, deception, and hiding — I just didn’t want to go on further to the next step.  This time working the steps was a good plan to give me a clearer perspective about the battle, but it didn’t empower me to deal with the battle.  I talked to my mother and her wise, kind words helped, but as soon as I felt a single second of surrender, this resentment squeezed harder and reminded me again of the betrayal, the gossip, the cruel handling of a friendship that I believed I had nurtured, given to sacrificially, and fiercely believed in.  I felt stuck in my own hell of Groundhog Day.

Now that I look back over the past weeks of my thinking and trying and praying and talking and thinking and trying to get out of this morass, I see that God was creating a mosaic to show the way of healing for this particular cancer in my life.


The week before Christmas a dear friend and physician who is exceedingly overqualified to inject Botox, offered to give me this skin-tightening poison as a gift for Christmas.  I was so excited!  I imagined my new face.  I told everyone in my family that I was getting this gift so that they would be prepared to see the new me on Christmas.

It was a gift and it really did erase most of the wrinkles on my forehead and those crows’ feet by the eyes.  I waited through our family Christmas celebration for someone to notice or at least say, “Sharon, you look rested,” or something that might acknowledge the new me.  When I couldn’t wait any longer and reminded everyone, most responded with lackluster comments like, “I thought I saw that something was different but wasn’t sure,” or “Oh, I thought you were getting that after Christmas!”

The truth is, Botox didn’t take away the dark circles under my eyes, or the age spot on my upper right check, or the scar on my neck from thyroid surgery, or a multitude of other flaws I could recount to you.   It didn’t fix everything, but it made me realize that’s what I want.  I want something that will fix everything.  I want something that will erase the scars and flaws and memories of hurt and make it look and/or feel like everything is new.  I want to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and everything will be fixed.

My experience with Botox reminded me of how different God is from me.  He wants to get closer and closer to me because He wants to see every scar and every flaw — not so He can fix me, but because He wants to love me.  Think about that.  I mean really think about it.  Go ahead and find one of those mirrors (like the one I have in one pile under the sink in my bathroom) that magnifies everything.  (Why do women use those??)  When I get that close to me, I see all the places Botox did not make new and I see my pettiness, my selfishness, my unforgiving heart.   There is a crazy paradox about getting closer to God (which ironically happened as I thought and tried and prayed and worked to forgive) — I realize my old face is not the issue.  My unforgiving heart is not the issue.  The good news of the Gospel is issue — the good, good news of this old year and the new year to come is the fact that God wildly pursues me, and the closer we get, the more He sees me – the real me.  And it just makes Him love me more.


Still feeling the grip of resentment (but wondering now if it was gripping me or I was gripping it?), I had dinner with my friends, William and Dana.  I recounted my struggle and with tears streaming down my face I said, “I just feel so broken in this, and I can’t even find the will to want to forgive.”  William pointed to his hand.  He has rheumatoid arthritis, and in fact, the very next day he was going into surgery for a shoulder replacement.  Two months ago, he had his hip replaced.  While pointing at his hand — his hand clenched shut — a visible sign of the unrelenting disease, he said, “Sharon, this is broken.  And even if I could fix it, then I’d need to fix the other hip, and then both knees, and then my elbow . . . I am broken and I can’t fix me.”  I have heard William rage about his overwhelming sense of powerlessness.  I have seen him in understandable despair.  But today he is in that unique place that very few people get to — fully aware of his own brokenness that he cannot control.

Betrayal and failure in relationships breaks us, and as the broken, brilliant writer Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The world breaks us all.”  Talking with William and Dana.  Looking at William . . . I know the only choice any of us have is whether we will be an unforgiving broken man or woman.  God knows that our hearts — my heart — is far more attuned to Him in the context of brokenness.  When I cling to resentment, I am an unforgiving broken woman.  When I let go of resentment, I am a forgiving broken woman.  Those are my choices.  Think about that.  Really, think about that.  No wonder we get stuck.

My friend Dan Allender says it this way, “And so God is gracious to give us [rat] poisoning and to bring us to our knees vomiting for a day and a half straight until you have nothing left in your stomach and you feel like you’re going to die, and yet now there is a new hunger that the food you’ve been eating can never satisfy again.”  Allender goes on to say that the new food God wants to feed us is dignity, strength, and humor.  Sounds a heck of a lot better than rat poison.

Do you see the mosaic God is putting together just for me?  He feeds me dignity as I come closer and closer to Him — not hiding my petty flaws and ugly, unforgiving heart — because when He sees me, the real me; He only loves me more.  That taste of dignity makes the rat poison of resentment even less appealing.

He feeds me strength when I see my brokenness — my utter powerlessness to even want to forgive.

Even with these two pieces, I still can’t decide to set down the rat poison and will the good foods of dignity and strength to fill me so I can elegantly and graciously forgive.


So here’s the final piece (for now) in this mosaic . . .

Months ago I drove home during a break from work to grab a bite to eat.  I was in a hurry.  My parking spot in my apartment parking garage is on the top level, and I began to speed up the levels and whip around the corners with confidence.  On the second level I came headlights to headlight in a standoff with another car at one corner.  I swerved around the other car and continued on to my level.  The driver of the other car turned around and followed me up to the fifth level, blocked me in with his car, and angrily rushed over to me and harshly lectured me (with a lot of four letter words) about my driving.  He was right, and probably because I was in a hurry, I was able to simply say, “Thank you for pointing that out to me.  I will do better in the future.”  He wasn’t satisfied with my promise.  He asked for my name, and I reluctantly gave him my business card.  I don’t know whether I was reluctant because I didn’t want him to have my name or because my card says something about helping others and God’s love.

This morning I was driving into the parking garage again, and when I reached the 2nd level I saw a man crawling on his hands and knees just to the right of the driving lane.  I stopped, rolled down my window, and asked if he was okay.  Another driver stopped as well and we both got out of our cars and could see that the man on the ground was vomiting.  The other driver explained to me that he was trying to get to the Bronco’s game and wondered if I could “handle” this.  I parked my car and walked closer to the man.  The smell of alcohol overwhelmed me.  I knelt down, just as he vomited again, and asked if he had been drinking or was ill.  He explained that he hadn’t been drinking, didn’t know what was happening, and that he was so embarrassed.  I helped him stand up and told him, “You don’t need to feel embarrassed with me.  I’ve been in situations like this before.”  A hint of surprise showed through his distress and he said, “You have?”  I asked where his car was and he pointed to a car a few spaces down.  He was the man who chased after me to yell at me for my unsafe driving.

I let him hold onto my arm as I walked him to his apartment.  All the way he continued to mumble that he didn’t know what had happened and how sorry he was.  When we got to his door he said, “My name is ____.  What’s your name?”  I answered, “I’m Sharon Hersh,” and he looked at me for the first time.  A flash of recognition went across his face, and he quietly mumbled, “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

And, of course, I forgave him.  I got in my car and I laughed out loud — not at this man’s plight.  I empathize with him.  I laughed at my own plight.  How many thousands of times have I seen this in my life?  In one moment I’m the righteous one, the older brother watchful of all those who aren’t doing what they should be doing.  And in a split-second, I am the prodigal — smelling of vomit, on my hands and knees trying to find my way home.  How can I even pretend to think I know who is the Prodigal and who is the Pharisee in my own tale of hurt, because I am surely both!

The book of Proverbs describes the woman who can laugh at tomorrow.  I feel the grip on resentment loosening.  I can afford to laugh at tomorrow because whether I’m keeping every new year’s resolution perfectly or I’m lost in woundedness and confusion — God has paid every debt.  I owe nothing.  Think about that.  Really, think about it.  Consider your stack of bills at the beginning of each month.  What would it be like to get the good news that you owed nothing for the month, the year, a lifetime?


Will I be free of resentment as we ring in 2013?  Not fully.  But God has crafted a wonderful mosaic for me to understand forgiveness a tiny bit better.  Botox, Brokenness, and the Smell of Booze transformed into Dignity, Strength, and Laughter.

* I can go ahead and come closer and closer to Him, hiding nothing — not even my unforgiving heart — and He won’t want to fix me, because He doesn’t just forgive me for my resentful heart, He sees me as if I have never been resentful for a single second in my life!   He feeds me with dignity.  God, I don’t want to taste rat poison again and I don’t want anyone else to taste it either.

* Hemingway was right, “The world breaks us all.”  No one escapes brokenness.  I have believed that, written about it, and spoken about it, but I need to remind myself over and over and over and over again, “I am powerless to fix the brokenness.”  And if I’m powerless . . . it only makes sense others are powerless too; so I can go ahead and let the person who hurt me off the hook.  They are powerless to fix their brokenness.  God, I want to be a forgiving broken person rather than a resentful broken person.

* Finally, even though it’s almost a new year, I’m still on the same old journey.  Whatever 2013 brings, by the grace of God I can afford to laugh at the future.  Take my money — there’s not too much in the bank.  Take my reputation — it’s not too much to begin with.  Even if something were to take my life, that would ultimately be good for me!  This truth remains solid — I am without debt.  I owe nothing for anything that has happened in the past years of my life and I owe nothing for the future years.  My debts have been settled.  In fact, in God’s eyes, I never had any debt to begin with!  God, how dare I believe anyone owes me anything when you have so fully and freely paid for everything for me.  

Happy New Year!

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she can afford to laugh at tomorrow.”  Proverbs 31:20



Filed in Addiction,Alcholism,Begin Again Believe Again,Change,Disappointment,Failure,Giving to Others,God's Mercy,Grace,Healing,Love Story,Newness,Perfectionism,Powerlessness,Relationship with Jesus,Salvation Story,Surrender Comments Off


Wow!  It has been a long time since I’ve written — not because there have been no salvation stories, but perhaps because there have been so many of them.  Salvation Stories beginning, unfolding, confusing, challenging, terrifying, encouraging, emerging, disentangling, releasing, unravelling, confounding, baffling, arousing, exacting, imposing, heartbreaking, and continuing  . . . .

If I used a thesaurus I could find more synonyms for the language of salvation stories, but I suspect you can identify with at least one word in the list above.  I know these past few months of being immersed in salvation stories has been thrilling, disappointing, exhausting, breathtaking (literally), overwhelming, upsetting, depressing, exciting, bewildering, relieving, amazing, devastating, heartbreaking, and continuing . . . .

And then comes December 1 — the month of Advent – when everything is decorated with brights lights and smiling Santas, and my children (though adults) send me their “wish lists” just in case I am wondering what to get them for Christmas, and  I buy Christmas cards (again), fully intending to send them (again).

Today, in fact, is the first Sunday of Advent.  We tend to think of Advent as the season for the beginning of the salvation story — of a pregnant teenage mom who travelled on a donkey with her confused fiancé to pay taxes with money they didn’t have to a reckless, heartbreaking government. They ended up with no reservations, and  no vacancies, and so this baby was born to homeless teenagers with no health care in a barn, with a cradle that smelled like the animals and with stars twinkling through the cracks in the ceiling.  I’ve experienced bits and pieces of that story this year.  I suspect you have too.

And then half-drunken shepards come — just as this exhausted couple is getting their baby to sleep– to announce that this baby has been born to be with us to redeem all of our stories – to rescue us.  Talk about a story that is confusing, breathtaking, exciting, bewildering, relieving, continuing . . . . like bits and pieces of all our stories.

Advent is not built around shopping and wrapping presents and kissing Santa under the mistletoe.  It is built around the petition, “save us from the time of trial . . . and faced with this prospect [of a coming Savior], the children of God cling not to their own strength, but place their confidence fully in the One who comes to save”  (Malachi 3:1).

Just typing that sentence I breathed a sigh of relief.   The Advent story is about the salvation baby born in a dirty, smelly stable with stars twinkling through the cracks in the ceiling.  A baby named Emmanuel, which means God with us.  A baby born to  be with us so that He could rescue us.

GOD . . . WITH US.  I forget that sometimes when I’m in the midst of the story that most of us live.  My favorite poet and memoirist, Mary Carr, describes the human story:

The most privileged, comfortable person . . . from the best family, has already suffered
the torments of the damned.  I don’t think any of us get off this planet without
suffering enormously.  And one of the chief ways we suffer is by loving people who
are incredibly limited by the fact that they’re human beings, and they’re going to
disappoint us and break out hearts. . . We are all heartbroken. 

Sometimes I have trouble believing God is with us when I am heartbroken by stories of sexual slavery happening here, in the suburbs – with us; by stories of long-term marriages ripped apart by us; by stories of girls without mothers and boys without fathers who sit by us in the pews of our churches; by stories of lonely men and women who work, go to church, or volunteer for the After Prom committee with us — but have no reservations for this holiday season.  Mostly, I forget that a rescuing God is with us when we or those we love struggle with painful, heartbreaking, continuing trials of disease, addiction, or other chronic suffering.

I’m not good at remembering God with us, because I get lost in these human stories — in my own story.  Just a few weeks ago I was hospitalized because my body was not absorbing any of my thyroid medication.  This had probably been going on for months; and the fatigue, shortness of breath, mood swings, etc. crept up on me until I felt like I could barely survive another day of listening to stories and living in my own story.   I guess I was like the frog in the story who is placed in a pan of water, and as someone turns the heat up, the frog slowly boils to death without recognizing the heat and urgent need to jump to salvation.  I think I heard this gruesome story in youth group a few times as a cautionary tale to recognize worldly temptations and jump to safety before I boiled to death.  I”m not sure it was a good story to keep me from sneaking into temptation occasionally as a teenager, but it is an appropriate story for me right now.  The problem is, I don’t know when or how to jump.  I’ve never boiled to death . . . but I’ve come close.

Wow!  That kind of seems like a crazy story to include in a blog about Advent, but it’s true — I get immersed in all of the adjectives of my story and the stories of those I love and I can’t find God with us.

Thank God, He finds us - usually through bits of light twinkling through the cracks of our lives.

My gifts of light so far this Advent season have been:

**A dear friend whose life demonstrates the words of that old hymn . . . “then sings my soul, my Savior God — to thee.  How great thou art!  How great thou art!”  She not only sings, but she pesters me to walk, to take care of myself, to check with my doctor about the symptoms that show up when I’m living in boiling water.  Sharla, is a twinkling star that will not go away and reminds me that one of the best gifts we can give  is faithfulness.  God with us.**  “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not [boiled to death] . . . great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

**This morning I awoke to snow.  Snow!  In Colorado you would think that is not so uncommon in December, but we have been in a drought, and even if it is just a few inches — it is a reminder of a thousand mornings when God did not forget to remember me, and He showed me through His glorious creation that He is with us.  An undeniable gift greets us new every morning in creation.  God with us.**  Poet, Mary Oliver, writes about how we might greet this gift:

Of course I have to give up  . . . half crazy with the wonder of it —
the abundance . . . the quietness, [and] the hopelessness of my
effort.  And I am in that delicious and important place . . .
full of earth-praise.  Mary Oliver, A Thousand Mornings

**There is a man who I do not really know.  I’ve never met him.  He emails me occasionally.  He doesn’t know anything about me, but he calls me often.  Just yesterday he called and left a message that begins with the greeting he always uses, “Hey, my friend, this is Terry Rush, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I’m just calling to encourage you . . .”  I have learned a significant life lesson from this pastor of many years — ( who has given me a priceless gift — encouragement.  God with us.**  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

**My friend, Rachel, was in one of those stories that ripped her heart out (and mine too — for her).  The person she trusted most on this earth was unfaithful, betrayed her, and then as often happens in modern day love stories — they split their possessions as well as time with their children — and a decree went out from what seems like a heartless government  that their love story was over.   Rachel raged, cursed, and wondered how in the world God could let this happen.  And then something out of this world happened.  Rachel and her two daughters walked into the grocery story and her five-year-old looked at the Christmas poinsettias and said, “Those are pretty.  We should get one for daddy.”  And the gift of forgiveness took Rachel’s breath away as she said, “Yes!  How kind that you want to get something for your daddy.  Let’s find a really nice one!”  And she meant it.  Forgiveness — God with us.**  As Rachel wrote, “It gave me a glimpse, a tiny one albeit, of what Jesus extends towards me every moment of the day, an extravagant love and a perfect life exchanged for my own tattered one.”

Faithfulness.  Encouragement. Forgiveness.  These are three Advent gifts that have twinkled through the cracks of my life.  In my new favorite book by Anne Lamott, “Help, Thanks, Wow,” she uses a different metaphor than the frog boiling in the water.  It’s a less frightful metaphor.  It’s the metaphor I choose for this Advent season and for the year to come:

Light [those twinkling stars through the cracks of our lives] reveals us to ourselves, which
is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own
creation.  But like sunflowers we turn towards light.  Light warms, and in most cases
it draws us to itself.  And in this light, we can see beyond shadow and illusion to
something beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.
This is all so hard to articulate, because it is so real, so huge, beyond mystery . . .[but]
bits of this deeper reality are perceivable, and little bits of it will have to do . . .That’s
all I ever need, besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient for me to stop,
close my eyes . . . and pray Help, Thanks, Wow.

And so my Christmas wish is that we won’t be frogs simmering in our stories of heartbreak, but that the Advent story will remind us that the baby in the manger is called Emmanuel because He is God with us – the God who came to be with us to draw us, like sunflowers, to the Light.  This would be a nice place to end this meandering mess of a blog, but . . .

As I reread this I realize that it is filled with so many adjectives, metaphors, references to heartbreaking experiences of boiling to death in our own stories and to heartwarming experiences of sunflower stories that draw us to the Light and make us grow; with the twinkling bits of faithfulness, encouragement, and forgiveness thrown in to make even a careful reader wonder what I’m trying to say . . .

So here it is:  My true Christmas wish is that, in moments, I will be that bit of light to you, if you are in the dark and can’t believe that God is with us; and to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who have been light to me, when I have been in the dark.

“When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life'” (John 8:12).


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OCTOBER 1, 2012 begins the testing period for the Mobile Phone Apps I’ve been working on to bring Therapy to the IPhone; to bring what is not seen (true reality – that require faith to see there’s more than meets the eye; an opportunity to look at incredibly private and personal issues like body image or trauma or sexual dysfunction, etc.) on the phone.  

Two years ago I would have said, “Less phone, more face-time.”  Well, now we can face-time on the phone with people we might never talk to.  I might have said “No texting.  Talk.”  Today’s generation says the most authentic realities of their souls through texting.    77% of those aged 18-24 feel anxious if they are separated from their mobile phones. 

I’m ready to wave the white flag of being too old, too relational, too technologically illiterate to use the phone to connect with the world.  I imagine Jesus walking around with an Iphone5 tied to His toga, pulling up the phone, talking into it to say, “Spirit, will you tell SIRI to send a text to everyone in Galilee to meet me for an important message on the Mount.”  

Theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote, “The Gospel must repeatedly be forwarded to a new address because the recipient is repeatedly changing places of residence.” Today’s  culture is like a “Change of Address” form screaming out: “Please take note!” We are on our phones!!”  

The GLOO PROJECT is one effort to forward The Good News to a new address — the address where most of us will live (like it or not) in the next 100 years — the address of Mobility.  YOU CAN REGISTER NOW AT HTTP://

And so, are you ready for a Brave Change?  Here’s an invitation:

Many of you know that I have been immersed in a world I would had never chosen for myself for the past few months. (Please forgive me for not returning phone calls, showing up, or for being tired — I’ve been working 24/7 with a team of others who are so excited for you to “test” what we are doing.)

Did you know the number of people seeking therapy has decreased 15% last year! People are ready for a different forum for help (they can be “in touch” while out of town, in between meetings, daily, if necessary without having to spend $3.89 a gallon on gas)  DO WE HAVE AN APP FOR THAT? YES!! WE ARE GETTING CLOSE . . . .

I NEED YOUR HELP: (did you know only 12% of people believe they can do anything to change the world??)
According to predictors of the future: What we have been doing so far in the context of therapy and coaching is hoping to turn mobile devices into “identity accessories” to be tools to sculpt behavior and identity. Using mobile devices for self-discovery and self-realization could make the phone take on a role of companion, confidant, and therapist. I passionately want to be a part of this to incorporate the only true Change Agent in life as an integral part of this new field, because mobile or not, only God can transform — but I think He’d use an App if He would use me!



COURAGE TO CHANGE APP that includes:
(in small or big ways)
*”BAD TIMING” — If the time is not right to jump right into the Journey to Change (through stories, encouragement, ideas, etc., you     stay in the process of change until  you’re ready)anyway!)


The second major app is JOURNEY TO CHANGE (this is a portal that the client enters to choose several paths of change that include information, quizzes, opportunities to journal, make creative projects, and gain self, marriage, and parenting awareness. If you were kind enough to participate during our last testing you will see many, many new functionalities and more will be coming during October – this testing period!!!





 ON MONDAY OR TUESDAY (OCTOBER 1-2) YOU WILL BE EMAILED DIRECTIONS TO DOWNLOAD GLOO ON TO YOUR PHONE OR IPAD AND WILL BE INSTRUCTED TO START IN JOURNEY TO CHANGE MARKETPLACE, so that you can go through these therapy apps first. I am humbly asking you to go through them at least FIVE TIMES to give encouragement (rate them high if you can please — 5 stars! on each page, applet, app), but seriously give ideas and suggestions to make this a viable resource. (I am actually begging for your help — I have spent a few all-nighters, and my old body and brain are feeling pretty darn vulnerable right now!)






“His names shall be Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness . . . GOD WITH US.” (Isaiah 9:6, The Message)




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I have a new friend — a new partner in the way Richard Rohr describes heaven-made partners: “Suffering people can love and trust a suffering God, Only a suffering God can save suffering people, those who have passed across this chasm can and will save one another.”

Terry called me recently to tell me he’d just read The Last Addiction: Why Self-Help is Not Enough, and he resonated with the stories and thoughts in the book.  In fact, he passionately told me that he loved this book.  I didn’t have a minute to pat myself on the back for what I had written, before Terry told me why he loved the book.  It seems he loves a group of about 100 people who meet in his church in weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and he so longs to connect the powerful path of Recovery with the powerful Recoverer for these honored “members” of his church.

Terry Rush pastors the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, OK.  On a page marked by baseball  cards (baseball is apparently another passion of this man), Terry describes himself:

My name is Terry Rush; named after the All-Star centerfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Terry Moore.
 I’m crazy about Cardinal baseball, eaten up with cheering the discouraged, and can’t get enough grilled scallops.
I like how Jesus fits into every scheme and scenario of life.  
And….I’ve learned from him to like life “right now” whenever and wherever “right now” might be!
It seems to me that too many have concluded they aren’t good enough, aren’t smart enough,or aren’t skilled enough.  Not so!  
One of the striking things about the heart of God is He counts each individual as a gem to be treasured.  
My job is to notify as many as possible of His acceptance and approval of them. 
It seems as if this modest man, whose been in ministry a lot longer than me, has also impacted “celebrities.”
Terry’s response:  “I’m not anybody, honestly, but I know that every person I meet has some part of their world in which they feel like maybe they’re not good enough, or didn’t perform well enough, and that’s where God really does come in to give them support, to give them life.”

I have no doubt he speaks any less passionately about The Life-Giving God to a celebrity wearing 18-karat gold cuff links and talking about his latest Hollywood project, than he does to an alcoholic/addict wearing the stink of booze and talking about his latest time served in jail.

What a privilege to get to be friends with this man who is living something that God has whispered to me a hundred different times in a hundred different places, “Sharon will you just get out of the way?”


Our elders at Memorial, as well as our staff, have an unofficial motto: Get Out of the Way.  I like it a lot.  It fits us.  More exciting to me is that it seems to fit the kingdom work here.When the Psalmist wrote Be still and know I am God, I didn’t take note of that being anything special.  The side note in the NASB for be still is Let go and relax.  For a championer of causes this struck me as cotton candy insignificance in my earlier years.So, God let me go forward with my ambition and energy and religious exercises.  It turned out I wasn’t as much as I once thought I might be, could be, should be.  Hmmmm.It took a few failures for me to awaken to the Psalmist’s urging.  My arms weren’t strong enough.  Nor were my feet fleet enough.  I needed bigger help.  The way to attain it seemed so backwards.  This should have been my first hint I was nearing the proper procedure.Sharon Hersh wrote, The gift of powerlessness is that it can compel us to let go. Right on!  Powerlessness is not our handicap.  It is a gift.  Awaken to its beauty.

Of course the kingdom needs more workers.  Jesus is about the grand life-walk.  We are to follow such a course.  But recall his statement that apart from the Father he could do nothing?

The secret to Jesus’ effectiveness (and ours) is to realize we are powerless and He owns the power.  Yes, we need more workers to let go….to let go of our weak-armed, slow-footed, try-harder dispositions and lean into the glory of this wonderful gift we each posses labeled powerlessness.

When we at Memorial quit plotting, planning, and controlling (when we got out of the way), it seems the church began to breathe deeper than we had ever seen.  Works and results keep sprouting at a rate that we can neither track nor take credit.

We don’t understand it; but getting out of the way has become a source of leadership among us that, to many, could appear weak and silly.  Yet, He seems to be willing to work this terrain.

Our job?

To give God the glory…and we do.

It took me a bit to grab the parallel truth in Romans 9:16; yet it surely fits.  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.


If you want to read more from Terry, check out 

“You must ]get out of the way of] your old self which as been corrupted by following illusory desires.  Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution.” -Ephesians 4:22-23

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It’s been almost three months since I last posted a Salvation Story.  Time does truly fly sometimes, doesn’t it?  There isn’t a tragic or wonderful reason I haven’t written.  I’ve been busy.  My clients have been more burdened, more needy, more desperate . . . and I’ve been more privileged than usual to be a small, small part of such sacred stories.  I’ve also been working on creating mobile phone apps, a concept that will always make me shake my head in wonder — confirming that my future is not dependent on my abilities or my failures.  And I have been watching The Olympics.

It seems as if this recent time that has flown has been uniquely marked by “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”  — a good sports phrase from an ancient television program that our family gathered around our Zenith Console TV to watch during another era.  I think The Wonderful World of Sports was on Sundays.  I clearly remember days back then when time crawled so slowly I could barely contain myself as I waited for each week’s new episode.  I would have never believed during those long-ago 1970’s that the day would come when I could watch The Olympics happen in real time, twenty-four hours, seven days a week, by choosing one of over a hundred channels on my cable box to bring high-definition color images to my flatscreen TV of events happening thousands of miles aways and yet somehow time-traveling right into my living room.  I didn’t know concepts back then to imagine one day utilizing high-speed Internet on my amazing Mac Pro computer to watch an Olympic event that happened the day before.  I laugh as I think about that cumbersome, central piece of television furniture from days of old, luring us all into the living room to watch whatever program Dad picked from the three available network channels.  We would have laughed in complete mockery at the idea that one day we could choose a computer, television, video-gaming system, or telephone to join together via Skype, Google-chat, or FaceTime to watch The Olympics together from any part of the world and talk about what was happening without anyone ever chiding, “Shhhh!  Wait for the commercial,” because today we don’t have to wait for anything.  We can push, click, or say, “Pause,” and somehow time stands still until we’re ready.  Maybe the final incredulity, back when time passed much more slowly, would be to imagine  that I could ask a constant, time-travelling companion named Siri to tell me what happened in a sports event, or to remind me to watch an event later, or to find the name of the person who won that event back in the 1970’s when a black and white console television was the most amazing technology we could imagine to change all our categories of time.

All this real time, high-speed, 4G time-travelling, compelled me to ask Siri to remind me that I was taking a week’s vacation, starting August 6.  Siri, of course, complied — and right on time, reminded me — “Sharon, you are on vacation.  It is time to take a breath.”

So, I have slept in, read a few books, sat by the pool, scrubbed my bathroom floor, re-organized some files, met with friends, continued to watch The Olympics, and tried to slow myself down by breathing deeply and exhaling slowly just like I learned to do in that one Yoga class that I attended.

I’ve spent some of this vacation time thinking about what started this meandering blog to begin with — thrilling victories, agonizing defeats.

The Thrill of Victory

I have a couple of dear friends who are in treatment right now.  I went to visit with one  of them during the hurry, blurry, time-flying week before vacation.  My friend happened to be in the same in-patient treatment program that I was in.  I proudly gave the tour to her exhausted family.  I thought about the irony of how “treatment” sounds so wonderful, so restful, and like such a good idea when an alcoholic/addict is doing well; but it sounds so dreadful, so confining, and like such a waste of time when we need it most.  I introduced this family to the Meeting Room where the walls are lined with decorated coffee cups hanging from hooks.  I explained that near the end of treatment each patient is invited to decorate a coffee cup memorializing their journey from addiction to recovery so far.  The variety of cups is a small, small representation of the wildly diverse group of people who struggle with addiction.  With the knowledge of an insider, I somberly elaborated to my little tour group that the black ribbons that were tied to cups interspersed throughout the rows indicated a fellow struggler who had died from the time-shattering disease of addiction after they left treatment.

That inside knowledge slowed down our tour and made everyone hit their own “pause button” for their own reasons.  I paused to give thanks for every single day of this journey — every day that addiction tried to rob, steal, and destroy my time and every day that Jesus answered yet again with the words that restore, renew, and redeem everything that distorts time: “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5)

Our next stop on the treatment tour was The Chapel — an option in the list of remedies offered by this particular program.  Stepping into that room brought back sweet memories from time past.  I picked up a piece of paper from the top of a stack of papers on the table by the door.  I suspected that it was an optional “reading” that patients could take if they wandered into the option of chapel during their 28-days of time-standing-still.  The top of the paper read:  A Breath of Prayer.  I didn’t read the prayer until I left the overwhelmed family with their beat-up, bedraggled, ragamuffin daughter.  I waited to read it in my car in the parking lot as the sun was setting on another, “Where did the time go?” day.  By the time I got to the the fourth stanza time did that magical, mystical thing it does when we take a breath, and it took me back to remembering exactly what it felt like to be a beat-up, bedraggled, ragamuffin daughter myself — desperate for a breath of hope.

A Breath of Prayer (author unknown)

I asked God to take away my struggle.
God said, “No. It is not for me to take away,
but for you to give up.”

I asked God to grant me hope.
God said, “No.  Hope is a byproduct of suffering.
It isn’t granted, it grows in sweet surrender.”

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, “No.  Suffering makes time most meaningful,
and draws you closer to Me.”

I asked God to help me grow and not mess up again.
God said, “No.  When you mess up, I will prune you
and make you fruitful.”

I asked God to help everyone understand and not judge me.
God said, “No.  I have judged you and you are forgiven.
That’s enough.”

I asked God to love others through me.
God said, “Ahh . . . finally you’re getting it.
Breathe you out and Me in.”

I turned the key in my old jalopy Jeep, and exhaled slowly and breathed in even more slowly.  I took a Breath — before vacation even began. Maybe time wouldn’t taunt this vacation like it had in the past with temptations of too much work to do or not knowing what to do when I finally stopped.  I drove home feeling a tinge of the thrill of victory.

The Agony of Defeat

I woke up this morning and that breath was gone.  My vacation is half over and I spent the entire day yesterday talking to tech support about computer and phone issues.  The time spent in that time-draining hell seemed to speed up the clock, and by the end of the day yesterday I was madly returning phone calls, making lists, starting projects, and feeling like I might as well jump back on the “time-flies rocketship.”  I started to feel sorry for myself, think of all the people who have been hurt by my failures and lost in the process, and give into the despair that any thrill of victory would be swallowed by the agony of another defeat.  I’d stayed up until 2:00 a.m. talking to an Apple support tech who I could barely understand due a little bit to language difference but mostly to intelligence differences (mine definitely being the more limited).  I was tired before I even woke up, if that’s possible.  I picked up the top book on my bedside table, and turned the pages to another prayer.  This prayer is entitled, Breathing Under Water.  I read it four times before I remembered what I always forget — that what I think is real, isn’t; that what feels like death is often life; and that no matter where I find myself — breathing me out and Jesus in is the only way to truly take a breath.

Breathing Under Water (by Carol Bieleck)

I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
— and I still don’t know how it happened —
the sea came
Without warning.

Without welcome, even.
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand
like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning
and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, til it
reached my door.
And I knew then, there was neither flight, nor death,
nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being
Well-acquainted, friends-at-a-distance, neighbors
And you give your house for a coral castle,
and you learn to breathe underwater.

Whew!  I took another breath, knowing that whether I am in the sweet chapel at Valley Hope in-patient treatment center with time gently slowing so I can remember God’s care for me when I cannot care for myself; or whether I’m in the hurry-up, keep-up, make all you’ve lost-up world that I’m prone to plunge into where it does feel like I’m underwater (and I’m not a good swimmer), that every breath is a gift.  And Jesus — the same yesterday, today, and forever — is always in my now, and is always and only about being my Breath now — not when I’m good, balanced, and worthy of His being the very core of my being (because none of us is ever worthy), but because He wants to be my true, time-travelling companion unconditionally breathing right thinking, right living, a clean slate and fresh start into every moment of every day. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

May the rest of your summer and mine — whether time flies or vacation allows it to slow down a bit — be filled with reminders to take a Breath, and by taking a Breath I mean taking in the Breath of Life.  Just the thought that as I breathe me out and breathe Him in, He breathes me in?  The thought of such intimate, life-giving love is enough to take my breath away.  And maybe that has only and always been the point.

“God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.  The Man came alive — a living soul!” (Genesis 2:7)


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I haven’t written for several weeks, because I have been involved in a new project — creating phone apps!  As my son said, “Who would have thought you would be working in technology?!”  The truth is, it has been a lot of fun and a great outlet for renewed creative juices.  The mobile phone/tablet apps are a part of The Gloo Project — a project to create apps to help people in their relationships.  I am honored to be a part of a team of many people and organizations from across the country to help develop and test these phone apps.

My apps primarily focus on therapy — addressing issues of addiction, anger, loneliness, and conflict.  I also have an app to help process why a date night might go wrong.  This app has a feature that will eventually allow others to post their stories of dates gone wrong.  The app I just finished is entitled What if God Were One of Us?  This gives users an opportunity to engage in a holy experiment to find God in the midst of our daily lives.  Once again, this app will eventually allow others to post their Godsightings.

I would love your stories of date nights gone wrong and of seeing God in the midst of us.  You can send them to me at

If you would like to test these phone apps (mine and others), you can do that by registering at  Shortly thereafter, you will receive a link to download the apps on your IPhone of IPad.  I’d love for you to spend time looking at My Therapy, When Date Night Goes Wrong, and What if God Were One of Us?  You will receive prizes and rewards (gift certificates of $20-$100) for simply spending a bit of time to look at the apps — possibly even win an IPad!

I’d love to share with you a Godsighting I had recently.  I met a friend for coffee to catch up on our lives.  I learned that she has become the chaplain for girls whose lives have led them into legal consequences.  As I listened to her talk with passion, joy, and deep love for these girls, the words of Jesus echoed in my heart:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me
I’m telling you the solemn truth: Whenever you did one these things to someone overlooked or ignored,
that was me, you did it to me.  (Matthew 25:35-41).

I think you will seem what I mean as you read this story from my friend, Claire.  Claire’s story makes me wonder how many times I’ve missed Jesus in the midst of us because I wasn’t looking for Him in people who are hungry for love because their parents are meth addicts or in prison, in people who would give anything for a simple ice cream cone or hike in the mountains, or in people who spend everything they have so that they can hang out with a bunch of girls in juvy:

One of my favorites is this cute young gal “Kay” who came to our Wednesday detention Bible study and said she didn’t like God or Christianity. I mentioned a bit later that my favorite people are atheists & recovering addicts and she exuberantly threw up her hands and said, “Hey, I’m both!”
She said she is a “bad” kid and always gets in trouble and that her vision of God came mostly from her grandmother who calls her foul names and hits her when she messes up, which causes her to run away and get into more trouble. I told her I don’t think I’d like a God like that either and I’d run away too. Her mom is a stripper in Ohio who left her and her sister a few years ago when she got addicted to meth, and her dad is in prison in Canon City. Her grandmother stepped in to raise her and her sister in a middle class neighborhood, but she feels embarrassed that her parents and family circumstances aren’t like her peers.
She told me she was “bad” because she had tried to kill herself. I said, “I don’t know about this bad kid thing…I just see a kid in a lot of pain.” She said she’s slept with a lot of guys and even had intimate relationships with girls, “I see a young girl who wants to be loved and will give up a lot to find it. You’re heart is looking for something…what do you think it might be?” She said she’d think about it, but mostly she just wanted prayer so that God would let her get out of detention so she could be home for Christmas.
She was back in detention 3 months later and we got a chance to talk again. She’d invited Jesus into her heart at the residential treatment center she’d been in before she’d gone home. Her face lit up when she talked about Him, but she still had nagging doubts that she was just too bad a kid to be loved. We developed a friendship over the weeks of her stay in detention.  She’s been placed in other treatment homes and circled back around. I sent her a birthday card and she said it took her 10 minutes to figure out that it was from me, it was so unexpected.
I’d taken her out for ice cream and a soda once when she was on parole and she never forgot to mention that when I saw her each time coming back into detention. She is a delightful young girl with a soft heart and so wanting love and attention from her mom and dad. I asked once about the last time she felt joy and she said, “When my grandma, Dad and I went hiking in the foothills one Sunday. I wish that day could have lasted forever.” Such a simple moment but for her — so fragile and fleeting it made my heart hurt for her.
She is currrently at another residential treatment center where she has another Chaplain who keeps tabs on her, and I’m delighted she is continuing to go to Bible study and pray she finds hope and comfort in Jesus for what the world cannot provide for her heart. I trust Jesus will always walk with her and know He holds my affection for her as well.  Claire received this note from Kay when she was yet again away in detention:
If you want to know more about Claire’s life of being “Jesus-with-skin-in” go to:


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My Mother’s Day plans for this year were no different than they have been in the past two years.  I planned to stay home, not get out of my pajamas, and watch re-runs of Law & Order all day — all plans indicating that this Hallmark Holiday would not look like any of those Hallmark cards — yet again.  I did celebrate with my mother earlier — not because I thought my children might plan something for me on this day, but because I planned to celebrate Mother’s Day my way.

After all, my son (who is in the middle of Finals for his first year of law school) called me two weeks ago and hesitantly apologized, “Mom, I’m so sorry I missed Mother’s Day!”  And my daughter (in the middle of some pretty consuming health issues) dropped by yesterday to borrow something and promise me that we would do something for Mother’s Day this year next Sunday.  So, this is actually a really good year.  My children got the date wrong, but they are aware the holiday exists, which actually is quite heartwarming.

So all of these well-intentioned sentiments moved me to write this prayer in between Season 7 and Season 8 of the Law & Order marathon today:

“First, God, just help them to live their lives . . . to live wild, adventurous, significant, meaningful lives — that they pay for all by themselves.

May they be Honest — whether it’s about their tattoos or vacations to Vegas or doubts about their marriages or even anger about all the things I did wrong — may they be honest, because we have certainly learned (and science has confirmed) that it is the secrets that make us sick and do the most damage of all.

When my son remembers the time I forgot to pick him up from school because I was mired in my addiction, may he be overwhelmed with gratitude for his own sobriety and “keep coming back” to his own program of Recovery.

When my daughter remembers the time she told her entire Fifth Grade class that her mother’s best recipe was “Take Out,” may she call a number from her own list of favorite take-out restaurants — without any guilt!

When my son is tempted to “write off” marriage in the cynicism that comes from a broken family, may he remember that night when we were driving (he was about 11 years-old) and it was a full moon and he looked at the star-filled sky and said, “Mom, is it possible for something to be so amazing that it hurts?”   Help him to know that the best things do hurt sometimes.

And mostly help him to remember to look up.

When my daughter is tired and scared and full of doubt about how to make her life work, help her to remember all those times when she bravely stood on a five-inch-wide plank of wood and did back-handsprings and cartwheels and all kinds of insane moves on an apparatus ironically called the balance beam.  Help her to know that the most amazing things in life — at some points — scare us to death.

And mostly help her to keep her balance.

Guide my son into a job that uses his wisdom and incredible capacity to argue and advocate . . . but help him keep his wild sense of humor.  He’s going to need it if he becomes a lawyer.

Protect my daughter in this business she has chosen — fashion and image consulting.  While she works on outer beauty, will you work on her inner beauty?  And give her many, many days when she doesn’t have to wear high heels.

And when I grow old and can’t remember where I left my keys — much less how to pay my bills, please remind my children of this Mother’s Day when I loaned them money and took them out to dinner and barely made them feel guilty.

Will you help them to help me and help me to let them?

And miraculously banish all guilt from our relationship from this day on  . . . .

And, horror of horrors, when I can no longer take care of myself, and they need to help me with basic bodily functions, will you remind them, “My mother did this for me a thousand times,” and then flood us with the delayed gratitude that has not always shown up on Mother’s Day?

The truth is, Mother’s Day is a pretty meaningless holiday unless this stronger-than-a-hurricane love we’ve shared doesn’t show up on the other days, when . . . .

they whisper the truth about their lives
and I tell them the truth about mine
they ask for a few dollars to get through the end of the month
and I ask them to go to church with me on a day that isn’t Christmas or Easter
they laugh until we are all crying while playing a silly board game
and I cry about some sentimentality and they stay right there with me and don’t say, “Oh, Mom, stop,” (like I just did something completely mortifying like “mooning” the car beside us on the road — Oh, wait, they’ve done that!)

No, the only thing that makes any day a true Mother’s Day is when I can see my children through Your God eyes, and oh wonder of wonder, they begin to see me through Your God eyes as well.




Filed in Addiction,Begin Again Believe Again,Confession,Disappointment,Failure,Giving to Others,Grace,Gratitude,Home,Mother's Day,Redemption,Salvation Story,Thanksgiving,Uncategorized Comments Off


I don’t know about you, but I complained a lot this past week.

I complained about:

* my “check engine light” coming on again in my completely paid for Jeep

* a long day at work where I get paid for working with the most amazing people

* the doctor’s office not calling in my insurance-paid-for prescription soon enough

* the price of gas that I have to put in my completely paid for Jeep that’s still running because the “check engine light” wasn’t a problem after all

* the 70’s decor in the mountain condo I got to stay in for free

* the bad mattress in the 70’s condo I got to stay in for free

* my kids “dumping” all their problems on me because they still want me in their lives even though they are adults

* my kids not returning my calls because my son is busy taking finals after his first year of law school and my daughter is busy running her own business

* the air-conditioning in my office being too cold

* a friend misunderstanding me and telling me about it because she really cares and wants to understand

* not getting enough sleep because I am working on an exciting new project

* the heat and dry weather because we need rain

* it’s going to snow this next week

I think you get it.  I complained about a lot of stuff in the midst of my pretty amazing life.

And then I met Lauren.  Lauren is 14 years old — a freshman in high school.  I will let you listen to her story.  You can find it at or click on the link below.

I’ve listened to it a few times and I am brought to my knees — to give thanks and check myself before those complaints come so quickly and easily from my heart to my lips.  I want to follow this 14-year old and consider my difficulties an opportunity to love.  As artist Brian Andreas wrote, “Anyone can slay a dragon . . . buy try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again.  That’s what takes a real hero.”

My Story

“O my soul, bless God.  From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!  O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!”  (Psalm 103:1)

Filed in Disappointment,Dreams,Giving to Others,Grace,Redemption,Salvation Story,Thanksgiving,Uncategorized Comments Off



Last night, as I was sleeping
I dreamt — marvelous error! —
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Robert Antonio Machado


“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”
Psalm 119:204


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