Author Archives: Lydia Floren

Polishing the Mirror, by Lydia Floren

A silver tray with a polishing sponge.  A daisy reflected in it.Have you ever been chugging along on your road of life, and suddenly find yourself flat on your back?  I certainly have. One minute I can be tooling along, life seems to be going well, and the next, I am in an emotional tailspin. My self-confidence (and God-confidence) plummets.  I then land in a pit of yuck. My wheels spin. My windshield is splashed with mud. All I see, all I feel is the negative – failure, hurt, loneliness, regret. What happened?  I don’t usually know right away.

It is funny what brings it on, this pain, this darkening of the glass. It can be pretty random. Once, it was when I discovered I wasn’t invited to a wedding. (I know, right?) The funny thing is, I didn’t even want to go. But some friends were going, talking about it, making plans. And we were not included.

In a flash, my emotions were highjacked. My heart lurched off the road of contentment into a pit of despair.  We have been excluded from other events, I remember.  And then the scab from earlier wounds is ripped off … sitting by myself in the lunchroom…. alone waiting for the bus…. the only one in science class without a lab partner. My heart again feels that raw pain, rejection, loneliness. And then, Satan hisses these words, in a voice remarkably like my own “I don’t belong anywhere. I am not wanted. Or known. Or loved.”

Later that day, we went to church, but being in a big group where I knew almost no one, just reinforced that sense of detachment, of not belonging.  I didn’t even know what was wrong.  I just knew I couldn’t stay. So I left. And the rest of the evening, I withdrew into my woundedness, feeding it with chocolate and chips and Facebook and meaningless television.

Polishing 

The next morning, as I was praying, I was reminded:  Yes, now I see through a mirror dimly…but I can see something – a good bit, actually.

And I begin polishing the mirror.

Thanks

I start with giving thanks.

Not for this dark pain, deep within, that surfaces from time to time.  But, thanking God that it surfaces, so that He can shine the light of His truth on it, and heal it a little more, or even altogether.

Truth

I recite the truth I know:

  • About myself:  I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Cherished. Unique and precious. A chosen and adopted child of the God of the Universe.  I belong to Him. And He lives in me. I am never alone. Always beloved.
  • About God:  He is 100% good.  Strong.  He knows me better than I know myself, and loves me more than I can imagine. And His love never, ever fails. He knows my needs before I ask Him, and meets my needs for identity, value, belonging, focus, and safety.  I have nothing to fear.
  • About the journey, and the plans He and I have prayerfully made. And what I have learned so far.

Meditation

I meditate on some favorite verses.

  • This is the day that the Lord has made. Let’s celebrate! Psalm 118:24
  • Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
  • The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3
  • And yet, I am always with you. you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel. And afterward, You will take me into glory.  Psalm 73:23-24

On the Road Again

Before long, God “pulls me out of the miry pit, and places my feet upon a rock.”

I pause for a little while, letting my emotions settle, reorienting to the path I am committed to travel.  I take a deep breath, turning my face again to the future.  And then I grab His hand, and take a step. And another one.

And I am on my way again.

Now, a little more whole.  Now, seeing a little clearer, or a lot.

Sailboat on a calm sea.  "Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward, You will take me into glory."  Psalm 73: 23-24

Mirrors and Wisdom by Lydia Floren

sunflowers reflected in a silver trayFor now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.  1 Cor 13:12

Two thousand years ago, a mirror was a highly polished piece of metal, maybe bronze or silver.  Because it was hand-hammered and buffed, a person’s reflection in it would be imperfect – there would be distortions, and probably some dark spots. (Not that most of us really want total accuracy, when we look at a mirror, but that’s beside the point.)  In those days, if you wanted a more accurate idea of what you actually looked like, you would need to step into the brightest light you could find and view your reflection from several different angles.

When Paul said “now we see through a mirror dimly” he was comparing our limited understanding of life/the world/our situation with the distorted reflection that one saw when looking at piece of polished metal.

Here’s the Amplified version of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma, but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly); but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 

None of us have a clear picture of what is going on in the world – or even in our own lives. Our reflection is incomplete. There are blank spots and distortions.  In order to get the best possible understanding, we need to inspect our situations from a variety of viewpoints, and in the brightest light we can find – the light of God’s truth.

Even in the best of circumstances, our vision is limited.

But the great news is, God’s is not. He sees everything and, even better, He understands what it all means. He knows how it all connects. From His perspective, He can guide us along the wisest path forward.  All we have to do is ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5 NIV

pink dogwood tree with "Christ is wisdom and He is our deepest need.  -Margaret Botlome

Opening Doors

Old doors,  Topic is Time with God

Opening Doors

by Lydia Floren

It is easy to drift away from spending quality time with God.  Some mornings, it seems I  just go through the motions of spending time with God – present in body, but not always in spirit. We all do that sometimes, don’t we, especially when caffeine is in short supply or the baby has an ear infection?   But when that time with Him get shortchanged, day after day, it isn’t long before we just stop meeting with Him altogether.  From there, at least for me, things go downhill pretty quickly.  Peace, hope, patience gradually diminish. Hurry and worry claim front and center. And joy? Well joy becomes a distant memory.

Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Psalm 24:7

Psalm 24:7-8 reminds me that nothing is more important – or more strategic – than letting the God of the universe into my heart, and truly connecting with Him.

Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle. Psalm 24:8

Think about it:  we have the most powerful being, the VIP of the universe waiting for us, wanting to connect with us every day. To give us insight and wisdom and encouragement before we head out into the field of battle. And, to fill our hearts with peace and joy.

Wouldn’t we do well to make that time with Him our highest priority?

May we always throw open the door of our hearts to the living God.

Hands with the words, "God's peace has nothing to do with our circumstances & everything to do with His presence.

The Moment Called Today

Bamboo Forest with pathThe Moment Called Today, by Lydia Floren

The last time (OK, the only time) Andrew and I went to Hawaii, we went to a medical conference on the island of Maui, a land of extreme contrasts.  Mountain and sea, lava and jungle, sunshine and rain. Maui is a unique place.

One morning we were drinking coffee at the meeting place, and chatting with some friends. They told us about a great snorkeling spot on the north shore that they’d heard about. It was little hard to get to, but supposedly worth the trouble. So we decided to play hooky for the rest of the day.  We went home, gathered some stuff.  They gave us the directions, and we would meet up at the water.  After a short drive in our rented convertible  Andrew and I parked, gathered our things, and then set out to hike the rest of the way in.

An unusual path

Our path took us through a forest of bamboo. The dense foliage seemed to close in and shut us off from the rest of the world.  Surrounded by these towering stalks, we had no view of our destination, and the trail was so curvy that at times that we couldn’t see but a few feet in front of us.  And even though the surf crashed nearby, all we could hear was the breeze swishing through leaves.  For a half hour or so we enjoyed a hushed stroll through these shadowy walls of cane, and then emerged to a breathtaking landscape of soaring cliffs and crashing sea.  One minute we could see for 5 feet, yet the next we were gazing for 50 miles.

Bay in the sea, with a lush green coastline

Uncertainty

In this life, there is a lot of not seeing.  We often don’t know where our journey will take us, and what we will encounter along the way. We can either chafe against this not-knowing, or focus on the beauty before us, right now, as we travel along.

Peace

When I choose to fret or worry about what is (or isn’t) coming next, I miss the moment called Today.  I forget that, whether I see clearly or not, I am still safe. Still loved.  God is still guiding. When I do remember these things, I can be at peace in the middle of uncertainty, resting in God’s arms, trusting His wisdom and leading. I am able to enjoy the moment called Today.

Joy

Choose to live in the moment called Today. Choose to be content in your circumstances. When your view is not clear, and even when it is, savor the beauty of life you have been given today.

No need to fret.  Eventually you will reach a place you can see for miles, a place that will truly take your breath away.

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains…”  Isaiah 42:6

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Phil 4:4

Rocky coast with blue water and white caps

I Love You

Sunset over the Gulf of MexicoI Love You, by Lydia Floren

“I love you.”  God says these three words to us over and over again, every single day. He did it yesterday, and He’s doing it right now. He’ll keep on doing it, tonight and tomorrow and the day after that.  But just because He is saying “I love you,” doesn’t mean we hear it, or that the meaning of those words sink in.

Our hearts have to be tuned in, to listen for that sweet message.

How God says “I love you”

God’s “I love you” might be a beautiful song, a stunning sunset, the encouraging words of a friend.  He may say “I love you” through a great conversation, a belly laugh,  a good night’s sleep. Or, an “aha” moment when a truth strikes home. Sometimes, He just whispers “I love you” in the stillness of our minds. And if we ask, he will help us to understand just what that means.

This is a little conversation I had with God recently:

“I love you.”

Thank you. But what do You mean when you say “I love you”?  And why does it matter?

I

I am the most powerful being in the universe. I made up love. I define it. I am only good. There’s no evil in me at all. I am patient, kind, faithful, generous–and present. I created you, and everything else in this world, and beyond. I wanted you with me always, and I sacrificed greatly to make this possible. I know everything. I am the only person that will ever completely know, and unreservedly love, you. I see you now, exactly as you are.  

I love you.

Love

I cherish you. I enjoy your company. I want the best for you. I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. I see exactly what’s going on, and I’m guiding you. I’ve got your back. I’m providing for you. I’m healing your heart from the faulty thinking that has kept you in bondage. And, I’ve already forgiven every wrong thing you have done, and will do, to me. I adopted you. I respect you, and I am protecting you.

I love you.

You 

You are my precious creation. Before you were even born, I chose all the qualities that would make you uniquely yourself. And that hole in your heart? That is an incompleteness that can only be filled by me.  And I am filling that hole.  You belong with me.  You are wanted. You are loved. You are my beloved child.

I love you.  

I

LOVE

YOU.

I LOVE YOU.

I love you with an everlasting love.  Jeremiah 31:3

Blue pansies with the words "I love you"

4 Steps to Planning the Year

sunset over the seaby Lydia Floren

I am a planner.  Not in the “control freak” kind of way, just in the wanting-to-be-intentional-about- life way.  So, the new year is an important time for me.  Toward the end of the year, I start to think about where I have been, where I am going, and how best to get there.  In January, I typically set aside a day or two to review and  make some specific plans for the coming year.  What does that look like for me?  Well, it is different every year. Some years I am more detailed, others I just sketch out a more general framework. But my planning process always seems to involve these four steps:

Four Steps to Planning the Year:

  1. Reflect
  2. Review
  3. Refocus
  4. Revise

 

Reflection:

  • What happened in the last year?  Events? Relationships? Commitments? Life situations?
  • How have I seen God working in these things?
  • How have I grown? What have I learned?

Review:

  • What were my goals/priorities/commitments from last year?
    • Life goal:
    • Other goals:
    • Priorities:
    • Permanent commitments:
  • How has my time spent in the last year, aligned with my life goals, priorities, commitments?

Refocus:

  • Ask God, “What is Your perspective of what has happened in the last year?”
  • Are there any goals/priorities/commitments I need to change  or moving forward?
  • Are there specific plans that need to be revised? Ditched? Formulated?

Revise:

  • What do I see as the best strategy to achieve my goals in the coming year?  In two years? In 5 years?
  • How does that translate into how I use my time on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
  • What will help me to keep my life aligned with these goals/plans?

During this process, I continue to pray and seek God’s guidance, insight, and wisdom in each of these steps.  And, at the end, I just give my new plans and schedule to God, and ask Him to show me what revisions need to be made.

What is your approach to planning?

Finding Treasures

Young man staring out across a still lake.Finding Treasures

by Lydia Floren

Last week, we talked about how we are each a treasure to God, dearly loved by Him.  And how life-changing and soul-sustaining it is to be loved like that.

When we are loved like that, it moves us to action.  God calls us, challenges us, to care for those around us, the same  way that He cares for us.  Gently. Compassionately. Graciously. Respectfully.  We have no business judging. Or, condemning. Or, dismissing. Or, hurting. Or, criticizing.  We have no idea what someone has been through, or may still be going through.

And that’s not our job anyway.

Our business is to treat each treasure—each unique creation of God—with the utmost care.  To value them, regardless of what we see on the surface, because we know how precious they are inside.  And, when we have opportunity, our job is to brush off a little dirt and show their beauty even more, to themselves as much as to us.

Take the time today to notice the person in front of you.  Smile at them. Find a way to encourage them with a word, or a touch.  A listening ear, a small gift. A laugh. A prayer. Each effort you make brushes away a bit of dirt, and frees a spirit/heart to shine a bit brighter.

Treasure

Boy blowing out birthday candlesTreasure

by Lydia Floren

Birthdays were (and still are) a big deal in the Floren home.  When my kids were younger,  I would plan special celebrations for them, and sometimes (ok, more than sometimes) I would go a little over the top.  When each of our sons turned six, we had a treasure hunt.  A dozen or so first graders each made a pirate’s hat, and were given a treasure map and a paper bag.  Then, they hunted all over the yard for clues, filling up their bag with prizes as they went.  Finally, they were led to the back yard, where a big X  marked the spot in the dirt. (Not too original, but effective, especially for a 6 year old.)  It was wonderful to watch them attack that dirt, and then after unearthing their very own treasure box,  to carefully lift it out of the earth.  It was fun to see their eyes light up when they pryed open the lid and discovered the gold coins inside.  (Gold coins filled with chocolate, but hey, they were gold.)

Every person on earth—every soul—is a treasure to God.  We are His beloved, worth sacrificing His son for.  God loves us each with a tenderness, a gentleness, that can take our breath away.  He eagerly attacks the mountain of guilt and shame Satan heaps on us, and replaces these lies with His truth:  we are free from condemnation.  We are whole. We are beloved. And after He gently brushes away the dirt, He delights in showing us—and the world– the bright beauty he has placed within us. The fruitful and fruit-filled life that comes from being loved.

God’s love is life changing. And soul-sustaining.

"You are a Treasure", words over a silver pitcher of flowers

Superhuman Part 2: Finding Your Superpower

Superhuman, imposed on a heart.

by Lydia Floren

Last week, we talked about the challenge of loving others with God’s impossible love, something we can only do with His superhuman strength.  Today, let’s explore how we can access that love, how it can be such a reality in our lives, that it becomes easier and easier to love others in the same way.

Two boys in super hero costumes - Captain America

So, how can we love others with this superhuman, “1 Corinthians 13”, love?  It starts with learning to be loved, choosing to accept, experience, and live in the reality of God’s impossible all-encompassing love.

Choose to

  1. Accept the reality of God’s love. Acknowledge the truth that even though you don’t deserve it, God loves you in this mind-blowing, all-encompassing way.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails;    

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

  1. Experience the reality of God’s love. Knowing something, in your head, is the starting place, but experience is what solidifies the truth in your heart and spirit.  Only when you make the decision to trust God’s love, will you experience the reality of it.  What does that look like?  It means letting go, and accepting His help/grace. Letting go of the need for control, of self-hatred, or guilt, or hurt, or fear, or self-centeredness, or self-protection – whatever has been dominating your life, and holding you captive. And then, grabbing on to the truth that He will take care of you, and lead you in the way you need to go. It means resting in the truth that you are loved, cared for, valued, important, wanted. That you belong. That you are safe.
  2. Live in the reality of God’s love. Living in the reality of God’s love for you, is simply this:  practicing steps 1 and 2, over and over again, until they become a deep habit that marks the fabric of your life.

The more we live in the reality of God’s love for us – the more we acknowledge the truth of it, and then choose to trust it – the more power we have to love others in the same way.

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

Meme with "be loved, love.  Soak in God's love & shine."

Superhuman Part 1: The Need for Super Power

red heart with the word superhuman imposed on it.by Lydia Floren

Our family has always been enamored with superheroes.  Ever since our boys were little our home has been populated with superhero toys, games, comic books, movies and costumes.

child in a batman costume                    little boy in a Robin costume

One of the kids even had a superhuman theme for homecoming one year.

crowd of teenagers in superhero costumes

And how many people do you know that have a Thor-sized hammer in their garage?

Why are superheroes so popular?  Because they have super powers, of course. All of us, at one time or another, have wished for some type extraordinary ability, haven’t we?  Maybe we dreamed of having

  • Photographic memory, so that we could get an “A” on every test.
  • Time travel, so that we could see the future (and maybe win the lottery).
  • Instant tele-transportation, so that we wouldn’t be late to an appointment (although I am not sure that would totally cure my tendency toward lateness).

I have often thought that following God requires supernatural strength, especially in the most fundamental thing God asks us to do: to love. “Oh that’s not so hard,” you might say, Everyone knows how to love.”  Well maybe, if you think that the love God wants us to give others is just sappy sentimentalism, or electrifying passion, or dutiful good deeds. But the love God wants us to give others goes far beyond this. Here’s what 1 Corinthians 13 says love really looks like (my paraphrasing):

Love is…

Patient.

Kind.

Trusting.

Understated.

Respectful.

Gracious.

Selfless.

Unflappable. (Has a long fuse.)

Love…

Forgives easily and often. (Doesn’t hold grudges.)

Celebrates the good.

Bears all things.

Believes all things.

Hopes all things.

Endures all things.

Love never fails.

Impossible.

Loving like this is hard, isn’t it? It’s particularly difficult when you try to love a person who is rude, or selfish, or arrogant or fickle.  And it’s near impossible to do when that person has deeply hurt you, or someone you love.

And why would we want to love someone like that? Some people don’t deserve to be loved…do they?

No. Some people don’t deserve to be loved. But, let’s be honest. There are times when each of us is hard to love – much less like. Haven’t we all at one time or another been rude, selfish, arrogant, and fickle – and probably worse? It’s funny how little we remember the hurt we inflict, and how often we recall the pain others cause us. Truthfully, no one – not one of us – deserves to be loved the way that 1 Corinthians describes it.  But God loves us like that anyway.

Still, being around a difficult person is, well…difficult. So how do we get past the distaste, the offense, the hurt? How do we release the pain so that we can love someone in the way God asks us to love them?

Super strength for super love.

Godly love requires God’s power. Only with the help of God can we set aside our own feelings and love others like God calls us to love – bearing, believing, hoping, enduring all things. God-Who-Is-Love has given us His super-strength to love others in a way we could never do on our own.  Our job is not to conjure up love, but to access God’s rich store of love, already present in our hearts.

Are you finding it difficult – maybe even impossible – to love someone in your life?  You are not alone. And you are not on your own. God gives us the ability to love others with superhuman, life – changing love.

Which, by the way, is the same way He loves each of us.

We love because He first loved us.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 

does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into 

account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never fails;   1 Corinthians 13:4-8a