A New Set Of Eyes 20,000 Feet Above Ground

Several months ago I flew down to Florida to visit a good friend of mine. She’s had quite a down and out year so I felt that, if anything, I could offer some encouragement with a few days of good girl time. On my flight home I had a very unexpected, life changing encounter. The following comes from my journal.

9/24/2008
Once I arrived at the airport, check-in was smooth and I found myself boarding my 6:10am flight within minutes.

As I settled into my seat I began sipping my 8oz. – $3.50 cup of coffee. Thinking of the tiny airport shop that sold it to me and their clever marketing campaign. “Free refills”, the lady behind the counter proudly proclaimed. As I buckled myself into my seat, taking my final sips, I thought “A lot of good those free refills will do me thousands of feet off the ground bound for a destination a million miles away.” I smiled and laughed at the brilliance of it all. Within moments a woman approached my row. She glanced at the row behind me, which was filled up, and then turned to me and said “I think my seat has been taken. Do you mind if I sit next to you?” “No Problem” I said with a smile. The woman sat down. Her coarse blond hair, which could be equated to the length of Crystal Gale’s, began to wisp my arm, as well as, the perimeter around us. She held a book with her plane ticket and boarding pass stuffed into the pages. In her other had she held a cup of coffee. The same 8oz. – $3.50 “free refill” cup as mine. “They got her too!” I thought.

The initial moments of her getting settled were quite tornadic. She dropped her book, spilling out all its papers underneath the seat. Both of us reaching and contorting to gather them up. All of which, in a flurry of hair. Then, in an effort to gain composure, she unlatched the table top to set her coffee down. She then bumped it with her knee spilling her hot coffee all over her leg which caused a knee-jerk reaction sending her book flying, once again, into the air. Papers everywhere. “Oh my goodness” I think to myself. We were both gathering up items strewn about and as I’m watching her I realize her jitterness. Her hands are shaking as she fumbles through her black, tattered purse. All the while she is pleasantly talking to me through her wavering voice. “My name’s Chris” she says warmly as she extends her hand to mine. I notice that she is missing some teeth. “I’m Rachel” I say smiling, wondering where on earth God is going to take me with this. Chris is wearing a gray tank top. A tattoo on her left bosom is peeking out. I notice right away that her light blue wind-breaker pants are filthy. She begins to role up her wet, coffee stained pant leg. I see 3 tattoos cascading down her leg. This make 5 tattoos, including the one on her right shoulder. For a split second I recall watching a documentary in which the expert on the show stated that a high percentage of individuals with multiple tattoos tend to have mental health issues. But that thought is irrelevant. I’m fully captivated by her regardless of appearances and first impressions. That would be judging and I hate judgements!

I ask Chris about her destination and that’s when I notice her wet eyes. She wasn’t crying but it became more clear that her spirit had been shaken. “I’m on my way to Denver for my fathers unexpected funeral.”

Our flight seemed to last 5 minutes. There was not one lull in our conversation. She told me about her 7 children. Two biological and five step children. At age 42 she was now a grandmother of 4. She told me about her near death experience after a motorcycle accident. They had to take a piece of her hip bone for reconstructive surgery which later caused some of her teeth to fall out. Her frustrated expression led me to believe that she never had the means to fix them. She told me all sorts of dysfunctional stories concerning ex’s and clients with horrible diseases. I discovered that she and her husband own a tattoo shop outside of Pensacola. Which explains why her pants were so dirty, soiled with ink!

I asked Chris if she had a church home. She told me a story about one church she attended with a great pastor. The pastor had gotten bit by a spider and later due to an infection had to have his leg amputated. The church members felt that this pastor was now incapacitated to do his job so they made him leave. Ousted by the church because he no longer fit the mold.

Then she told me about the time a friend invited her to a Bible study covering the book of Revelation. Intrigued, she accepted her friends offer. When she got to the church the woman leading the Bible study told her that because of all her tattoos she would likely go to Hell. Chris met with the pastor of this church who backed up this position by saying that if she continued to get more tattoos she would be sinning and God would never let her into Heaven.

Chris looked at me and said “I’ve always believed that my body is just a shell and its my soul that goes to Heaven anyways.” I was amazed by her. You would think after 42 years of disappointment and rejection that this woman would be so angry and bitter but I could not find a hint of it anywhere.

As our flight made its final dissension I asked her if we could pray together. I’ve never stepped out of my comfort zone like this before but it just seemed so appropriate. To my surprise, she grabbed my hand and before I knew it was leading an all out prayer to the Lord. It was so beautiful. As we said our good-byes she just kept looking at me. I can’t describe it other than to say her eyes were filled with a sort of twinkling bewilderment.

In this life, its likely, I’ll never fully grasp the full scope of what really occurred during that flight. All I can say is that I have been given a new set of eyes. Eyes that consider my role in loving rather than judging. Eyes that find worth and value in each and every soul I encounter.

Insights on The Shack

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to attend a premiere event for a new organization called Nudge the World. The featured guest was William Paul Young, author of the best selling book The Shack. For those of you who have read the book, no doubt you’ve walked away with a different image of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Some have claimed this as the best book they have ever read, life changing. Others have closed the book with a throbbing question mark pounding in their head. While a select few get to a certain point, slam the book shut, and cry out “Heresy!”

Currently an unprecedented 6.1 million copies of The Shack have been sold. The numbers according to media and publishing gurus are staggering. Something profound is happening to the Spirit of its 6.1 million readers. What could one book have to say that could cause such a movement?

If there’s one thing that gets my goat, its when someone messes up my kitchen. I’m a baker by ancestry default. The passion of pastries has been weaved throughout past generations for as far as my eye can see. I know all the basics when it comes to baking but what I enjoy most is the process. It’s become a ritual for me. Choosing the ingredients, mixing to my desired consistency, then baking to perfection. The process fits so nicely in my soul. If your a baker, you know what I’m talking about. The same could likely be said for any passion that you hold dear.

I must admit however that when my kids come into my kitchen and mix up a batch of something, I have a hard time with their process. They are so messy. The whole thing sends pangs of uneasiness through me. I know, I know they are just kids. Thankfully in the end, their cookie dough kisses make up for all my internal anguish.

In Young’s book he has created this vivid imagery of God that does not conform with our traditional thinking minds. His adaptation of God through the pages of The Shack allows us to see a man faced with unspeakable loss and brokenness enter into a real relationship with the living God. I think I can understand why, for some readers, it may have felt like someone just came their kitchen and messed it up. Some of us have spent our entire lives believing that God is this distant, pie in the sky, divine person who may or may not be fully engaged in the details of our lives. Gaining a perspective like the one The Shack offers leaves us asking the question “Could I have a REAL relationship with God?”

For a long time I’ve searched for finding that perfect place that would continually feed my soul. I’ve attempted to fill it with wholesome friends, a loving family, and a close-knit church. I can’t tell you how many times while talking about church that I would say something like “It just feeds me.” I’m beginning to sense that something has changed in me. In part were always looking to be fed but what’s the actual driving force behind the desire to be fed? Hunger! Maybe its time that I dig a little deeper within to discover what’s making me hungry. Hungry for what Papa wants to teach me, hungry for a life that hinges on going where He leads me, and hungry for a REAL relationship with a God that loves me for just being me. Are you hungry yet? I am!

Hillbillylily’s Growing Up

My eldest child is no longer just a child. She is growing up. Lily, formally know as, Lillian is now 11 years old. She is my break-through child. No pun intended, although she is habitually known for breaking things. With any first born child, we (as parents) tend to experience a certain euphoria when a new milestone has been met. Yet on the flip side, with each new break-through, a piece of ourselves cracks and breaks off as we lend ourselves to the natural cycle of raising up and eventually letting go.

In our home we are on the cusp of entering phase II, otherwise know as adolescence. Still a tween, physically and socially I am beginning to see the teenage sparkle in her eye. Lily’s heart wants to be all grown-up.

During a recent mother-daughter date day we decided to go shopping and use up her gift cards from Christmas. We had so much fun together. The ultimate bonding experience. After all her pieces had been tried on and picked out I noticed that it now was the time to upgrade from her training bra to the real deal. So with a quick sweep through the personnel department we found a simple, white bra. A real one. As I put it into the cart, I felt the tears start to well. I can’t believe it. Another milestone…the bra. Or maybe the tears were out of jealousy seeing that her cup size was nearly that of her dear old mom. Uggg! Lily was of coarse embarrassed that I was making a big deal about it, which actually made me smile. Never the less, Lily is growing up.

In addition to her “gift card” Christmas she was also given a generous gift from her other family who lives down in Texas. A lap top. With that, came a whole new set of guidelines in the Britz home but for Lily the ultimate prize was establishing her very own email account. It’s been the 5th grade debate in our home. Did you know that EVERY 5th grader has email? So after spending much time creating her personal email account and carefully laying out all the ground rules Hillbillylily11@gmail.com now exists to communicate with the outside world. Or at least that’s what she thinks.

The Plate Spinner

The other day, while driving in the car, I heard a man on the radio talking about one of his favorite late night television moments as a child. On this particular show the host had invited a plate spinner on to his program. During his segment, the plate spinner began by spinning one plate faster and faster and then quickly adding another plate. Repeating the same procedure by spinning each new plate faster and faster before adding the next. By the time the segment was over the plate spinner had 9 plates spinning round and round. All the entertainer could do at this point was run franticly between each plate and continue to spin them faster and faster to keep them from crashing to the floor. Hearing this story got me thinking.

We’ve all seen an act like this. They make us smile and often leave us saying “How do they do that?” But in an interesting comparison I imagine we could consider ourselves acclaimed plate spinners as well. Our marriages, our families, our careers, the PTA, soccer club, church commitments, and the lists go on. Each plate representing one more thing to spin into our crazy lives. It seems like the priorities that reign in our hearts (marriage and family) tend to get the same attention as the rest of our plates.

During a recent Woman’s Gathering for church I was given an opportunity to share an inspirational story for the event. Believe it or not, as I prepared, I found a perfect example in the Bible of a Plate Spinner. Let me share with you how the story goes (interpretation mine).

Jesus is a grown man and is in the prime of his ministry. He has already done a few healings and the buzz concerning who he really is has made headlines around the countryside. While traveling one day he comes into a village where a woman named Martha opens up her home to him. As Jesus is talking and telling stories to the guests Martha is franticly running around trying to get everything ready. I assume she is making all the preparations for dinner along with all the other responsibilities involved with hosting a special event. Just then, as she is running around, she glances over and sees her sister Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. Irritated that her sister isn’t helping she later says to Jesus “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all this work by myself?” Jesus then replies by saying “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I think that there are a couple very important things to point out. Its obvious to me that Martha really loves Jesus. If she didn’t, all those preparations wouldn’t be that important to her. Secondly, Jesus isn’t saying to Martha that her sister is a better person. He simply says that she has chosen what is better. Similarly, I think that if we take a closer look at our plates we would find things that we love about each of them. But the real question is are we choosing to spin the plates that will not be taken away from us?

This plate spinning scenario can apply to us spiritually as well as literally. Once we slip into our “doing” mode, it’s often hard to downshift. Being quiet and contemplative makes us feel guilty- shouldn’t we be doing something for someone somewhere? I believe that as we enter the New Year we should all resolve to stop spinning our plates for just a moment. Take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and really hear what he is trying to say to us. Maybe just maybe He is trying to walk with us down a path that is better!

Fear: Part Two

In my previous entry I offered a glimpse into my personal foundation of fear. Yes, it’s true. It has always been that small, scurrying creature that has reigned in my minds-eye as the ever clutching base of FEAR. Through the years I have attempted a variety of means to overcome the ridiculousness of it all. I have even received counseling over the matter. Thankfully I did not have to pay for the session since my good friend is a psychologist but I did bake her some cookies for compensation.

In taking a deeper look I’m beginning to realize something about myself that I wasn’t aware of before. My entire life has been governed by this fear. In a closer evaluation I discovered that in almost every area of my life I have some fear driving factor. When I run outdoors I fear I’ll be chased down by a dog and bitten, if our first floor windows are not locked and sealed I fear that someone will break into our house, and when driving next to a semi I wouldn’t dare pass them for fear that I will be crushed beneath its massive frame.

A few years ago I had a very candid conversation with a good friend of mine concerning God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty, its such a big word. Weather it rolls off your tongue or is overheard in conversation it seems to belong to a special club. But what does is really mean? It seems the full comprehension of “sovereignty” falls into the gray area for most of us. We think we know what it means but what the heck do we do with it? As my friend further explained, this sovereignty is the definition used to describe a peace-filled state of mind where we rest in God’s complete and total control over EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, and the ugly. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that he is Almighty (ALL MIGHTY), the possessor of all power in heaven and earth. No one can defeat Him or His purposes. He is the Governor of all nations. He is absolute and completely infinite.

I’ll have to admit that if we truly put these matters into our heart its all too overwhelming to comprehend. Its easy for us to see God’s face painted upon the pictures of good but when it comes to the bad, rotten, and ugliness of this world it really challenges our hearts and mind to step outside of our faith-filled comfort zone and proclaim “God is Sovereign.”

I believe that in order for us to be freed from fear we must begin to see the healing elements that sovereignty has to offer. The pieces of our fears, our failures, our joys, and our sorrows all must join together with God’s Sovereignty. When we embrace the “sovereignty” puzzle in our lives we have the potential to see a much bigger, clearer picture through the eyes of a peace-filled heart.