Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wherever you are, God is.

I sat in my “spot” this morning, the first morning it has been warm enough to come to this sacred space in my garden where I have created my own intimate, outdoor "chapel." Wrapped in a light blanket, the early morning sun beaming on me like a spotlight through the leaves of the trees, I listened to a brood of baby downy woodpeckers above me, begging for food. I became aware of my solitariness.

I read Psalm 107, rich and symbolic verse, which describes the varied terrain in which we often find ourselves.

  • Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless. (vs. 4)
  • Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery. (vs. 10)
  • Some were fools; they rebelled and suffered for their sins. (vs. 17)
  • Some went off to sea in ships, plying the trade routes of the world. (vs. 23)

I wondered to myself which one best describes me today. Definitely “plying the trade routes of the world,” I thought, though I have visited all the other territories that are mentioned--more than once!

The Psalm continues and explains how God can change rivers into deserts and, just as easily, turn deserts into pools of water. How true! I reflect with amazement at the times in my life that were visits to a dry and barren land—my recent back surgery an example—and God turned them into a fertile place of growth and healing.

The Psalm ends by saying that those who are wise will take all this to heart and see how God has been involved in each chapter of their history. I thought about how it doesn’t matter where I wander, God can meet me in that place. Or, another way to say it: wherever I am, God is. And wherever you are, my friend, God is, as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Knowing when it's Time to Put a Sock in Your Mouth!

In the course of one day, I observed or participated in three conversations that escalated from a calm exchange to a tense, emotional conflict. As I watched the dialogue unfold, at some point the communication crossed a line and it became heated. Thinking back to each scenario, I wish that I or the other persons involved had chosen to hold our tongue. I’ve wondered, “How do I know when to put a sock in my mouth and be quiet?”

Here’s what I have decided:

I need to hold my tongue when speaking out of anxiety. One of the conversations involved a young woman who shared with a small group about her own struggle to forgive. She honestly admitted she hadn’t forgiven someone, couldn’t forgive him or her, and wouldn’t forgive him or her. As she acknowledged this, an older woman in the group quickly pounced, insisting that she must because, after all, Jesus forgave her. It was clear that the young woman’s honest confession made the older woman feel anxious. As expected, once the woman spoke, the young woman shut down, feeling totally missed.

When we speak out of anxiety, what we don’t understand is our anxiety says more about us than it does the person to whom we are reacting. It says that something about what he or she is saying makes us feel afraid, even shameful, and the need to hide. In this case, the older woman likely had fear that to admit one’s inability and unwillingness to forgive would invoke God’s displeasure and/or rejection. She felt unsettled and insistent that this young woman hide her true feelings or change them immediately!

I need to hold my tongue when speaking out of defensiveness. Another conversation involved me and someone close to me. This person berated a broad group of people of whom I belong—she attacked Christians. As I listened to her angry and condemning evaluation, I felt lumped in with those with whom she expressed disdain. I felt defensive and began to push back, totally missing this person and the hurt and pain she felt from experiences with Christian people. In my aggressive stance, I poked at her the way I felt poked at. In the end, I overlooked her, someone I dearly love.

When we speak out of defensiveness, we construct a shield that we use as a battering ram. We take what is being said personally, when it may not be intended to be at all, and we begin to shove back. Though I don’t think she intended these comments for me, because I took them that way, I gave up the chance to explore with her the pain and hurt she felt because my focus became all about me.

I need to hold my tongue when speaking out of anger. You’ve probably heard it said that anger is a secondary emotion—it conceals the true feeling beneath the anger, like hurt or betrayal. In the final conversation, I was a listener, as a friend described an encounter with one of her young adult kids. She needed to have a hard conversation and knew it would not be productive if she spoke out of her anger. She got in touch with her core feeling, which was hurt, and proceeded to share with this son. The conversation began well, opened up the relationship, and then suddenly “went south” when her son reacted to something she said. Unfortunately, both their emotions broke lose and the conversation was killed.

My friend had the right instinct. Speaking out of anger is dangerous because anger becomes a weapon to hurt back. When we feel anger rising up within us, it tells us there is hurt underneath. Expressing that we are hurt feels very vulnerable. So, we choose to use anger to protect our wounded heart. When we feel anger during a conversation, it’s a good time to take a breather or otherwise damaging words will fly. And then the conflict escalates with even more collateral damage.

Obviously, you and I must become aware of our feelings in order to notice anxiety, defensiveness and anger. Emotions are a window into one's heart and provide a warning light that something is going on inside us. When you notice one of these tell-tale feelings, a word to the wise: put a sock in your mouth! It gives some space to observe what you are feeling and to listen to the other person—an action for which you will be glad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thirty Years Ago Today, I Married My Best Friend!

He stood in the foyer of my house, talking with one of my college roommates, and in a moment’s time, my heart tipped toward him. I took him in, in a way I hadn’t before, almost objectively, as I observed his manner, and the way he talked with Marcia (my roommate). I listened to his voice and noticed how handsome he was. He had been my best friend since our sophomore year of high school. However, this day, I looked at him differently and it was this moment that has defined the last thirty years of my life—the day I fell in love with David Booram.

Today we celebrate our 30th anniversary. It hardly seems possible. That sounds like and is a long time. Yet, the prospect of being married 30 more years isn’t out of the question. And far as I’m concerned, that would be just fine! I can’t get enough of this man, though we have spent 30 + years talking, laughing, fighting, playing, and crying together. I would even go so far as to say, we have an exceptional marriage, even a rare one. I don’t know many who have the affection and intimacy that we share, after 30 years of marriage.

One reason is that we have always put each other first. There have been periods where I struggled with placing our four kids ahead of David, but in the end, returned him to the top of my love-list. We’ve preferred one another, over friends and family, and that has kept our relationship the highest priority, next to our relationship with God.

We’ve also enjoyed each other’s company—immensely. We like many of the same things: art, music, hiking, birding, reading, coffee, red wine, and conversation. David is still my best friend and the person with whom I have the most fun! (He has a very quirky sense of humor—just ask his kids.)

We know how to have a good fight, too. Over the years, and even during a time when we were in a very dark place in our marriage, what brought us through was our willingness to talk about hard things without damaging the other person. Oh, we’ve said hurtful things, for sure. But, in general, we’ve learned to be raw and honest, and “go there”, where we needed to go in conversation in order to get to the source of our pain, disappointment, or conflict.

And we’ve had good sex. Bet you didn’t expect me to say that, at least not on my blog! It’s true. Sex is really important to our marriage. Again, we have had lots of pain and difficulty to work through, but we have made our sexual intimacy important. After 30 years of marriage, let me just say, I think we sizzle….and I’ll stop there!

It’s a good thing to marry your best friend. But it’s even better to stay married to him for 30 years. We’ve got somethin’ goin’, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m game for 30 more!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Power of a Posse!

Last Friday, May 1st, I sent an email and ask my friends and family to order copies of my new book from Amazon as close to 3 pm (EST), as possible. I don't know how many responded or how many books were ordered but I do know this: over the weekend, Picturing the Face of Jesus made the top 100 Christian books on Amazon! That is simply remarkable!

How can I explain such a phenomenal rise in rank? It has to be the power of a posse! Do you know what I mean by a posse? Probably the first image that comes to mind is an old Western where the Sheriff (usually John Wayne) forms a posse to go out after some bad guys.

But a posse also means " a group of people assembled for a common purpose." That describes the folks who know me, my writing, and my message and believe in it enough to order copies of my book, all at the same time on the same day, in order to expand its reach.

Once again, I'm reminded in the power of people united around a common goal. Individually we barely make a wave, but together we can be used by God to create quite a buzz.

Thanks to all who participated, who formed an invisible yet powerful posse, and lifted up the face of Jesus. You know what comes to mind? "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)

If you didn't have a chance to order, here is the link:

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day!! May Day!! Results!!

Thank you, all, who ordered copies of my book on Amazon today. Picturing the Face of Jesus went from a sales rank in the 300K's to 1,594!!! My book is listed in the #2 spot in Relgion/art and photography. ( I had to is right under Henry Nouwen's, Return of the Prodigal Son--one of my favorite all time books!)

Please know how grateful I am for those of you who supported me to help extend the reach of this book! When I sat down at my computer this afternoon and read dozens of emails from you, I was overwhelmed to tears. Bless you! What a great May Day!

If you didn't have a chance to order today, it's not to late! Here's the link:

May Day!! May Day!!

Dear Friend,

I could really use your help! One of the greatest challenges as an author of a newly released book is how to create a buzz! Would you be willing to help me do that?

On Friday, May 1st, @ 3 pm, I am asking my friends to order copies of my new book, Picturing the Face of Jesus, from Here's why: when Amazon receives a significant number of orders in a short period of time, the rating of the book escalates! When that happens, more people are exposed to my book when they search Amazon for books of a similar topic. (You know how it goes...."If you like this book, then you might like Beth's Booram's book, Picturing the Face of Jesus!")

Here's how you can help: