Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Treasure Hunting: Dropping Anchor

Have you ever, because of your attitude or insecurities, almost ruined something? You know what I am talking about? The times when you’re just plain not comfortable in your skin for whatever reason. When it feels too tight or too loose. When the one size fits all just does not work?
If you haven’t felt this way or encountered this inner grappling then don’t bother to read any farther. But if you have…
We arrived at the beach on a Saturday afternoon. I stood on the balcony and stared out at my old friend. (I’m not sure when my love affair began with the ocean. I remember going to Myrtle Beach when I was around twelve—the summer of Jaws. Terrified I fought my step-father as he tried to drag me out into the waves. The memories of that year at the beach were not pleasant. I left with quarter size blisters on my shoulders because we didn’t use sunscreen. I believe the love affair began when we took all my girls to Destin one year in February. And I was captivated.)
I sat down on the balcony simply to have a minute of just drinking everything in—the sun’s play on the sand, and the slanted shadows of the umbrellas. I watched the skimmers swoop to fish and the gulls rise to find a current. It didn’t take long for the roll and rise of the waves to mesmerize me. I could feel my body decompress. Go slack. The ocean and its pattern and rhythm lulled me. Soothed me even from the fourth floor balcony. That day the water was cerulean blue and translucent aqua.
Calm. Placid. Languid.
But it wasn’t enough to look at it from the heights or the distance. I wanted to feel the hot sand on my feet then to be cooled by the salt water. I turned to go inside. I wanted to go play.
Then I remembered.
My attitude shifted. Sly insecurity snuck through the back door before I realized.
A bathing suit is not my friend. Need I say more?
No, most likely not. But I intend to anyway. Are you surprised?
For the next thirty minutes I fought. That’s not an exaggeration. I wrestled with my forty-eight year old body image. (She was certainly getting the best of me.) In that moment I wished I had listened and followed my good intentions of banning chocolate from my daily living.  I yanked that suit on pulling and stretching. I muttered under my breath the whole time. In the course of this thirty minutes my attitude wrapped tighter and tighter in a pitiable attempt at self-protection and defense. I want you to know that in reality my suit fit me, the problem wasn’t the suit, but my perception of the suit and the woman in it.
I haven’t been that uncomfortable in my skin in a very long time.
My daughter came into the room and witnessed my angst. She assured me all was fine. Don’t you just hate that word? Fine? But I know my daughter. She really did mean the suit and me in it was fine. Good. Efficient. Adequate. But the translator in my head read that word as there is nothing you can do to make this better, you might as well accept it and go on.  I jerked on my cover up. Pushed my feet into my sandals. Threw my bag on my shoulder and walked to the elevator.
My poor insecure attitude and perception was about to ruin my reality.
With heaviness I walked down to the beach. Across the dusty gray-brown sand. Across the packed wet gray shore and into the water.
And the water made me forget for a short time.
In the water you forget your weight in the buoyancy of the sea. For a brief space of time burdens are left behind.  For a fleeting and transitory moment you feel unfettered.  Unencumbered.
And you forget.
I laughed; I felt like shouting. Here I was again. A tiny little creature on the edge of this vast living undulating entity. And I swallowed. Humbled. Elated.
My perspective shifted.
I walked out of the water pulling and tugging on my bathing suit. The cover-up plastered against the legs I despise.
And I swallowed again.
I had a choice to make.
I could hide. I could attempt to cover all the flaws and imperfections. But that’s how my entire seven days of vacation would be spent.
Spent like sand sliding down the pinched waist of an hour glass. I didn’t have time for that.
I came to the ocean to invest.
If I spent my energies grappling and battling my perception of my appearance I would have nothing left. The fight would empty me. These battles drain me quickly. Insecurity makes you very vulnerable to the enemy.
Insecurity is like being unmoored in a stirred up ocean.
I needed an anchor.
We saw a 3,000 pound anchor propped in a corner of the connected walkway of the shops in John’s Pass. It was an enormous metal hook used to station relatively weightless boats in place on the surface of the sea. I kept looking at that anchor. It certainly didn’t look big enough to hold a boat steady in a storm. I wonder if it made a sound as it fell through the ocean waters and dropped to the ocean bed? How much sand and silt did it displace when it settled down?

John's Pass Anchor. Almost 6 feet high.
I needed to drop an anchor.
God's truth is the anchor.
Not my perception of his truth. Not my interpretation of his truth.
My value and importance and appeal are not based on how I look in a bathing suit.
The truth?
For God so loved Tamera that he gave his one and only Son that if Tamera believes in Him she shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to Tamera to condemn her, but to save Tamera through him. Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in Tamera will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

That good work is not a bathing suit body. 


How I fit into a garment constructed to allow me in the water is a temporary thing—it will vacillate depending on a hundred little circumstances. The truth from this point is that every time I look in the mirror there will be a new wrinkle, blemish and too much fat and too little muscle. From this point on I will be fighting a battle against gravity. And I could allow this to shake me. To unnerve me. To discourage me. 


But I remembered God's truth: outwardly I am wasting away, yet inwardly I am being renewed day by day.  

This truth is the eternal anchor.   

God is doing an eternal work in me. He is doing an eternal work in you. What God begins he finishes.
That’s the anchor.

Dropping the anchor did not change how I fit into my suit (I hoped, but it didn’t). It did, however, change my attitude and perspective. During the rest of the trip there were no bathing suit battles. No muttering, frustrating rants.
Thank God, I say, for my sake and for the ones with me on the trip. 
But listen, dear friends, we don’t have to be unmoored.
When life and the enemy comes against us with lies about our security and worth we need to remember to drop the weight of truth into the situation. Allow the weight and reality of that anchor to drop down through the troubled waters of your spirit. Allow it to displace silt and sand. Then the storm and the ocean can thunder and roil.
As I came out of the water that day I dropped the anchor.
Drop your anchor.
Right now decide.
Let God's truth be the anchor that moors you in a violent sea.










Monday, July 28, 2014

Treasure Hunting: Wearing Work Boots

Isn’t it interesting how quickly vacation becomes a distant memory? A surreal kind of time and space that you know happened—you have proof—but you are no longer abiding there. I looked in the mirror this morning and my sun-kissed skin is fading. Fast. I no longer look like I just stepped in off the beach. I no longer can catch a whiff of the brine of the ocean, and I vaguely remember the raucous call of the gulls.
Perhaps that is why I write about our times away. Maybe this is why I am compelled to record the events, thoughts and feelings—so I don’t forget. In order to thwart spiritual amnesia.
Treasure hunting at the beach is a hit or miss kind of endeavor. You can walk for a mile down the shoreline with nothing but seaweed tangling in your feet and broken shells littering the hard packed sand. Sometimes a lone feather will lay in the grit, light and airy—but only one. I’m not sure I understand this since there are a hundred birds flying a path across that stretch.
Yes, vacation can become a surreal memory, but what I loved and enjoyed and appreciated most about this year’s vacation were the people we spent our days with—eight were Scalfs.
Our friends and our pastors.
Dave and Rachael (his youngest child)

Amy capturing Wyatt's attempts to master the waves.
We joined Scalf family on the sandy shores just south of Clearwater. They went ahead of us and were entrenched in the beach life for a week before we got there. We walked through the doors on a Saturday afternoon and we could sense the ease of the loosened schedule of life at the beach.
We were about to live six days with each other—in the midst of sticky sand and salty water. In the middle of the chaos that twelve people doing life together brings.
I was nervous, but I should have known better.
If ever a couple exudes the concept of Love Does these two do.  I have learned more about practical and applicable faith from Dave and Amy than anyone else. The concept of faith having feet fleshes out in these two people. Their faith wears flip-flops and Crocs.  
Dave and Amy constantly encourage people to love. No, really love. Not just to say the words or mouth the sentiment. The love they preach and teach and attempt to live has dirt under its fingernails because it has been in the nitty-gritty part of life. It has pitched its tent where things are ugly and untidy and messy. It shows up when we are dirty and tired and worn out.
The love Dave and Amy teach loves even when pretty is not a description that can be applied.
Dave and Amy have six children. And I love them all. In each one of them glimpses of their parents break through like pin-lights. Little things. Small details. During the week with them I understood even more about love being messy. Loving when things are broken. Loving when things aren’t perfect. Loving when life is interesting and anything but.

While we were driving home from vacation Dave and Amy were a few hours behind us, but Dave kept giving updates on Facebook. Most of the time I cracked up—laughing so hard I thought I might pee my pants. Dave and Amy seem to have this gift of holding life and all of its curve balls and events lightly and loosely. There’s a flexibility in them that has been stretched by sheer grace. By unlimited mercy. And they would tell you they have seen plenty of both—they would tell you they live and thrive on the mercy and grace of God. They live from a unique vantage point of grace.
But here’s what they wouldn’t tell you.
They wouldn’t tell you about the grace they extend. The generosity they shower on people is just daily protocol for them.  Steve and I have been recipients of their generosity too many times to count. Often in the midst of their own pain and their own struggles they have reached out to us. Helped us wade through the muck and the mire.
During vacation this generosity magnified. During our six days with them we loved them more. How often can you spend six days in tight quarters with twelve people and come away loving them more?
We are at different stages in our lives. We have different giftings. We approach life from different angles.
Yet there is this familiarity. This kinship.
Jesus said these words. Stated these facts—pure and simple. What you hold most dear, most precious and prized, that’s where the affections and attentions of your heart will reside.
Dave and Amy are treasures. Is that cheesy? Then so be it. The cheese doesn’t negate the truth of the assessment.
My faith wears work boots now partly because of Dave’s teaching and Amy’s example. Our lives are a good bit richer because of the investment these two people pour into my husband, my children and me.
I didn’t have to go to the beach to find these treasures. Didn’t have to scour for them. Or sift through the sand or fight the tide. They are part of my everyday messy life.
Thank God.
Dave and Amy Scalf--Treasures. Period.
Side note: Find David Scalf on Facebook. Right now he is in the middle of a 40 Day Amen Challenge: Finding and counting reasons every day to say Amen!





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Treasure Hunting: I Will Teach You When You’re Ready

I really don’t like to drive, only short distances in the daytime with no rain. At some point the fourteen hour drive to Florida would negate all three of those specific details. Thus I asked to drive for the first leg in our trip down to the Sunshine State. We left at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon. My husband is the mad scientist presenter at our local library this summer, and that particular day he shot off 2-liter bottle rockets. We were almost loaded and ready to go when he got home.
I drove from Winchester to Chattanooga without stopping. I was shocked.  Actually I was as pleased as punch. Giddy at my own little petty accomplishment.
During that first leg of the journey everyone in the car was especially quiet. Settling in for the long haul, hoping we would get further south than anticipated. We were adjusting to the tight space of the car, deciding how to bend and contort our bodies around book bags and coolers, tablets and I-Pads.
About an hour into the drive my mind had still not settled down—frothing and foaming like the oceans waves we would soon see.
There was this endless litany going on in my head (does that surprise anyone?).
I was praying. Which, of course, is a good thing.
But there was a franticness, a hurried frenzy and a stretch of desperation in the internal monologue. Yes, it was a monologue. I was doing ALL the talking. I’m quite sure God opened his mouth several times to get a word in edge-wise and there was just no room for his words to be inserted.
Oh, the prayers seemed right. They seemed like things I should ask for and seek. I asked for revelation and insight during this trip. I asked to be able to see him, to gain new understanding. My mind was in a whirl. I was looking for him in every bend of rock along the road, every license plate that sped by me. And I kept pleading. I kept saying I didn’t want the trip wasted. Didn’t want to squander a great opportunity to see God at work. Didn’t want to miss anything.  
For miles and miles this continued. Unbeknownst to the others in the car. As each mile and town sped by it seemed my lust for a word from God increased.
I remember looking over at this wall of rock somewhere before Jellico Mountain. And I thought: how do I see God in this?
I must have taken an internal breath; I must have held my exhale for a second longer which created a small space.
In that small space before my tongue began to click again the Spirit spoke to me. Sterner and firmer than in a long while. The authority in that speaking shut down the inner monologue to silence. My words dissipated. Foam and froth died away.
Settle down, Tamera. Quit trying so hard. I’ll teach you when you’re ready.
The Spirit reprimanded me as if I were an over-eager child bent on getting to the playground slide first.
Chastened I almost gasped out loud.
I can’t even begin to explain the release His reprimand afforded me. I was unaware of how desperation had been coiled around my frame; it constricted me so tightly. I was so afraid and so concerned I was going to miss something. I wanted this to be a trip of revelation and of hearing from God.
I thought I would discover a burning bush on the side of the road growing and protruding from the rock face—flames arching and bending toward the grayed asphalt.
But if so, how could I stop and remove my sandals?
Most often holy ground does not come speeding down the highway.
It did, however, that day. God spoke to me in my little black car and released me from my own expectations. He released me from my self-imposed requirements. In the middle of my angst his stern reprimand was a treasure.
I couldn’t get my shoes off fast enough.






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Treasure Hunting: There Is Such a Thing as a Pen

The ocean is a place of sanctuary for me. The power and the consistency. The scent and the sound. The rolling and falling of the waves. The ever changing moods and yet a character so utterly the same.
It is an oasis in the horizon beckoning quietly. I can hear it just on the periphery of my auditory perception even when I am not there. Last year I chronicled our vacation days in a series called An Ocean of Stories. We returned to within a mile and a half of where we were last year. There was no question I would chronicle this journey too—not if but how.
So, Friends, slip your feet in your flip-flops. Pull out your sunglasses. Get comfortable in your skin. Come walk the shore with me. You’ll need sunscreen and a bottle of water. I’d love to have your company. Bring your friends. For as long as it lasts. 

This past winter was hard.
It was a difficult season for me. The length. The cold. The dark. The gloom. My sanctuary is the coldest room in the house, so I gravitated to another room. The new room seemed too tight, too small. I lost my sacred sense of place.
I stopped journaling. I wrote, but there wasn’t nearly as much private dialogue. My journal lay forgotten. My pen lay unused. The longer the winter tarried the harder it was for me to focus. The beginning of May rolled in before I really felt winter was finished. It was the middle of May before I was convinced that its gnarled fingers had finally released us.
There were days I dreamed about the ocean and the light. And the space.
It didn’t help that summer started late for us here in the little white house. My husband, because of the missed days of school due to snow and water main breaks, did not get finished with school until June 11th.
My tomatoes started very late. I planted my begonias in my front flower beds far later than usual, and I didn’t get to buy my hanging porch ferns because the area stores sold out. I waited too long. Summer seemed like a slow guest coming.
Needless to say, I anticipated our upcoming vacation. Our seven days at the beach.
In some ways I felt like I was holding my breath.
Then suddenly I was packing.
I bought a new carrying case for my computer. One of the new-fangled form fitting cases, and I began unplugging my computer and getting it ready, pleased as punch that I was so up to date.
Little did I know.
My daughter, the youngest, looked at me and asked an odd question.
“Why are you taking your computer to the beach, Mom?”  Incredulity laced her voice. I stopped. The comment took me off guard. I attempted to answer, but somehow the words jumbled in my head. I stumbled over them.  
“Well, I may want to write while I’m there.” I stuttered. Suddenly I was uncomfortable. The explanation seemed wrong, and felt far more like an excuse. Like a justification.
Abby looked at me with this odd expression. And she opened her mouth and the words she spoke were unexpected.
There is such a thing as a pen.”
In my already uncomfortable state those words rubbed me wrong.
I walked out of the room.  
But the words wouldn’t go away.
I slid the computer into its new protective finery.
But my daughter's words bobbled in my head.
With Abby’s remark came a faint epiphany. A whisper. She was simply a messenger.
I went in search for my journal.
And my pen.
They were exactly where I left them: in the back room which used to be my sanctuary. My closet. My out-of-the-hub room. My Jesus mountain prayer place.
I opened my black, narrow-lined journal. I turned the pages to the last filled one—about halfway through the journal and dated over a year ago. I’m not completely sure of what caused the cessation of my journaling. There wasn’t a dwindling down—no skipping days. No sporadic entries. The writing just stopped. Period.
I packed the journal in my front seat bag.
I drove the first four hours of our trip. Then I crawled into the back seat and pulled out the journal.
The pen began to move across the page. My handwriting was rusty, but muscle memory is an amazing thing.  The words were shaky and jerky from the tumult of the car rolling over the interstate.
My journal page.
I had forgotten the feel of the pen on the page. Forgotten the indentations caused by the black ink pressed into the paper by the pressure of my hand and the rolling ball of my pen. I had forgotten what the words looked like sitting on the straight gray lines. Misspelled words and typos remained; there was no auto correct. The letters were not homogenized or uniform.
I kept writing.
Through Abby’s words the Holy Spirit beckoned me to return.

To return to the sacred place. To the Jesus mountain. To the closet. To the out-of-the-hub space.

Back to my place of retreat.
For me typing words on a screen document does not feel the same as a pen scratching on the journal page. In some ways I am sure this is akin to my aversion of tablets and Nooks and Kindles.

But, for whatever reason, the Spirit had sent a message.
Pick up your pen. Open up your journal.
And write.
As I leafed through my journal I realized what a treasure I held in my hands. NOT because of my writing or thoughts or ideas.
No, my journals are treasures because they chronicle and record the Father’s direct involvement in my life. They are black ink accounts of answered prayer. The handwritten scrawl of worship. My journals are narratives of seeking and finding. Of being hungry and satisfied. Of confusion and clarity. Of ebb and flow. Of the rise and fall of seasons. Of epiphanies and revelations.
They are the rough draft of my story.
In the writing I began to recover from the fallout and debris of the winter. My interior space opened up a fraction.
The purpose of this sojourn to the sea?
A treasure hunt to recover and discover.
A journey of reclamation.







The Thrill of Hope--Jeremiah, Part 1

One April evening in 2017 we reached for your Mama and Daddy’s hands and led them into the stillness of an empty sanctuary. At an altar we...