Forgiveness and Ten Pounds of Flour

•December 31, 2009 • 29 Comments

One of my favorite things about my son, Christian is that he wears his day on his face. If he’s had a good day it’s splashed all over with reckless sunny abandon. If he has had a bad day it hovers over his head like an impending monsoon. I never have to wonder, the weather is announced at twenty paces.

I was listening to the radio in carpool one day when I saw the storm approach. He rumbled towards the car, opened the door, tossed his backpack in as if he were releasing a grenade and sat down. I knew better than to say a word. There was only one thing to do. I drove straight to his favorite ice cream store. We ordered and sat in silence for a few moments-one doesn’t want to rush the weather:)

“I am done with John Frank!” he said. (name changed to protect the heart of the mother)

“Really,” I said. “I thought he was one of your best friends.”

“He was, but I’m done with him now. Done! He is off my prayer list.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I said. “Best friends are hard to come by. What happened?”

So he told me the whole sordid tale of how John knocked his books off his desk and they went flying everywhere and the teacher got mad and Christian said it was John and John said he wasn’t so he got in trouble twice.  He was punished once for knocking his books over and the second time for tattling on a classmate.

“It’s not fair mom!”

“I hear you,” I said. “Fair doesn’t live here anymore.”

I watched Christian that evening as he was bent under the inequity of life. It was crushing him. Before bedtime I said to him, lets go for a walk. I asked him to carry the ten pound bag of flour I had bought that day. I told him I would explain why we needed it when we got to where we were going.

After a while he asked if he could put it down but I told him we had a little farther to go. We walked and walked ’till finally he flopped down on the path and said, “Mom, this thing is too heavy!”

Well, I’m sure you get the point that we talked about that night.

“Here is the deal Christian. When you don’t forgive it’s as if you carry this weight around with you everywhere you go. John’s probably been asleep for half an hour but here we are, worn out from the trip. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the other person was right or even that they are sorry, it just gives you a place to take the burden. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us to live in a world that’s not fair.”

This is the last day of 2009, the last night in a decade, what are you still dragging around with you? You could wake up tomorrow flour-free!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Grace and a plastic trumpet

•December 30, 2009 • 21 Comments

There has been nothing more challenging or rewarding in my life than being a mother. My sister, Frances tried to warn me but I thought, “I have a dog, how much harder can it be?” 🙂

I am a big picture person. I try not to get bogged down in the little details of life that can nip at your heels like a terrier with height envy. How this has translated into my role as a mother is simple, I let little things go and chose the hills that I would die on. For me there are very few non-negotiables in life. There is love, there is truth, there is grace and there is forgiveness. Christian and I met on the hills of grace and forgiveness. Both held our ground for a while but I was the more committed to stay for as long as it took.


When Christian brought his report card back from first grade I could tell by his face that he was upset. He handed it to me with a quiet desolation. I opened the envelope and looked to see what has evoked this crisis and could find nothing. He had five A’s and one B. I read the comments of his teacher to see if the evil resided there but she said he was a joy to teach. So I asked him what was wrong. “Mom, I got a B! A B!!!” I tried to talk to him about what a great report this was but he just couldn’t hear me. So, I saw the hill and made my plan of attack. I pulled a chair into the center of the kitchen floor and asked him to sit on it. I disappeared upstairs and came back with an array of party items. I had a goofy hat on my head, feather boas around my neck, streamers and a plastic trumpet. Christian looked at me but said nothing. I put on some music and marched around his chair, blowing the trumpet and waving streamers in the air. When he couldn’t take it any more he asked me what on earth I was doing so I sat down on the top on the hill and told him.

“Babe, you are going to meet a lot of disappointments in life. How you face them is up to you. You can spend the rest of your life focussing on what you got “wrong” or celebrate the grace of God that loves and accepts you in every moment. You can sit there for as long as you like hating your one B or you can join the party out here celebrating your 5 A’s. Only you can choose.” It took a good fifteen minutes before a very noisy drum was added to the parade but it was worth the wait.

As you look at your life, what do you see? You can focus on the failures or join with the rest of the messy crowd in God’s Big Parade of Grace.


Don’t Miss Your Moment!

•December 28, 2009 • 39 Comments

“Don’t miss your moment!”

As an intense teenager that mandate ran over and over in my brain like the Cliff notes of my very own ‘Ground Hog Day’ movie script. I’m sure the words of a visiting evangelist were meant to be encouraging to an apparently lethargic group of Scottish sixteen- year olds. The heart of his message was that there would be a moment when God would reach down into the ordinary stuff of life and reveal what we were made for, a call, a mission. But to me the possibilities were terrifying.

“What if I was in the bathroom when my moment came and I missed it?”

“What if I slept through my moment through no fault of my own other than the fact that my sister snores and I am perpetually tired?”

“What if my moment came and I just didn’t recognize it?”

Well, time became my friend and taught me that God is more invested in ‘me’ than in ‘moments’. But as I leaf through the final pages of this decade I am revisiting my understanding of the ‘moments’ of life.

For many years I lived in past moments. I looked at how tragedy or pain or poor choices had affected where I found myself. I wondered how differently my life would look if I hadn’t lost my father or if I had found a voice in my thirties to say, no! to what others perceived my path should look like. In time I stopped that ridiculous and futile questioning. I began to embrace the goodness and mercy of God in all that had brought me to the place where I stood.

Recently however I have found myself caught in a fresh trap, the ‘what might be’ moments. As I look to 2010 I see another very busy year. I am excited about many things professionally and personally. I love my life. I am grateful for the gift of being able to give myself to the things that make me feel alive and in tune with God’s heart. But like every human being who has been banished to live outside of Eden there are pieces of my life with very rough edges that cut me when I try to fix them. So I look ahead. I try to figure out what I could do to change them.

I didn’t realize however until it snowed this Christmas Eve how I am in danger of missing ‘now’ waiting for ‘then’. It never snows in Dallas on Christmas Eve but it did this year. I stood outside with my face turned to the snow and in my heart I heard God speak to me.

“I am here, I am now, I am all you have ever needed.”

So I say to you and to me, don’t miss your moment. Don’t miss this moment. Christ is here in this and every moment. God has come to us.

‘Twas the night before Christmas

•December 24, 2009 • 21 Comments

I had a deal with my sister Frances on the Christmas Eve when I was eight years old. It was bare and beautiful in it’s simplicity-it should have worked. Here is what I presented  to my more sceptical sibling.

“We are never going to catch a glimpse of Santa if we don’t orchestrate it ourselves so here’s what we are going to do. I have enough candy to keep us awake all night if necessary but knowing how sleepy you get we need to commit to pinching one another on the arm every five minutes. Are you in?”

She said she was but by her third pinch I could tell she was fading fast. I gave her the best candy, I tried pep talks but it was no good, I lost her to the night. For the next hour or so I pinched myself and couldn’t believe it when I opened my eyes to a snowy morning, the deed was done and I had missed the man in the red suit.

One of the greatest gifts of being a mother has been watching my son’s journey through thirteen Christmas Eve’s. His most dramatic was when we were visiting my mom’s home on the West Coast of Scotland when he was five years old. He took a look behind her electric fire and when he realized that there was no real fireplace he panicked. We managed to reassure him that Santa’s commitment to get his gifts to him far outweighed any architectural defect in grandma’s home.

That thought is what I’m sitting with this morning. God’s commitment to get to us far outweighs any defect in our home or our history. Some of us are surrounded by those we love and who love us. For others Christmas can be a painful reflection of what is not working. Either way, one truth remains and I hold onto that truth with every fiber of my being today, tomorrow and into a new year. God is with us and God is for us. His gift to us is so much more than we would have the understanding to ask for. He offers himself. He who is love, hope, joy, peace and life offers all of who he is for all of who we are.

Tomorrow you could sit around a table of  the best and most cherished in your life and miss the deeper more lasting gift. You could sit alone and miss it too. But the gift will still be there for you and for me. Don’t grab the glitter and miss the glory.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

The power of-no!

•December 17, 2009 • 22 Comments

My good friend and boss, Mary Graham let me in on a powerful truth, “No, is a complete sentence.” I always thought it needed to be fleshed out a little. “No, I can’t look after your Aunt Margaret’s sick parrot because much though I love them I am allergic to sick parrots.” Or, “No, I can’t fly in to sing at your Uncle William’s funeral who is not dead yet but should go any day, as I’m also on a list to donate a kidney to anyone who might need it in the next two weeks.”

If you own your, “no”, it should be enough.

Here’s the other surprise that I uncovered for myself over the last two months. Every, “no”, makes way for a, “yes”!

I decided about eight weeks ago that I was tired of doing the crazy-woman-running-around-her-closet-looking-for-something-that-fits dance. So I said no to sugar, empty carbs, (those are the yummy ones) white flour etc. It was hard for the first week, then it became easier. The surprising, yes, came last week as I was packing for my final Christmas event of 2009. I knew the people who had booked the event had gone to a lot of trouble to make it a special evening and I thought to myself, ” Where are the ball-gowns that I wore to herald Noah off the Ark?” I knew that the pink and gold one would be too small and I hadn’t a haggis’s chance of making it out of a Burn’s Supper alive (Ask a Scottish friend) of getting into the black one-but the red, perhaps. Well, the red was way too big as was the pink and gold and the black…very nice thank you!

So, let your “no” be “no” and own it-it will also open the door to a whole new world of “Yes’s!”

The Five Most Bizarre Questions I was asked in 2009

•December 10, 2009 • 27 Comments

People are funny. There is just no escaping the fact that God has tucked humor into every fold of our lives. But every now and then, people out-do themselves….and I write it down. These are just five of the unusual questions I was asked in 2009.

1-“Is that a wig?” “No, this is my real hair.” “If it was a wig I’d buy it.” “Um, thank you but it’s my real hair.” “I know, I’m just sayin.”

2-“Would you fly to my house and sing at a wine-tasting party for me and my five friends and would I have to pay for your flight or could it be part of your tithe?”

3-“Are you the Sheila Walsh that used to be with the circus?”

4-“Would you like my cousin Brenda to give you a massage when you’re in town? She learned in prison.”

And finally-the one that kept me laughing for days and yes, he was serious!

5-” If I book you to sing at my wife’s funeral and God heals her can I get my deposit back?”

Thank you people-you are beautiful!!

Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?

•December 3, 2009 • 42 Comments

Her name is Kate and she is five years old but on June 29, 2009 she was plunged from being a normal, well-loved beautiful girl off the edge of a cliff into a seemingly endless abyss.  The nightmare began gently, a tremor in her right hand. Within days she was diagnosed with an aggressive, malignant brain tumor and was in surgery at Phoenix Children’s hospital. The surgeon was only able to remove 50% of the tumor because of it’s location and so the chemotherapy began to try and shrink the remaining vestiges of this monster. She is currently facing round four.

I heard about Kate through Twitter. A friend asked for prayer and gave a caringbridge site to learn more.

At first I was heart sick looking at the pictures of this blond baby girl and imagining what lay ahead but it was, Holly, Kate’s mom’s blogs that spoke to me at a level few do. She tells the truth, as much as she things readers can bear and as much as she can write without smashing her laptop into the wall. I have followed them for months and when I realized that I would be in Phoenix for a Women of Faith conference I contacted Aaron, Kate’s dad to see if I could do anything at all for the family. The last thing I wanted to do was add to their burden or be the ‘celebrity’ who shows up for a photo with their sick daughter and disappears into the world where we try not to think about cancer. I told Aaron I would do anything, pick up Holly and bring her to the conference, bring doughnuts…whatever. He wrote back and said, “Just come hang with us in Kate’s room.”

I had never been in a pediatric oncology floor before. It was bright and cheerful but inhabited by children in wheelchairs, bald heads, tubes everywhere and families who refuse to let this demon win. I scrubbed up as well as I could, put on a mask and went in. Kate was asleep and Aaron was sitting by her bed, his gaze fixed on his daughter. We hugged and he called Holly to tell her I was there. For the first hour I listened as they talked about what it is like to be a pastor and watch your child walk through the valley of the shadow of death or a mom and watch your daughters blond locks fall out one by one. For the rest of the time we prayed, we wept and we laughed. Kate is one spunky little girl. Aaron told me that he had taken her to the bathroom, chemo pole and tubes attached, and when she caught sight of herself in the mirror she sang, “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” She is a fighter!

The point of this blog is simple-some people need us to hang in with them for the long haul. It’s easy to rally support for a few days or weeks but when the battle goes on, sometimes we drop off. Let’s not do that here because one day I want to hear that Kate looked at a boy in college and sang, “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”

She didn’t have to die

•December 1, 2009 • 81 Comments

She didn’t say a word at first. She just placed a photograph into my hands. I looked at the face of an attractive women I took to be in her late thirties. “This was my daughter,” she said. “She took her life seven months ago.” I held her as she sobbed and waited  for her words to come. They came like pain-filled rifle fire. “She was struggling with depression-on the staff of a large church-asked for time off to get help-told they don’t believe in that-she should pray, she should pray! Now she is dead.” I wept too for I have heard these stories before. I have been featured in these stories before.

I was hospitalized in 1992 with severe clinical depression. I went from being co-host of the 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network one morning to being in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital that night. I felt as if I had gone to hell. My father died in a psych hospital when he was in his thirties and for me they are the place of nightmares. In truth, God took me to a prison to set me free. He showed me that even if I make my bed in hell nothing can separate me from his love. I believe I met an angel that first night. I pulled the covers off the little bed and sat in the corner of the room so afraid, so alone. At about 3AM a young women walked into my room and placed a small, soft toy into my hands. It was a lamb. As she turned to leave she said to me, “Sheila, the Shepherd knows where to find you.” I never saw her again.

I learned so much about depression and other mental illness during my month stay. I learned that I was struggling not because of a lack of faith but a lack of Serotonin, a chemical needed for proper brain function that some of us do not produce enough of. I learned too that there is still such ignorance about such illnesses and crippling stigma within the church. I have no desire to be the poster child for depression or medication but I still take my pill every morning with a prayer of thanksgiving that God had made this help available for those of us who need it. My hope is this, you may not understand this illness then find out what you can so that we, as the church can be a place of healing and hope not shame and judgement. As I think of the young women whose photograph I held I know this, she didn’t have to die, she just needed help. I want to be part of that army

•November 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Thank you so much for your responses. I can see that I will learn much from this community who are open to speak the truth and open to listen too

When did we stop listening?

•November 30, 2009 • 62 Comments

Listening is in danger of becoming a lost art, particularly in the Church. It seems to me that we have an internal set of scales that weighs words, ignoring the heart that the words spill from. Let me give you an example. Two years ago I made a commitment to my son, Christian that on each Tuesday evening we would shoot hoops in our yard. He had joined a basketball team and felt that his shooting skills didn’t match up to some of the other boys on the team. So it was a date. Every Tuesday he would come home from school and after he had tackled his homework and we had eaten the game was on. I loved every minute of  it. I learned so much about what was going on in his heart and mind during those months as we stood side by side as opposed to face to face, a style more familiar to me as a woman.

One evening a neighbor of mine came over to ask me if I would be willing to host a bible study in my home. I told her I’d be happy to if the timing worked. She said that she had checked with other women in the neighborhood and the only time that worked was Tuesday evening. I told her that I was sorry but I wasn’t free then. She asked why. I told her that was the time I had a hot date with a ten-year old. She said, “Are you telling me that shooting hoops with your son is more important that teaching the word of God?” I replied, “On that night, yes.” She left, very offended.

I thought about that encounter for a while. I was neither surprised or offended, nor did I feel I had done the wrong thing. What was clear to me was that she had stopped listening. When I hit one of her non-negotiables she became deaf. The Word of God was on one side of her internal scales of justice and basketball on the other and the crime was clear. Since then I have sought her out and we have talked. I have explained that keeping my word to my son is about as close as you get to my heart without drawing blood. She listened to me but we have decided to die on separate hills, we agreed to disagree.

My point is simply this, I want my only non-negotiable to be the love of God. Some things matter to you that will never matter to me but that does not reduce their weight. Some things I believed to be very important ten years ago now seem trivial. Jesus said what really matters is that we love God with all we have and are and love one another as we love ourselves. To do that, we have to listen. Sometimes we have to listen beyond words to a heart that is battered and broken and may use words as a shield. Today I treasure the gift of listening and my hope is that if we bump into each other somewhere along the line I will listen to you more than I will talk.