SIGNS ~ No Such Thing As Coincidence.

I had to share another film I’m gaga over: Signs by M. Night Shamalan. I totally love the CRAZY idea M. Night had to put two topics together in a movie that I didn’t think could work together at all: God and aliens. Crazy!

The film (to me) is all about a man’s journey of returning to his faith in God. Mel Gibson plays a priest who lost his wife in a horrible car accident (he watched her die). He consequently loses faith and leaves his place in the church — denying God to the point of refusing to pray with his family at the dinner table.

The clip I attached is the point at which everything comes together. Evidence of God’s design surrounds Mel’s character at this climactic moment when an injured alien goes after his son. He is finally able to “SEE” the reasons why his daughter left half-full water glasses all over the house, why his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) had the strongest batting arm in the country, and why his son had asthma.

No such thing as coincidence.

Again, I find myself thinking about movies like this while I prepare for my “Closer to God with Signs and Wonders” teleclass. I can’t help it.

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My Arizona Adventure Story ~ Hope and Faith Rewarded

I have recently returned from a miraculous trip. I flew to Arizona from Cleveland, OH chasing a dream with nothing in my pocket but hope and faith. My husband cared for our two young kids (ages 5 and 3) while I was gone for the weekend to attend an Artist’s Way workshop facilitated by Julia Cameron in Sedona, AZ.

The workshop was merely an excuse for the trip. The real purpose for going the distance was to meet with Julia Cameron (creator/author of The Artist’s Way) to gain her basic support for a book I am writing which highlights her work in a big way. This book is a concept that has been brewing for a couple years and this spring the vision finally became clear – not only how to write the book, but how to gather support from others in order to assure its success and publication. Connecting with Julia Cameron in some way was essential.

Regarding meeting with Julia Cameron, I was warned not to expect too much – that sometimes she doesn’t even do book signings, let alone speak one-on-one with some stranger in her workshop. Nevertheless, I followed my instinct that this was the ideal way to meet my goal to talk briefly with Cameron, having exhausted every conventional way to get in contact with her.

On the long flight to Arizona, all I could think was “I will either return highly disappointed, or with the greatest success story of my life

Me and Julia Cameron

so far.”  By the end of the weekend, I was elated to know I was returning with a testimony! Not only was I given the chance to talk briefly with Julia and present my materials and a couple gifts to her, but I also had the rare opportunity to have a brief (recorded) interview with her as research for my book. JACKPOT!

Getting back home to Cleveland, I felt as if the weekend trip was a dream. I wanted to SHOUT it from the mountaintops. I felt I was coming home with PROOF that when you follow what you feel with all your heart (I think of it as following God’s lead), miracles happen and our faith is rewarded. Sometimes it’s a long journey to find that reward. This particular journey was an expensive one – an investment. Now I just have to finish writing the book! I feel God saying, “OK, I’ve done my part to help you out. Now it’s your turn!”

I hear you, God!

I have many friends who are in an opposite stage of their lives, feeling stuck and hopeless at times. I want to reach out and hug my dear friends by sharing them my story of hope and faith rewarded. From Sedona, I sent postcards to my dearest friends and family, writing messages of hope and happiness. I felt like Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption) writing that note of hope to Red, encouraging his friend to not give up: “Remember… hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. I will be hoping this letter finds you, and finds you well.”

My note to anyone reading this: Don’t give up on your dreams. They will never give up on you.

“I find I am excited, so excited I can hardly hold the pencil in my trembling hand. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man starting a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain….
… I hope I can make it across the border.
I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.
I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.
I hope.”

Stephen King, “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” – from short story collection, Different Seasons.

Easter Weekend – Messages from God, Mom, and my hairdresser!

My mom's sticker and Verva's Bible verses.

My mom's sticker and Verva's Bible verses.

It’s probably not a good idea to publish an article like this while job hunting, but I feel a strong urge to tell this story, so here it finally goes:

I had my own cross to bear on 2009 Easter weekend. I needed to make a very important decision concerning a job opportunity. OH MY GOSH – THREE DAYS (over Easter?)… This story just gets more and more symbolic for me (chills)!

My choice was presented to me Thursday night, before Good Friday. I was practically offered a management position, but there were some definite disadvantages about the position (including financial) despite the definite ADVANTAGE: It’s a JOB (for crying out loud), and a management job at that – plus I knew the job was perfect for me! However, it was strictly a summer job, and commission only (would it even cover my daycare costs?).
All I wanted to do was call my mom and talk about it, but I remembered the last advice she gave me over the phone, which was “Have you read your Bible?” I was determined I would not call her until I had done just that.

The next day (Good Friday) I received Easter cards from my mom. Each were adorned with cute little Easter/Spring stickers. I GASPED when I looked at the sticker on the back of the card addressed to me. It read: “Every road has two directions.” Although I still hadn’t called her, I was still getting a philosophical message from my mom – funny, I thought.

In the same pile of mail I also received a coupon from my dear hairdresser, Verva, who I REALLY needed to visit. Verva and I had discussed our faiths before, so I thought, HEY – maybe I can get some divine guidance and a haircut at the same time (two birds with one stone). I set up the appointment the next day (Saturday) and luckily she had a cancellation opening which I decided to grab. Finally as she was drying my hair I told her I had a big decision to make and wondered if she had a Bible verse to suggest to me.

God speaks to me often through His vessels, and I knew Verva would have something good for me. Besides, I hadn’t opened my Bible yet. I hoped for an arrow to point me to the right pages.

Verva said she would leave me a message with a couple Bible verse suggestions. After our meeting I felt at peace.

I turned on the TV that night and was happy to see Ben Hur was playing (my favorite Easter-related film). There were a couple quotes that struck me from that movie as well. One was when Messala (the evil Roman) stands tall to view his new army as appointed Governor. He says proudly, “Now the wheel has turned… I AM in command.” I couldn’t help but think after that quote about how I felt about being a manager. It was an opportunity I would like to have… but was this purely coming from my ego?

On the third day (Easter Sunday) I found Verva’s message on my machine. She left me two Bible verses. The one that struck the hardest was Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Perhaps if I hadn’t already felt directed onto a certain path, I would have felt disappointed by the passage – but it was liberating to be reminded that God is the wise one. I believed in my decision, because I knew it was the True path. How did I know? Because my heart was following a path that weekend that only went in one direction, and the only way I know how to explain it is that God lives in my heart – so I know my heart is true.

It was a very hard thing to do, to turn down the management position that would have been offered to me. I was disappointing someone I liked and respected. But even now I know I made the right choice.

God is leading me somewhere… only He knows the destination… but if I follow faithfully I’ll eventually see the path clearly. Until then, I’ll stumble along as best I can. Isn’t that all we can do?

Finding Faith in Pixar’s “Finding Nemo”

Dory & Marlin inside the whale

DORY: "He says, 'It's time to let go!'"

Am I really hearing and seeing signs from God everywhere these days, or am I crazy?
Even watching my daughter’s favorite movie with her these days, I find a message of faith.
Finding Nemo” is Rose’s favorite these days and we almost have the whole thing memorized. I come out of the kitchen to view my favorite parts: when the octopus squirts ink, when Bruce the shark makes his first ominous appearance, and when Marlin & Dory are in the belly of the whale.
The whale scene is where I noticed a profound reference to faith. Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks), Nemo’s dad, has battled the whole ocean trying to find his lost son. He literally bumps into a fish named Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres) who becomes his partner throughout the film and they experience numerous adventures and predicaments. One predicament they find themselves in is getting swallowed by a whale (I can’t ignore the biblical reference there). Marlin has lost all hope at this point and believes he will never see his son again (what can one do in the belly of a whale, after all?). Dory is convinced she speaks whale, but Marlin doesn’t believe her. As the whale makes noises, Dory acts as interpreter. Dory tells Marlin the whale is telling them to go to the back of the throat. Marlin says, “Oh, yeah! Of course he wants that – that’s called eating us!” Frustrated the fish aren’t doing what he suggests, the whale lifts up his tongue to try forcing the fish to where they need to go. Dory lets go, but Marlin hangs on for dear life!

DORY: (interpreting) He says, ‘It’s time to let go!’ Everything’s going to be okay!

MARLIN: How do you know? How do you know something bad isn’t going to happen?

DORY: I don’t!

Marlin pauses, closes his eyes and finally lets go… within seconds they are blasted out of the whale’s blowhole and safely delivered to the destination they’ve traveled so far to find.

There is SO much I love about this scene, but I’ll focus on one point.

TO ME: The whale represents God, of course.

The one point it might be easiest to miss in this scene is this: The whale didn’t just tell the fish where and when to let go. When the fish stubbornly refused, the whale lifts his tongue to PUSH them in the right direction.

The parallel I find in my own faith is that God not only opens doors of opportunity for us. I’ve experienced in my own life that if it’s important enough, God will also give us a push to say, “Come on, now. I’m serious!” Ultimately it is up to us to let go (that darned free will… we ARE stubborn, indeed, in our unwillingness to LET GO and LET GOD).

It reminds me of a little cartoon I drew in a letter to my mom one year when I was having a particularly tough time living the independent life away from home:

Sketchy doodle of God's struggle with me.

Sketchy doodle of God's struggle with me.

Good luck with whatever struggle you might be facing in your own life. You don’t have to try too hard to hear God speaking to you. He’s a whale of a god, after all — His voice is mighty. And with any luck you won’t need Dory as an interpreter.

God’s Little Reminder, Along The Path

Messages from God can come from anywhere. I was walking home one August morning after walking my kids to daycare and was startled to look down and find an amazing little miracle: two sticks which had fallen across each other in the most perfect way.

Had someone been walking by there earlier that morning and decided to leave some other passerby a message?

Or was it truly a small miracle – that two sticks had fallen together to form this perfect cross?

Within a couple weeks, my husband found a new position within his company. A month later, after my severance pay ended (October 1, ’08), I finally received my first freelance assignment — I’ve been busy with work ever since with two different clients.
Message received. Thanks God! Call again, please — I’m listening.

Glenn Beck’s “Christmas Sweater” – Stepping Out From The Cornfield

The Cornfield

The Cornfield

I was one of the lucky people who got to see Glenn Beck give his performance of The Christmas Sweater in at the Playhouse Theater in downtown Cleveland. At the climax of the story, his message hit me — thunderbolt to the chest. It was one of those moments when you hear words that grab your heart and you feel God saying, “Pay attention, now. This message is for you.” I get that moment quite often when I listen in church to sermons, but not as often in the outside world. Luckily my husband gave me a signed copy of Glenn Beck’s book, The Christmas Sweater, and I flipped through the pages to find my favorite part. There it was. Chapter fifteen, at the top of page 246. I opened the book at just the right spot, barely spending any time searching for it…

Eddie, the main character, is having a dream — apparently a dream Glenn had in real life — and he is speaking with a mentor character named Russel.

Russell: Don’t fear the storm, Eddie. Fear the cornfield. The cornfield may feel safe, but there is only cold and darkness there… Now face the storm.

Eddie: I can’t Russell. It’s too big.

Russell: You’re bigger… You may not yet know who you are, Eddie, but I do. And I know that you are meant to walk through this storm. You weren’t created to stand here in this cornfield. There’s so much more waiting for you, and you’re worthy of every ounce of it.

Eddie: I can’t, Russell, I’ll just wait until it passes. I’m safe here,

Russell: … This storm will never pass. It can’t. It’s yours. Besides, life is not meant to be safe. It’s only in our mistakes, our errors, and our faults that we grow and truly live. (He points toward the storm) … That is the way home. It’s the only way home. But you will make it. Trust in me. Trust in who you really are.

My gosh, talk about thunderbolts!! Even as I retype these words, I’m actually trembling. When I put myself into Eddie’s shoes, this is what these words mean to me:

Russell is a metaphor for God. The cornfield (dare I print this?) is my previous job – a place which kept me safe from financial distress, but as the years passed I knew God wanted me somewhere else (the storm). The storm is the big, scary unknown. And the “other side” of the storm represents all my original dreams, my life as a freelancer, and my hopes to launch a series of soulful creative retreats for women — and/or whatever else God has planned for me (again, unknown). God booted me out of that cornfield, all right, because I refused to step out. HOWEVER… when I look back on the months before I was let go, I see clearly the steps God made to prepare me for the storm. He pushed me out, but He held my hand as I faced the storm — even held me in His sweet arms to protect me from dismay and fear.

What an incredible, inspiring story – and I thank Glenn Beck for writing this book and sharing his dream with everyone.

Favorite Quotes on Faith

The Carrot Seed - a simple story of Faith

The Carrot Seed - a simple story of Faith

“Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.” – Miracle on 34th Street

“Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the recognition that some things are more important than fear — and what’s more important to me is faith.” – Irshad Manji

“Faith is not belief. Belief is passive. Faith is active.” – Edith Hamilton

“Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.” – Mary McLeod Bethune

“Don’t give up on your faith. Love comes to those who believe it, and that’s the way it is.” – Celine Dion

“I gotta have Faith.” – George Michael

“A little boy planted a carrot seed… Everyone kept saying it wouldn’t come up… But he still pulled up the weeds around it every day and sprinkled the ground with water. And then, one day… a carrot came up… just as the little boy had known it would.” – The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss