Wednesday, September 14, 2016

what you are given

There is something about being around small children that will cause you to question your sanity. They do not have to have come directly from your body or call you mom, nor does it need to be the same sweet small person following you around.  All that is required is for one or more to be a constant part of your life in some form or fashion. The continued presence of such small people with their energy and words and lack of filters and impulsiveness and overall beautiful not at all self-controlled thirst for life and the actions that are produced from that miniature minded carpe diem philosophy effects your brain cells in a way that causes them to flit away almost without being noticed until you try to speak an intellectual thought without time to process your words before they are let loose.

As a former babysitter, dance teacher, school teacher, and now mom, there have been a slew of wonderful children in my life and therefore a mass exodus of brain cells that once had my back when attempting to produce intellectual thoughts.  Now, and I am hoping you can relate, phrases will at times just spill out of my mouth that cause me to literally stop in my tracks and truly wonder if I have in fact finally gone crazy.  The carefree teenager and young adult mind of this mid thirties woman never imagined I would utter the phrase "We do NOT wash our hair in the toilet."  Never imagined I would stand in confusion trying to discern why I would have strung any of the commands together that I had just given and what on earth did they mean anyway.  I have felt, on more than one occasion, much like Ernest T. Bass learning to read and write.  Nohuntbewareopenandclosenocredit can sound like more Shakespeare than the times when my words come tumbling out in a hurried directive towards a blonde boy or three.

Then, there are those purposeful nonsense words you say, ones that can only be uttered at children for fear of losing your adulthood membership card when said aloud to anyone over 4'6".  Just last week while sitting in the lobby of our youngest's preschool, the other parents and I giggled to each other when hearing a lovely teacher sing a song to her three year olds about flushing the potty and washing their hands.  Every part of me was thankful for her desire to remind and teach about proper hygiene, but that sing song direction initiated a waterfall in my thoughts of phrase after phrase I and others have used to teach and remind depending on the situation at hand.

The one phrase that came before any others is one I guarantee you have heard and possibly said, not only to a child but maybe even to yourself.

You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit.

Its usefulness in the situations in the lives of children is countless.  Its lessons valuable.  Be thankful for what you are given.  Be content.  Do not compare what you have in your possession to what is in the hand of the one next to you.  Have self control in your reactions.  Do not pitch a fit over something that has just been handed to you free of charge.  Adults have uttered these words for so long that children will say them to each other, say them to themselves, and if the said grown up is honest, they have had to turn this phrase around on themselves as well.

In daily life on this world, it is a helpful rhyme that gets quickly to the point and nips many things in the bud before tantrums arise, but somewhere along the line, this quick child-rearing colloquialism can at times shift the view of who God is in our lives.  I have caught myself equating God with a teacher passing out suckers at the end of the day, reaching into the bag with no rhyme or reason, and handing out what happened to be in His hand to the next one waiting in line all the time reminding me that I get what I get so don't pitch a fit.

Forgive me for my doubt of your perfect plan.  Forgive me for my lack of Trust.  Forgive me for forgetting at times the Truth of who and what You are, Creator, Omniscient, God with me.  Forgive me for not remembering your Love.  For not remembering I am your Special Possession.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)  He is intentional, specifically designing your heart and life to work out His good for the Kingdom.  He is not random.  You do not just get what you get.  You get what you are given.  You get what He gives.  

What He gives is abounding Love (Ps. 86:15), divinely orchestrated gifts from the Spirit (1 Cor. 12), every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), a holy life --not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Tim 1:9)

And even better--maybe not better but just as amazing--is the fact that we are told to ask, to make our heart known, then sit as the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guards are hearts and minds then to Trust what comes next because the Lord is at hand. [paraphrase of Phil 4:5-7]

Semantics are important, different ways of phrasing can truly change how a person responds to your instruction or advice, but this is more than semantics, this is better understanding of who God is in your life and who you are because of Him.

We don't get.  We are given to by an Almighty Father.  And we are given so that we can give in return.

Everything you come across in life is ordained and allowed, nothing comes as a surprise to the one holding you in His hands.  It will not all be easy, but it will not all be hard.  It will not all be what you may have requested or imagined, but it will all draw you to Him in life altering, heart altering, magnificent ways.

Your world may even fall apart, but I promise it will get rebuilt.  Slowly or quickly, painfully or peacefully, pieces will come together and what was once crumbling will be made strong when it is built on the Cornerstone.  And you can use all of it to advance the gospel (phil 1:12) and to declare His glory (Ps. 96:3).  

Don't think about what you get, think about what and who you have been given.

Praying faithfully for you today, pray for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Remind me to pray

I wasn't planning on writing today.  Yes, I know Wednesday is my day, the day I set aside all the to-dos no matter what and try to put into words the thoughts that seem to just float around in my head until they are snatched up and tailored to make sense. But not today, today was a day when the no matter whats mattered a little more than normal. 

Tomorrow evening a group of people who have each left a piece of their heart in Romania are gathering at our home to fellowship with and love on the family God used to draw us there.  This loving missionary family and it's many branches are in the US from RO and we are eager to hear the hardships and successes being faced and to assist in filling them up with love so that they can overflow on those so very far away when they return.

Because of this, I had pre-warned my mind that no thoughts were going to be processed today so it would get a little rest, but amidst the cleaning and fall decorating my eyes kept glancing from one object to another and my mind decided it wasn't on vacation after all.

To anyone who knows me well, they know that decorating is one of my favorite things.  It is a hobby that brings me joy, relaxes me, and gives me a creative outlet.  I still have not figured out how to convince my friends to really make good on the request that I come in their homes to help reorganize, rearrange, and redecorate, but one of these days I will hopefully sucker at least one into it.

Though there is an ongoing list in my head of items I'm searching for, I never know when that one special treasure is going to to pop out at me.  While I love the typical spots like Target, Homegoods, and Hobby Lobby, my favorite places are full of once loved and forgotten items or even better, another's free trash that can become my treasure.  The items in my home that bring the biggest smiles are ones that have a story beyond factory to store shelves.  They have either been through something, seen it all and then some, been unearthed from piles others thought were filled with nothing, or been created with the two hands of a loving friend or family member.

Within this treasure trove are a handful of special keepsakes, specifically chosen to remind me of one thing, to pray.  More than souvenirs, these have been taken from special places and purchased from special people and their point extends far beyond home decor.

Leaning on a wall in our entryway is a solid wood door covered in layers of paint.  This door came from the home of a woman forced to leave her home after it had been condemned, a woman living in an area of town ravaged by drugs.  This door stands still not only for looks but to remind me of the families struggling because of addiction, of the children being raised without the basic needs we so often take for granted, of hearts that need healing.

On a shelf in the living room is a watercolor print made by a dear friend, Never Ceases is its infinite reminder.  The picture faithfully sits to remind me to pray for her and her husband as they serve as missionaries in Bogota, as they struggle with the joy and sadness that mixes together when you know you are answering a call in your life but are having to do it so far away from family and friends.

The words are there to remind me to pray for myself and others who need to be reminded that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.

Next to that sweet and beautiful reminder is a metal square with a number and a beautiful white engraved plate.  The number was taken from a home in Romania. This home that looked like it was beyond repair, has now been turned into a two story orphanage, Laney's House, and almost ready to give a loving home to abandoned girls.  Oh how I want to remember those young lives in prayer.

Next to it the plate, handmade by Romanian hands, waits there reminding me to lift up those hands working for it's very life and the lies they are trying to support.

Each of their purposes is great and they do their job faithfully and without complaint, but there is a different truth that happens more often than not.  I walk right by.

Daily, I pass by the beautiful solid wood door, brimming with stories of happiness and heartache, and I do nothing.  Daily, I stare at a shelf filled with beautiful things made for beautiful purposes by beautiful people and my eyes glaze over, recognizing nothing.

Objects are wonderful reminders, when you remember them.  My heart may have the best of intentions to lift others up but on my own I will fail every time.  My heart needs more than visual reminders of a people in need, my heart needs compassion for those people, an ache of love and longing only available through the righteousness given to me through Christ.

Because of Him I am a new creation and because of that I am Holy and Dearly loved and am able to put on a compassionate heart (Colossians 3)

Without the compassion shown to me over and over again from my dear Heavenly Father, I would have no ability to show compassion to another and compassion is a key ingredient when praying for the needs of another.  Compassion fuels your heart's ability to love, to sympathize, to want to help, to want to understand, and to know that there is Hope in the end because the compassion did not come from me it came from and through a Perfect Unfailing Love.  And when I try yet again to remember everything on my own and fail again when I forget everything on my own, that same compassion is what reminds me that I too am in need of the same love, and that I too have it unfailingly.

I don't know how you remind yourself to pray or who is on your heart full of desire to lift up, but I do know that you can't do it alone.

I am praying for compassion to make its way in.

Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

time won't heal

There is no desire to ease into conversation today.  There are occasions when before delving into the depths of a hard topic one will attempt to soften their audience, like the pleasantries exchanged in a phone call or meeting before the desired point is finally mentioned.  Then there are times when you are talking with someone so familiar that the hard and deep is what comes up first so that the way is cleared for the pleasant things to come at the end, if there's time, and if there's not no harm is done because you know conversation will be happening again soon.

You are my familiar friends, and though I love the pleasant that can come up, I am more resolved now to dive straight down.  Every word written and every post shared is in a desire to say things out loud. To give voice to distress, to longings, to hurts, to doubts, to love, to comforts, to peace, and to Hope, in a desire to encourage and let you know that you are not alone.  This remains true even if the audience is one person.  If just one understands God in a truer way, sees the love of Christ in a purer way, feels guidance from the Spirit in a more familiar way then it is a job satisfactorily done.  Just one sheep.  It's what Jesus said the shepherd would leave every other one for, if I can not be satisfied with the same then I am not following after Him.

Hurts have been center stage in many conversations with others recently yes in my life but also and mainly in the lives of many others.  Past ones resurfacing ripping open once thought-to-be-healed wounds leaving doubt and forcing reflection, present ones causing new wounds not delicately made, and the knowledge of future ones that will come because they are just impossible to avoid when certain life situations occur.  As no two lives are the same, no two hearts are the same and therefore no two hurts will be either, but the same Truths can be applied.  While the majority would always say they are rooting on the side of these same Truths, somewhere along the way we each may fall victim to the same lies as well.

For you and for me and for anyone else we come in contact with, lets talk about those lies, get them out in the open, shine the spotlight of grace straight into their ugly faces, and see Truth always instead of them.  Today there is a specific one I want under the heat of the lamp.

Time will not heal your wounds.

Though the saying has been around since the days of Chaucer, as he is the one credited for this somewhat well meaning string of words, it only takes a quick google search to see that while it is flippantly and maybe sometimes lovingly spoken to encourage or written in fancy script to decorate a wall, it--in my opinion and the opinion of many many others--is a lie that not only does not help but causes further hurt.

Time is only a manner in which we track how long a process is taking.  It aids our finite minds in keeping a count of the comings and goings of minutes, hours, days, months, and years.  Time on it's own produces nothing.  If we allow time to heal, what we are truly doing is sitting and waiting for a group of measurements to take away pain.  Believe me I understand what the saying means, but what I want to encourage you to do is look past a set of words strung together for a brief pick me up and instead focus deeper on what truly brings lasting healing.

When our bodies are scratched, bruised, and broken it does take time for them to heal but time is not what is healing them.  I have watched a cut on a finger more than once bleed, scab over, and then disappear as if never there.  Time did not heal that scratch. The amazing properties God gave our skin to replenish itself healed the mark.

If badly injured you wouldn't just wait for time to go by hoping for it to get better.  Waiting can cause your injury to become more severe.  Infections can set in, diseases can spread to others, symptoms can worsen, a small cold can progress into a life threatening illness if left untreated.  Letting time pass without assistance can do much damage.

Our hearts and spirits are the same way.

When we are wounded emotionally and spiritually, time will not heal our pain.  Rose Kennedy said, "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone."  

I am inclined to completely agree with her.  The mind will work that way, protecting itself, shoving things in boxes in the far corners, hiding hurts away, and if that is what continues the wound will never be gone, it will just stay hiding until something triggers it back to the forefront needing to be shoved once again into its perfectly labeled box.

However there is another way, the only way to have true healing, the only way to have the Hope promised to us; believing in, submitting before, and clinging onto the Gospel of Christ.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Please do not take this as a Sunday School answer, instead take it to heart just as if Peter himself was here speaking to you, pleading with you to not stay stuck in emotional hurts, to not doubt in the healing of your body physically, to not lose Hope in your heart spiritually. 
Jesus spent his life healing people's physical ailments so that he could get their attention and heal them spiritually as well.  He took care of bodies so that He could reach inside hearts. The heart is the place He wants more than any other.

We live in a world filled with hard, filled with bodies that are breaking down day by day, filled with hearts that are so lost and hurting that they hurt those around them as well, filled with believers and non believers alike who either don't know Hope or have lost sight of it.

Every life is different, every heart is different, every hurt is different, therefore every path to healing is different.

Rest assured, there is no timeline of healing.

One body or heart might take just a flash of a moment, one body or heart might take months and years of treatment or counsel, one body or heart might have to wait until they are no longer on this earth to fully receive the healing they desire.  There is no timeline of healing, but there is a sure Hope, there is a promise from a Creator who has never not even once broken one, that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds and we can call out to Him and He will heal us and in our wait, no matter how long it may be, He upholds us with His righteous right hand.

Let time do what it was created to do, let it remind you that you are not where you were and you are not where you will be, that the present is just the present and a thousand of our days are a blink to the Designer of our lives.  Then Trust in the healing that comes from Him.  It is He alone that can do it.

It is quite a challenge to remember.  So...

Pray for me, I'm praying for you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

look for beauty

"What a splendid day!"  said Anne, drawing a long breath.  "Isn't it good just to be alive on a day like this?  I pity the people who aren't born yet for missing it."

Currently carried everywhere in my purse is Anne of Green Gables.  A love was born for spunky Anne Shirley at a young age by the side of one of my best and oldest friends.  Many a friendship currently has deepened because of our genuine love for Prince Edward Island's residents and grown women might grieved greatly when the actor who played our beloved Gilbert passed away.  Picking the book back up after many years was in response to my heart's need for a lovely novel after so many non fictions in a row and the absence of finding any new fiction that could keep my attention for longer than a chapter or two.  On the radio, just yesterday, there was a discussion about the importance of reading older books and the intellectual, moral, and historical lessons needed from them that are just not possible to get from modern literature.  That, plus the news a new miniseries will be coming out based upon this classic series, has given me an uncommon feeling of being quite trendy.

Whenever I am on trend it usually comes as a result of an accident.  I attempt to make myself aware of the fashion trends to a point so I do not find myself looking completely uncool in situations, but mostly I just like what I like as far as fashion, home decor, movies, books, and so on and let that be the guide.  Trends come and go and I do not have the time, money, or husband approval to keep up with the comings and goings.  He was a staunch there is no need to change it until it breaks who cares of it matches or not kind of fella no matter how ugly it may be fella when we first met.  Since currently I am revamping our works perfectly fine but looks like a dungeon 1950s laundry room into a visually appealing space, there is proof that over the years there has been much movement towards my side of thinking that beautifying the areas around you bring a comfortable homeyness and peace to the eyes and spirit.  However, his way of thinking is continually reminding me that I do not need perfection around me, that I can, and should, be able to find beauty anywhere.

It is easy to clearly imagine a day just like Anne is describing, one with a bright blue sky and a smattering of white clouds, one with a hint of a breeze but a full shining sun, one void of humidity that can be enjoyed with a thermometer that doesn't read anywhere near the 90s, one that would without a doubt have a beach, or mountains, or garden, or fields, or a city skyline for a view depending on your preference and personality, one where everything simply seems to fall into place and the only thing left to do is enjoy.  There have been countless days like that in my life, as well, I assume, as in yours, and there will be many more fitting that same description before life on this earth is done.  But, we have and will amass many more that look quite different.

The flipside has days with unbearable heat that have you searching for cool air wherever you can get it, with painful cold that sends people huddling indoors or struck with fear on how to stay warm when there is no door to go in, or with rain and fog and gray clouded dreariness that effects moods without any effort.  There are also days where the outside weather may be textbook perfect but your heart is feeling something so different inside that your eyes have trouble seeing the beauty for what it is, and more importantly from where and Whom it comes. 

There was a season in my life where beauty should have been so hard to find that it would have felt like a desperate daily search just to find an ounce to cling to.  While that did happen more moments than can be counted, while fear and heartache did their best and succeeded at times to cover up every smidgen of beauty the eyes could see, in between the hard and desperation, came arrows shooting straight to small beautiful things forever in the midst, things that once had been stared right through and now became beacons of beauty and gifts in the rubble.  The most precious lessons were learned, one of which...

Beauty is not based on circumstances.  

Like Joy, the ability to see Beauty is not dependent upon the best of circumstances taking places. Beauty can be seen and found in any and all times and situations because it is wholly dependent upon the view through which you are looking.  There are no shortage of things we are promised when we cling to our God of Hope, and while those promises never include perfect lives, they always include life given from One who did live perfectly.  One such promise is to all who mourn...He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:3)

Beauty from ashes.  Beauty in the darkest places.

Looking upon the surface will grant you the ability to see beautiful things the way the world sees them but to miss the infinite amount of beauty that the world's eyes will never be able to see.  Look below the surface, look through the eyes of that sweet Spirit within you that never takes its eyes off the true Beauty always before us, beholding the beauty of the Lord and meditating in His temple (Ps. 27:4

However difficult it may be alone, with Him "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living [as long as I] wait for the Lord; be strong, and let [my] heart take courage and wait for the Lord." Him not me, His eyes, not mine.  Seeing His work in the lives of myself and others, not my efforts.

Let's look for Beauty.

Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

huddle up!

Staying close has been on my mind still as the answers found were not really answers as much as questions, though more helpful questions they certainly are. The two keys of staying close and giving your all when you feel God calling you to relationship with a certain place or person at a certain time and stepping back when that relationship overpowers your ability to think of another's needs above your own or when your voice is now beginning to overpower His can be applied daily to make new decisions of getting involved, to keep things in check, or to know when to let go.

But those two keys seem to just relate to whether or not you stay, so going further, how do you proceed once you have found a place or a person to delve into relationship with, or once you are all in but not sure of the next step, or before that, when still in search for those people and places your heart is being pulled towards.

Come mid August the anticipation of Fall arrives forcefully.  For Georgians, school is back in session, there are no more long lazy days of summer by the pool, no late night walks until the sun has gone, and though the temperatures are still soaring at dreadful mid 90s and the humidity suffocates more than a little, breezes pick up and leaves fall quietly because of them.

A couple short weeks from now, especially in the South, conversations, TV stations, radio shows, and facebook statuses will be overwhelmed by one topic, football.  My pastor, the yankee that he is, always dreaded the coming of football season because of its ability to overpower the thoughts and schedules of nearly everyone but himself.  In our home we are big fans, though I now watch the games through the lens of a mama who just wants everyones' babies to play well, be good sports, and not get hurt.  While my beloved Tigers have adopted a hurry up offense with posters of plays on the sidelines made from famous faces, one of my favorite illustrations from football that is usable in this question of how to proceed, how to continue your steps or how to even search out the ministry of your heart, comes from the huddle.

Seeing a team, gather together, stare each other in the eyes, and make a plan before proceeding as one entity each doing their own parts excites me every. single. time.  I can just imagine the conversations that go on, the frustrations and anger that I am sure are shared, but the encouragement and determination that are there alongside.  They are meeting together, working together, not to just sit and wait and continue a lengthy conversation, but to go forth and accomplish a goal, whether it be a few steps at a time or one giant leap.  The best part, however, is just a few seconds or minutes later, it happens again.  and then again.  and then again.  Over and over they gather together, make a plan, strive to accomplish it and then huddle up again ready to keep going.

It is a worldly adaptation of a heavenly command from Hebrews 10:25, let us consider how to spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching and oh how it can inspire.  Y'all His Gospel Truths are everywhere, just look for Him!

Speaking to that I can hear the voice of Kit Deluca in my head--the roommate to Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman--saying a line near the end of the movie after she has seen the (glimmer) of a light in her life, "Do you have a goal?"  Huddling up is my goal.  Not the hiding and huddling in fear and doubt, but the Huddle that comes when you bind together, plan together, and then don't keep it to yourselves but show those around you what you are going to do next.

We said a sorrowful goodbye to our church home last week as many different aspects required the session to make the decision to close our doors after 15 years.  There is Trust that this is right and there is Hope that we each have a church family waiting for us in the future but for many, including myself, the search causes doubts to rise and stress to bubble up.  As the church adventure, as we call it with our boys, embarks at the top of the list will be a place where we can jump into the Huddle.  A place that will invite us in to the circle not to sit, converse, and wait, but to prepare, set goals, and then venture out, outside of ourselves, outside of themselves, outside of the walls and into the world around us.

I want huddling up to be my goal in all relationships, whether with my husband and children, family or closest friendships.  The people most important to me in my life are not ones that I hide with but are ones that I huddle with.  People who sit, plan, listen, ask, encourage, and then set off with me or apart from me until the next huddle starts.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention the single most important huddle in life, the source of where Life comes from.  Yesterday evening, after a difficult did not go as I thought it was going to day, I prematurely flipped the perpetual hymn calendar gifted to me.  Today's hymn can better state the place of the most important huddles of our daily lives better than I ever could...

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I long to take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land,
A home within the wilderness
A rest upon the way
From the burning
Of the noontide heat
And the burden of the day

Everything, every huddle, begins and ends with Jesus.  Abiding in His shelter.  Riding on His coattails.  Basking in the Hope given one because of what He has done.  Not to just sit there alone with Him, but to give rest and to allow Him to fill our cups before we head out into the other relational huddles and then out again taking all of Him with us into the world.

Oswald Chambers said "To live life alone with God does not mean that we live it apart from everyone else.  The connections between godly men and women and those associated with them is continually revealed in the Bible"  Huddle with Him and then Huddle up and strike out into the world and then come back and do it all over again.

Life very seldom wraps itself up into a pretty little bow.  We, because I am assuming another can relate to this, have to resist the urge of stopping short of sharing our struggles until they are fixed so that we can present them in their entirety, the beginning middle and end, all tied up with lessons learned.  While happy endings are most assuredly the overwhelmingly popular desire in my choices for books and movies, it has always been more comforting to listen to a story from another that has not yet reached its conclusion even if there have been victories along the way because that is real and relatable.  

Plans, no matter how well thought out are going to fail.  Plans, no matter how well executed, are going to fail.  You will come back to a huddle elated at times and battered and bruised at others. Share those too.  Share the successes, but share the failures.  In these stories you will either see God's hand at work, or anticipate what He will do, because the Hope we have is that He is always working and always doing, and as long as we huddle up with Him before striking out, taking our rest in Him on our way, then we take the confidence of that Hope with us wherever the play leads.

Pray for me as Huddle Up, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

staying close

Nearly every serious thought that comes out of my mind through my hands onto a paper or screen is in reality just an end to or part of a long trail that has been mixed up and twisting around for weeks, days, months, or sometimes longer.  The writing down of it is as much a release of built up contemplation as it is a processing of what has been formulating over time.  

Madeline L'Engle did say "If I could talk about it I wouldn't have to write it." and there lies my problem many times when need for conversation arises.  For me, verbal debate is usually out of the question as others would grow tired of the hours or days in waiting for the processing of information to go from my mind, to my fingertips with keys or pen, then back out of my mouth, most likely with tears because you know the talking out loud about something pretty much pushes me over the emotional edge.

It's hard to convince someone else to let you write a few paragraphs in response while they stare at you instead of just saying out loud what you want to say.  Believe me I've tried and the result is seldom what I actually "want" to say and results in a corrective email or text later that day.  Lucky for me the current debate in my mind is only taking place with myself and I very much understand the need for both sides of the argument to have their processing time so no one is having to hum the jeopardy theme aloud to move things along.  I should add that there is also no talking back and forth out loud in different voices either just in case you have a weird Smeagol/Gollum picture in your head right now.

For the past little bit I have been flipping and flopping on a topic, playing devil's advocate with myself, until I come today with no real answers but maybe, perhaps, a way to ask the right questions.
I have mentioned before that if there was a soundtrack to my life Sara Groves would indeed be the voice behind it.  With almost all thoughts from the past along with the present ones stirring about, a second guess girl personality emerges from me on a regular basis.  There always seems to be a but or however--which is really just a fancy but--that can be used to turn a solid argument into a conflicting solid argument.  It's quite annoying at times.

The topic at hand is staying close.

A sweet young lady and friend spent the summer being an intern in Romania with a ministry Zach and I support wholeheartedly.  We have had the pleasure of going twice to love on and support both the missionaries there and the Romanian and Roma people and have come back each time with a better sense of how God loves both us and His children around the world.  However, as much as I love the people and work that is done there, it is hard to retain the same fervor for it when the distance between places is so great.  Hence began my debate.

While Romania was the trigger for the initial trail, anything I have been invested in throughout life qualifies as an experience this debate speaks into.  As you may have guessed, the first thought was that for the light not to dim, for the passion not to grow cold, one must stay close, stay engaged, immerse yourself into the relationship.  

Whether the relationship at hand is with a ministry, people group, activity, child's school, spouse, friend, or family member, it is relatively impossible to continue passionately supporting and loving it without not only keeping in touch but letting yourself feel compassion as well.  Picture what it is like to be in their shoes, try to understand how the day to day must work, must feel like, the pressures that are put upon, the more knowledge and understanding you have the more you are able to effectively help and support and the more those actions don't come from a sense of duty but a sense of the desire to love another and love them well.  

My mind was made up and I was ready to go forward when a pesky voice in the back was wondering but what if you are so busy engaging deeply in the people and things you want to engage in that you forget there are others around.  And so started the other side, can staying close harm more than it helps.

Zach and I are in the middle of binge watching The West Wing.  Neither of us have ever seen it and though it has been recommended by more than one friend for over a decade it hasn't been until the summer that we hit play on episode one.  Since then there have been few nights where we haven't watched at least one-or three-before falling asleep.  Before an extensive rabbit trail is taken let's just say we absolutely love it and much prefer watching Jedediah Bartlett's campaign to any of the others we are forced to notice.

However, another thing that can be noticed, is the danger of immersing yourself so much into one thing.  Yes, you can not base an argument over fiction, but fiction is taken from real life experience and this is not a graded debate so let's move on.  There are a reason why cliques form in a variety of places from childhood to adulthood.  We like when people agree with us.  We like when people think the same way,  We love when our thoughts and opinions are affirmed by those milling around so our innate desire is to stay close to what we know and who we agree with so that our personal world looks orderly.  In the meantime we, purposely or as a side effect, build a fence to block out everything else. And we are none too fond of another coming in to try and shake it all up.

So here I am straddling the fence of pros and cons of staying close and stepping back and realizing that for once the answer doesn't really lie somewhere in the middle in lies within it all.  The answer to the question do you stay close or step back is yes you do.  

You stay close when you fill God calling you to relationship with a certain place, a certain person at a certain time and you give them your all just as you except theirs in return.

You step back when the idea your fighting for overpowers your ability to think of others' needs above your own no matter which side they are on, when the only voice you hear is your own instead of your Creator's.  You step back when the good thing you were doing has now become a ruling thing in your life.

So yes, you do both.  Is it easy?  Well obviously not, nothing is, but asking the right questions is always worth it because eventually the whys will lead you down to the source of the One who gives you Hope.

There will always be another who does not share the same opinion, same values, same beliefs.  To ignore them is to ignore a huge part of the world God created.  More often than not, when I have the ability to engage in conversation with or visit a place that is much different than myself, it does not necessarily change my core beliefs unless they are needing to do so, but it always opens my heart up to another's and allows grace to build up and flow out all the more.

When all the voices around you are similar, the views around you are similar, the arguments are all one sided, it is forgotten that not only are their other opinions, but some of them may be valid.

Thought it may seem me like fighting a raging fire with a squirt gun, it also seems as if so many of our human struggles would come to naught if we just do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit [but] rather, in humility value others above ourselves (Phil.2:3), but that might be a topic for another day.

Myself and many others I know are starting a new season and will have to make tough decisions on how to stay close to past while opening up to future, giving up the cliques we know to see the others who might have been blocked before, but the best thing about all of this is staying close to your Father who loves you, Jesus who saved you, and the Holy Spirit who guides you is always the best option and will always lead you to the way everlasting.

Pray for me as I stay close to Him, I'm praying for you.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

into the fog

Fog. It is a weather condition, like many others, that when it comes can conjure up a variety of feelings. When looking upon it while safe in the comfort of your home it provides a peaceful, serene view as it hides the distance while surrounding what is upfront in a protective hug. When walking in the midst of it, that same beauty can be seen if you are in a familiar place, strolling along a well worn path, inviting a different viewpoint to your welcomed familiar. But fog, that hazy restricting cloud, can also evoke anxiety, fear, and doubt in your heart as it blocks your sight of the distance and keeps you from preparing for what it is to come. One of the more difficult things in life to do is taking the next step when you have no idea what lies on the ground ahead.

Yesterday we woke up with a cloud of fog covering our yard and trees with nary a hint of the beautiful, landmark Old Church in the distance. From my big cozy chair it was a beautiful sight but the more I stared into its soupy center the more I began to think about and hurt for the ones, myself included, who find themselves in the middle of the cloud not quite knowing which way to turn.

Last weekend we said a most sorrowful goodbye to a little kitty who had our hearts, the void she has left is felt by all of us including our kitty brother who lost his sole playmate.  There are many other possibilities of goodbyes in the near future of other people and things that our hearts love, people and things that could leave voids as well.  Though life will always be lived with one goodbye after another, I can already feel the fog rolling in, causing me to doubt that there is a plan, doubt that there is a future I will love just as much, causing me to forget the wonderful that has been given.

My prayer journal is filled with names of friends and family who are embarking on new experiences that surely carry with them excitement but is most assuredly coupled with overwhelming nervousness that masks the familiar things that are still there. Even in anxiously awaited hellos, the fog can come in hiding the familiar, making you forget what you have already been given.

Recently I heard a Godly woman proclaim to a roomful of women that God is good, God is good to me, and God is good at being God. Our trouble comes when we forget these basic truths, when we don't give them the time to float up, before giving up, freaking out, hiding out, or stuffing whatever emotions the situation brings. When we forget that God is good, God is good to me, and God is good at being God we walk into the fog alone scared and confused instead of resting in the Hope we have been provided that He's got all of this.

While staring out that window I began to pray. I am praying to see His light shining through those hazy clouds, I am praying that the fog lifts and what is left is a clear picture of next steps, but mostly I am praying that regardless of what we see that we will walk into the fog knowing the only eyes that truly matter are guiding us exactly where we need to go.

 Pray for me, I'm praying for you.