Saturday, December 9, 2017

Only (A Five Minute Friday Link-Up)

The prompt:  write on the word "only".  The first thing that came to mind was the song "Only the Lonely" by the Motels.

So hold on here we go
Hold on to nothin' we know
I feel so lonely
Way up here

I tried to find something else to write on - anything else.  But lonely feels like my reality right now.  I didn't know if I could write it.  I'm still not sure I can be this raw, especially because I have no bright shiny bow to tie this up.  I don't have a happy ending yet.

The truth is, I have been lonely for connection for months.  I am surrounded by people at church, work and school events, but it's all so surface.  Where are the friends I can go deeper with?  They feel lost to me now - swept away in a tsunami of circumstances, commitments and busy schedules.  And now that my family is going through a hard time, they feel farther away than ever.  I am heartbroken and I need someone to come sit on my couch.  I need to cry over a cup of coffee or laugh and forget all about it over dinner.

I have tried casual invitations with no success.  I guess I need to be more blunt.  Just say, "I know you have a lot going on, but I NEED you."  Sigh.  But it feels awfully vulnerable to need a friend more than she needs me.  I guess deep down I might really be afraid that if I bear my soul, the response would still be, "I'm too busy."

My prayer:  "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted."  Psalm 25:16

I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community  for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Only.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

Near (A Five Minute Friday Link-up)

photo by g-win

"Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To thy precious, bleeding side."

As the daughter of a Southern Baptist music minister, the old hymns hold a special place in my heart. I love this one by Frances J. Crosby.  Especially this stanza:

"Oh, the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!"

How I NEED my daily time with the Lord.  In Psalm 119 the author admits, "I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words." v. 14  Now truth be told, I try not to do ANYTHING before the sun comes up.  I enjoy staying in my warm and comfy bed for as long as possible each day, and breakfast with coffee must happen before I can put my mind on anything important.  But once I am up and at it, I start looking forward to bible study and prayer.  "O Lord, in the morning [ish] you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch."  Psalm 5:3  Now as an avid indoorsman, you will not find me presenting a slaughtered animal to God as David did.  Praise be to Jesus, He does not require it.  But in the fast-paced society we live in, our time is a sacrifice.  It is often difficult to carve out the margin to read, study, meditate and pray.  But it's worth it.  How do I know?  This promise from James 4:8:  "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

Thank you, Lord, for your constant presence with me.

I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community  for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Near.”

Analysis of "Wonder"

Have you seen the movie yet?  Wonder has been in the theaters for a couple of weeks now, but if you have a middle schooler or older elementary age child, chances are you knew that.  Kids have been devouring the book Wonder since it was published in 2012.  Inspired by an incident with her three year old daughter and the lyrics to a Natalie Merchant song, R.J. Palacio's award winning children's book is not only entertaining, but inspiring and thought-provoking.  It's even sparked a movement.  You can learn more about the Choose Kind Campaign here.

While I salute the anti-bullying message of the Choose Kind campaign, sparked by quotes from the story such as, "If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind." (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer), and "Shall we make a new rule of life...always to try to be a little kinder than necessary?" (J.M. Barrie), I think the essence of the story's meaning goes deeper than mere kindness.  We miss the mark of the hero's deepest desire and cheapen the human emotional response if our aim is simply to be kind.

Kind IS a good place to start.  It's a drastic improvement over the alternative, but the heart wants more.  Auggie, the story's subject, born with a genetic condition, withstood 27 surgeries from which he bears craniofacial scars.  When he starts public school for the first time, he endures a fair share of mean-spirited bullying.  But there are other kids who pity him and treat him more compassionately.  Yet he still eats lunch alone every day.  Kindness in and of itself doesn't fill the hole of isolation.  It's not until his classmate Jack accepts an invitation to Auggie's house to work on a science project, that our main character's outlook changes.  As Jack spends time with Auggie, he begins to see past his physical differences and embraces the uniqueness of his new friend.  Jack begins to care about Auggie.  Their relationship is not free of bumps or difficulties, but a friendship endures.  Acceptance by Jack, eventually leads to Auggie's acceptance by many.  We learn that, "It's not enough to be friendly.  You have to be a friend."

We all long to be SEEN and truly KNOWN and loved anyway.  Donald W. McCullough in Mastering Personal Growth says, "When we consider the blessings of God - the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives, that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering - friendship is very near the top."

One of my favorite biblical examples of friendship is the bond between David and Jonathan.  1 Samuel 18:1-3 tells us, "As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul."  It takes a sacrifice of time to knit our soul to another.  And in the circles most of us run (and I do mean run) in, time is a precious commodity.  But some of it MUST be spent in growing and nurturing relationships.  Our Creator hard-wired us for connection.  INTIMATE connection.  Anything else will ultimately leave us empty.

"Courage.  Kindness.  FRIENDSHIP [emphasis mine].  Character.  These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness."  - R.J. Palacio, Wonder

"And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."  - R.J. Palacio, Wonder

"Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.  But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.  Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Familiar (A Five Minute Friday Link-Up)

The Christmas decorations are up.  I can hardly wait until after Thanksgiving (but never before) every year to tackle it.  We don't "theme" our tree.  At least not at this juncture.  Our ornaments are sentimental - given to us through the years or bought as souvenirs.  The oldest dates back to the year I was born.  I won't say exactly what year that was.  Some baubles I made as a child, some were made by my children.  Some are so very ugly that they are relegated to the back of the tree where no one will see them.  We laugh each time we hand-select the decorations to receive this "honor" knowing that no matter how hideous, we will only ever throw them away if they get broken beyond repair.

Our Christmas decor holds many memories.  There is something so comforting about getting it all out of the attic and putting it up for us to see.   A nativity that belonged to my grandfather, an ornament commemorating the first home we owned together, Shrinky Dinks made with my children, and things sewn by my grandmother.  Nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like surrounding myself with these precious, familiar things.

Christmas movies also put me in the mood for the season.  My in-laws took us to see the new animated show The Star.  As I write this, the reviews sit at 55% rotten.  It's simple.  It's silly.  But it's sincere.  It's a retelling of the first Christmas, told from the perspective of the animals.  And no matter how many times I hear the true story of Christmas, no matter who is telling it, it touches me deeply.  My tears escaped their confines as I took in the familiar story of God's great sacrifice.  That He would send His only Son down into this world of danger and pain to be a sacrifice for our sins.  That this tiny baby saves those who will receive Him from ultimate destruction.  I know it.  But I'm overwhelmed by it.  The beautiful, sacrificial, familiar love of God.

Welcome to the Christmas season.

"This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger."  Luke 2:12 NIV

I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community  for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Familiar.”

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Excuse Me (a Five Minute Friday Link-Up)

We have become an overly offendable society.  I had to make up a word to express this opinion.  "Offendable" if not in the dictionary, but that is most certainly what we are.  In the last couple of years, we have expanded our definition of what is "offensive" to include how others vote, shop, parent, and view historical designations.  While we tout tolerance and acceptance of other lifestyles as a pillar of civilized community, our patience with people ascribing to different ideals is at an all-time low.

A few months ago I read the book Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better by Brant Hansen.  In this easy to read proposal, Hansen challenges the idea that we are entitled to get offended or stay angry.  He even questions whether there is such a thing as "righteous anger".  Of course Jesus was righteously angry, but He was sinless.  This begs the question, "Is it possible for a sinful person to be angry without sin?"  Colossians 3:8 commands, "But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips."  Anger has no place with us.

Here are some other verses on anger:

"'In your anger do not sin':  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."  Ephesians 4:26-27

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."  James 1:19-20

"Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end."  Proverbs 29:11

"A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense."  Proverbs 19:11

"Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools."  Ecclesiastes 7:9

I am joining Kate Motaung and other members of the Five Minute Friday community  for our weekly writing adventure. To learn about Five Minute Friday, click here. This week’s prompt is, “Excuse.”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Can Super Soul Sunday Take the Place of the Church?

20 years ago it was possible to be unreachable.  20 years ago, if you left your house or your office, others would have to wait until you returned to talk to you.  Now, most Americans who are out of diapers have a mobile phone and reasonably priced (eh, arguably) phone and data plans.  We can call, text, Snap, Tweet, Facetime or Facebook practically anyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  And yet experts say we are lonelier and more isolated than at any other time in history.  We are excepting this pseudo connection in place of true intimacy.  Let's face it.  It's easier than face to face interaction.  We don't have to coordinate with anyone else's schedule, we don't have to shower or set foot outside our home, and we can multi-task - communicating in the carpool line or while watching the our favorite show.  It feeds into our need to be doing and blowing and going all the time.  We don't have to slow down.  And we don't have to get personal.  If someone annoys us or we disagree with them, we can just stop typing.  And we don't have to see the real hurt, disappointment or frustration that might be on the other end of the conversation.  But that works both ways.  When we want someone else to see and experience with us our pain, or joy, or excitement, the phone can't compare with a living, breathing, touching person.  We are left feeling empty and alone.

In the same way, we can fool ourselves into thinking that technology (and other things) can take the place of the local church.  It has become trendy to say that we are "spiritual" but don't need the church to have a relationship with God.  We can pray alone, read devotionals online or in a book, and watch preachers or uplifting programs on TV.  And while all of that is true, and I am thankful for the ministries that help us pursue God in the everyday, we were never meant to live out our callings in isolation from God's church.

I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago on what the families of special needs individuals wish the church knew.  You can read it here.  In researching that post, I spoke with many people that consider themselves "church-wounded"by someone or a group of someones in their church.  People who have been so hurt that they chose to separate from the body of Christ.  I will be the first to admit that there is not a perfect church.  The old joke says that if you ever find one, it will be imperfect the minute you join.  Since there is no perfect person, no perfect staff member, no perfect preacher, there will never be a perfect church.  Staff members screw up.  Congregants sin.  Members hurt other members.  In this wicked world, it happens.  If you stay in relationship with ANYONE - church member or not - long enough, it will happen.  But that doesn't mean we don't need the fellowship.

The church is God's design for our own edification and the furtherance of His gospel message.    Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us to "consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  When we enter into relationship with God, He makes us members of a family.  "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." (Romans 12:4-5)  We are members of one another.  And just as it can sometimes get sticky and difficult to be a member of your biological family, it can occasionally be trying to be a member of the family of God.  But it can also be rewarding and wonderful and educational and life-giving.  Ephesians 4:15-16 says, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."  If I'm an arm, I can't function at full capacity without you - the ligament that holds me in place.  We all need each other, staying in the thing and working together to carry out Christ's commission in our world.

Jesus loves the church so much that He often referred to her as His bride (ex. Ephesians 5).  Because Christ loves the church, I love the church.  I love MY church.  I AM the church.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Silence (a Five Minute Friday Link-Up)

image by lezab

When I first started attending yoga classes, I skipped out on the savasana.  As a busy mom and overly active gym rat, I didn't have time in my day for what looked like a post-workout nap.  As I fell in love with the discipline and decided to train to teach, it slowly became my favorite part of my practice.  Savasana, typically executed in corpse pose (lying on the back, body relaxed and eyes closed), offers the participant a time of silence, stillness and refreshment.  A chance to fully assimilate the benefits of the work already done.  This quieting of the mind and body is an art, a gift, but also at times a subtle struggle. 

As a believer, I wrestle in much the same way with stillness and silence in prayer.  I get fidgety, my mind wanders and I sometimes get uncomfortable, but the discipline is worth the effort.  Without silence, I risk missing the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  I miss inspiration and instruction.  So silence has become, for me, the ultimate act of surrender to God.  A sacrifice of my time and energy for a greater good.  A great source of strength. 

"The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."  Hab 2:20 NIV