This has been one of my favorite quotes for as long as I can remember. I suspect Albert Camus, like all of us, had all sorts of friends and acquaintances in his life, but had a strong desire in … Continue reading
Sophie turned 8 on January 6, and I got behind in asking for grandchild birthday blogposts…but Sophie jumped in to get me caught up again. I remember her from the moment she was born, and am honored to be her “Marme” and love the cuddly moments we share. As you can tell from her next to last picture, she got her sewing skills from me, not her talented mama.
My favorite food is: Donuts!
My favorite book is: Right now my favorite book we’re reading out loud is Jungle Book. My favorite book I read myself was about Amelia Earhart.
I think the coolest person on earth is: Uncle Jacob
My favorite thing to learn about is: Animals, and stories of real people.
The thing I am most awesome at is: I like to do a lot of things, but maybe I’m best at making things.
If I could go anywhere in the world I would go: Maybe somewhere to feed hippos.
My favorite color is: At the moment it is red, but I also kind of like yellow.
When I grow up I want to become: I don’t really know what I want to be right now. Maybe a zoo keeper.
My current favorite song is: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Three words I feel best describe me are: Hyperactive. Weird. Crazy.
When I was little I used to: Do a lot of things! Like watch TV a lot. I probably chewed on things. I don’t know what all I did when I was little.
My favorite season is: Probably summer.
The absolute best thing about camping is: Being in the wild!
The snack I like the best is: Granola bars.
One food that I really dislike is: Tomatoes.
My best friend is: I don’t really have one. But I have lots of good friends.
Some of my best days are those that are sprinkled with encouraging words, while the occasional less tolerable days are peppered with careless words. I have no doubt I’ve supplied fodder for many a person’s better and worse days as well. We’ve likely all used adjectives to tear down, just as we’ve all likely been torn down by hurtful and exaggerative words. Adjectives emphasize and therefore leave their mark in the memory. How much better it would be for them to leave a positive, pleasant memory then a negative, bitter one. However, I know too well, when I get puffed up with pride or anger it is impossible to chase down grace and tack it on to my words as an afterthought. That would be akin to attempting to put out a fire with a watering can; whereas a heartfelt apology is more like the downpour that puts out a fire. Even better is to not ignite a fire of words at all. “Don’t say anything that would hurt [another person]. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.” Ephs. 4:29 GWT “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.” Col. 4:6 How I need an ample supply of stored up grace before I open my mouth. I also know that not one of us is perfect in taming our tongues, but we are to still strive to be.
The verbal cold wall, no less formidable then 20′ rock castle walls, can be just as damaging, especially as time seems to be on the side of verbal walls, adding layer after layer of additional impenetrable silence and misunderstandings. The silence behind withheld words of encouragement or reconciliation does damage and this choice insidiously hides behind a cloak of innocence. Shortchanging or refusing good and timely communication and reconciliation speaks volumes regarding the lack of grace and abundance of arrogance. If all Christian service was done in the order of Matt. 5:24, and therefore divinely blessed, how much more effective it would be.
The tongue is the only body part which is “set on fire” by hell, itself. The enemy has a vested interest in that particular part of the human anatomy and the damage it can do. “Like a sharpened razor, your tongue devises destruction, working treachery.” Ps. 52:2 HCSB There are times when words should be withheld; not in stubborn silence, but to avoid the arrogance of insisting on the last word. Though I doubt there’s a single human being all-wise in this area, the saying does have merit, “Wise people are not always silent, but they know when to be”.
Often thoughtful words take time to formulate…more time then some want to give. A regular influx of grace helps words tumble out less dangerously in those impromptu moments. No matter how easy or hard it is to say the kind thing, nor how many times I blow it, it’s an art worth perfecting. How I need to take the time each morning with the Source of grace, and ask Him for a clearer picture of the grace I’ve been given at the Cross and therefore the grace I have no right to refuse giving. Ps. 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” With my words I can make someone’s day brighter or with my words or withholding of them, I can tear them down. The devastating effect of the latter can dampen the spirit and demotivate. Since words have such a profound effect, why not raise the word bar? Do you take the time to season your speech with grace?
Exuberant (Merriam Webster Online Dictionary) very lively, happy or energetic: filled with energy and enthusiasm.
Passion (Dictionary.com) Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate.
Grief (Dictionary.com) A cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.
It can be a blessing and a curse to feel strongly. I’d rather dwell on the fun and happy…better yet, joyous, side of things, especially since what we feel deeply must be expressed some way or another. When I was growing up, Donna Fargo’s lyrics, “Shine on me sunshine, walk with me world, it’s a skippidity do-da-day, I’m the happiest girl in the whole U.S.A” resonated with me. My mom loved to tell stories and laugh and joke while we cleared the dinner table and wound down most evenings. Like anybody, I love the fun times but can embrace the occasional heartbreak, too, and sometimes even in the same general time frame.
To both soar high and plunge deep is the personality God gifted me with and its bane is restrained by the Christ who lives in me. Unfortunately, that restraint is an ongoing and unfinished process. But for most folks, honest humility necessitates reciprocal forbearance. I find comfort in the Biblical David, and many other Biblical characters who felt deeply. As obvious from the Psalms, David dealt with a restlessness and a range of emotions. Yet his confident expectation was in God that without a doubt all would be made right. (Ps. 63:1-11) He was hidden in Christ and an avid worshiper. And so am I.
Guy Brown, Ph.D., commenting on Kay Jamison’s book, “Exuberance: The Passion for Life”, says that ‘exuberance appears to feed off social interaction…and in adults exuberant behavior can be regarded as youthful playing or “kidding around”…exuberance is a behavior or mode of interaction, rather than an emotion …Exuberance keeps occasional company with grief, though grief may command the greater mention.’ It is here that passion, with its’ long suffering tendency, may over ride the sometimes more flitty exuberance. While talking at length on exuberance and all its pros and cons, Brown says, “Yet exuberance and joy are fragile matter. Bubbles burst; a wince of disapproval can cut dead a whistle or abort a cartwheel. The exuberant move about the horizon, exposed and vulnerable.’ There was a curious request made of God in an Anglican prayer, he says. ‘Shield your joyous ones.’ Everyone asks God to watch over the sick, the despairing, the suffering; as well we should. Yet, I’m thankful someone thought fit to pray for divine protection for the exuberant ones normally left to their own devices, and the misunderstandings and judgments that cloud their paths.
Brown and Jamison allow that the exuberant types can be “silly, juvenile, annoying, and disruptive”. But thankfully, Jamison added a saving grace, “Potentially, they may be more creative, because they generate random, playful ideas.” Though Brown was somewhat searing on the exuberant types and admitted to being more of an “Eeyore” than a “Tigger”, he did offer food for thought.
Meantime, I tend to ere more on the lighter side and find lengthy cut and dry, “left brain” centered engagements like a stuffy room, drastically in need of a breath of fresh air. In one of my favorite Oswald Chambers devotionals (and there are many), he says, “Beware of allowing yourself to think that the shallow aspects of life are not ordained by God; they are ordained by Him equally as much as the profound. We sometimes refuse to be shallow not out of deep devotion to God but because we wish to impress….And it causes us to be a walking rebuke to other people.” (Nov. 22 My Utmost for His Highest)
Jesus promised those of us who grieve are blessed, because we will also laugh. We are told that laughter is good medicine. I personally think that should include belly laughter, and definitely should include a trust in God despite circumstances. God tells us quite simply how to live: “Be fair and just to others, compassionate and loyal in our love, and don’t take ourselves too seriously, but always, always take God seriously.” (Micah 6:8 The Message). Along with being Holy, Just, Mighty, Fearsome and many other things, God is also Compassionate and has a sense of Humor. On the exuberance scale are you more the Tigger or the Eeyore? What characteristic do you have that vacillates between a blessing and a curse? How do you keep on the positive end of the spectrum? How forgiving are you with failures, both in yourself and others?
Friends warm hearts, evoke smiles, and build up souls. I’ve recently enjoyed some particularly warm words and sweet times with friends. It feels like an emotional sun bath after a spell of rainy weather. Though there may be many in the bigger tent of acquaintance type friendships, I am referring to sweet and personal friendship; i.e. the kind that endears and fills the “love tank”. At the inception of friendship is some kind of commonality, random though it may be, and the time it takes to discover it.
Then when two or more hearts make this discovery, words are spoken that settle into a heart, find their place, and no matter what fractures may come, the healthy heart will hold onto the good, and ascribe the most positive motives possible to friendship blunders.
When the blunders occur, and they will in all of us called human, there may be a time to question or confront. As with any other conversation between friends, it is personal, and a preference of private, rather then public should be assumed.
Humility, smiles, hugs, (and maybe even chocolate and coffee) are great accompaniments to any such planned conversation, or a good idea for a follow up, which is an important cusp to transition from possible tension to sweet rejuvenation.
This gregarious and humble camaraderie deepens the roots of a friendship, and harmony and amicability are all but pulsing in each tete-a-tete. Both heartaches and victories are shared with lavish empathy. Here we feel freedom to breath, to speak, to be oneself just as we have in our friendship with our Lord, Jesus. (Acts 17:28) Here, pretext melts and love, empathy, and yes, definitely laughter reign and are freely reciprocated.
The old saying holds some truth, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” And, “When we do the hard intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life.” Do you have friends with whom you feel safely tucked in love and forbearance? Can you laugh at yourselves as well as weather a rebuke? If so, treasure these friends as a divine gift. The hard work of friendship has a divine calling on it straight from the scriptures. Are you willing?
Recently I was given encouraging words from several different people abounding more and more in love on the very weekend I struggled with fresh grief. Most of the encounters were not “planned”, but I have no doubt they were prearranged by my loving Heavenly Father.
The first encouragement came from a friend and mentor who shot a random friendly text to me. She knows the mutual blessing in choosing a few uplifting words.
The second “abounder” was an acquaintance I happened to see who went straight from a casual greeting to an unexpected and genuine compliment on something I had done and how it had blessed her. The words were as a surprise shower of light beams diffusing healing balm onto my bruised heart. Then there were a couple elderly sisters in Christ from my church who just did what most elderly “sisters” in the church have learned more and more to do so well; i.e., one chatted with much humble empathy, specific encouragement, and a hug, and one lavished praise about me to my husband, just as she often does to me about him. The final dose of medicine God administered to me was from laughter and good times with family during a planned birthday celebration for Tony. Every one of our children connected with us one way or another (and that alone is a blessing) but being able to spend time together eating, talking, supporting and laughing certainly adds to the blessing.
Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
children, a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons born in one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. (Ps. 127:3-5)
I want to abound in love more and more so that I am bothered less and less by those who are unable and/or unwilling to love as the Lord does, and be able to abound in forgiveness, grace and love toward the unloving. After all, we’ve all been there in that horribly blind spot in which our own vision sees ourselves less needy then we really are and God less magnificent then He really is. Paul and his co-writers said this in 1 Thess. 4:9, “About brotherly love: you are taught by God to love one another.” God will always raise up some who will seek to abound in love more and more because they are as one taught to love by God, Himself. That kind of love is portrayed on the cross and it doesn’t play favorites because it is God’s love in us, not something we contrive! Of the three gifts that remain, love is the greatest.
So what is my response to being overwhelmed with encouragement, even as I occasionally struggle with grievous things? Though I try to show kindness and encouragement, anyway, it is to do so even more! 1 Thes. 4:10b, “But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more.”
In this season of your life and in this very moment you are abounding in something…even more. Is it what you’d like to abound in? If so, how can you practice it “more and more“?
I’m going through a season of storms, changes and stretches in my life, and so are several of my friends. Looking back I know that God put many details in place in my life in preparation for this time. That He did this and impressed several scriptural promises on me beforehand gives me confidence as I walk this path. Just as I take shelter in a physical storm, I often take shelter in stormy life seasons. I allow myself the privilege of being hidden in Christ in more meaningful ways then times of “clear skies”. Making time for deeper and more personal Bible study, reading, journaling, prayer time and worship are all helpful during life storms, even if I have to give up on something I normally make time for. Just as in a physical storm I might not put myself in the same places as in clear weather for practical and safety reasons, so in a life storm I allow myself to pursue supports that are helpful and loyal, and am cautious about places that may be hurtful.
Other then my sweet and dependable family members, who I do not take for granted, and especially my husband who prays often while he drives during the day and who is a great listener, God put other supports in place. They would include prayer warriors, those who encourage, concerned and empathetic listeners, good church leaders and teachers, a generous friend or two offering their skill sets, and a mentor who pours herself into exhorting me and believing in me when I need it the most. She often asks me to choose her role for the eye of the storm, and if it’s possible she fulfills it. All of these supports are just the vessels God has used to pour out His love. They are special, very, very special, but they simply point to a personal God who seems to be saying through them, “It is Me! I am with you in this storm.”
Oswald Chambers said (Aug 12 “My Utmost for His Highest”), ‘There are stages in life when…a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.”
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t suddenly run out of energy when he asked Lazarus’s friends to remove the grave clothes. He wanted them to be a part of the burden bearing and therefore the bonds that come about from shared burdens and the joy that comes about from answered prayer and miracles. What is needed in the storm are supports that get us through. And, interestingly, this is a mutual need and blessing. What supports has God put in your life to get you through stormy seasons? Do you see Him in them? How do you provide support for your friends when they are in a stormy season?
I recently “liked” a blog post on facebook that talked about the grace God gives us when we need to step back momentarily from a church body and heal.. It sometimes appears God does give more grace in those situations then we give each other, even if we are partially or completely at fault. Like the blogger, I have felt God’s comfort and healing in short “time out” seasons, have experienced God deeply in private worship and devotions, have felt His presence in the “mundane”, have felt His love and healing in the sweetness of my family members, family events, and a few friends who are willing to fellowship on an intimate level, found deep fulfillment in seeking my husband’s approval in our home and family as his helpmate, and felt God’s guidance as I move back into corporate fellowship refilled with grace received and grace to extend.
So my “like” was definitely one of acknowledgment and understanding that sometimes God leads us to a change. But the deepest spiritual blessings in my own life have so far come about by trusting Him within the hard places, knowing we’re all just a bunch of messed up folks in equal need of grace. As a dear friend and mentor said, ‘Why add the problems of others into the mix we each already have going on inside us?’ Because I serve Christ, I am not free to do anything but follow Him. I am His bondslave trying to follow where He is leading me. It is sometimes through fiery trials which He uses to refine. It is often in places where I have absolutely no choice but to trust in Him and His promises. It might be in places of loneliness, humility or misunderstanding, especially if my focus is on myself. It is often in places where He would have me be bold for Him without knowing the response. It definitely includes places that are tender and broken. Where He leads me is never just about me!
Oswald Chambers said in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, July 12 devotional, “Am I building up the Body of Christ or am I looking for my own personal development only?…To fulfill God’s design means entire abandonment to Him….My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, Not even blessing, but Himself, my God” and in the July 15 devotional, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only….Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others as the bondslave of Jesus. That is the meaning of being made broken bread and poured-out wine in reality.”
What a revival we would have if we really lived like this. A portion of Matt Redman’s, “We Could Change the World” lyrics say it well, ‘Could we live like Your grace is stronger Than all our faults and failures?… Could we live like Your ways Are wiser than our understanding? Could we live like this? Could we live like this?…..We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”…What else could we say, what else could we say?’
We are all debtors to something. What are you a debtor to? I want to hold onto God’s Word and the promises He has confirmed in my heart. My feelings and others’ opinions may or may not align with those Truths, but I am a debtor to God and His truths!
How do you socially connect with those around you? Beginning with the Trinity, and thereafter with Adam, then Eve, and on down through time, God designed and modeled social connections. From invading Adam’s personal space when He breathed life into his nostrils to sharing friendship in the first garden with Adam and Eve, God showed Himself to be social and still does in your life, too.
While there are times when a silent retreat is needed and good, as in Jesus example of getting away to pray alone or with a few followers, most of His adult life was spent in connecting and engaging with individuals and crowds. He had a mission both with the lost and with His followers. Social pretense was and is a waste of time with Him since He can see right into heart motives.
As Brandon Cox said in his book, “Rewired”, ‘boundaries, in their proper place can be a good thing…What I am saying, however, is that keeping people away usually makes us feel safe, and not in a good way. We live in the most connected yet disconnected age since the Garden of Eden..we are lonelier than ever, and our isolationist ways have left millions struggling through life…honesty and intimacy are far more difficult than silence…’
While appropriate boundaries are occasionally needed, in our society walls are too conveniently erected and fortified, and silence magnified in our relationships.
In our day and age, it is not the lack of connections that breeds loneliness and worse maladies. It is the silence we allow in those connections. Overcoming silence with friendly and encouraging words may very well be that “cup of cold water” that is needed today, both inside and outside the church. “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.” (Matt. 10:42) And what better way to display to the world the love God has given, then to start within the church and go out.
Typical modern day lifestyles are often missing healthy margins and can be the death knell for maintaining social relationships, therefore it is becoming a trend to seek out receptive places to listen, speak and connect. Socializing is sprawling into constantly changing networks; i.e. facebook, twitter, blogging, linkedin, pinterest, instagram, google, tumblr and more. Some are surface skimming social avenues, but many have the means to go deeper. Churches who encourage and support small groups and small group atmospheres are onto the modern day needs of all ages within their membership. The kinds of relationships that result are an attraction to a lonely world. Online social groups, such as (in)courage offer places where friendships can be made and enjoyed to whatever depth and extent you desire and even encourage real life meetups by sponsoring annual simulcasts and other supports for such gatherings. The example of those engaging in social networking and small group fellowships may just be the winning ticket to stamp out the societal ill of problem-breeding relational silence and loneliness.
Perhaps it is the modern day come back to front porch chats among neighbors back when the word “neighbors” meant something more personal. What ways do you think socializing has changed, for better or worse, in recent years? What ways can you socially give “a cup of cold water” to someone? What ways might you be denying one by your silence?