Saturday, July 30, 2011

Snapping or Floating

Lord, please help me to snap the tension between us; and please help both of us float away from our time together.  Amen

I found myself praying that prayer before meeting my friend for coffee several weeks ago. 

A tree limb snaps – is easily broken – when it is dead and brittle.  The tension I was experiencing felt like a dead tree limb – it could easily snap our friendship.  I didn’t like the feeling or the potential outcome!

As I pondered the why of the situation, and added up my reasons for the tension, I realized it was all about me.  Yikes!  Every reason started with the word “I”.  And I didn’t like it; I knew it wasn’t right.  I had the potential to snap our friendship in half.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 
Philippians 2:3 and 4

And therein was the key.  God gave the grace to stop navel gazing and to think about her. I prepared for our time together by thinking about questions to ask her.  I began to review the character of God and what His desires might be for the two of us.  And I prayed.

Slowly the sap began to flow through that almost dead limb; life was returning; the tension was draining.  It felt good.

My friend didn’t need to know my journey; she needed to experience the results of my journey. 

I floated out of the coffee shop that morning after a delightful hour together.   God had met me and I could pass that blessing on to her.

“He has told you, O (wo)man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Micah 6:8


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Love Bombardment

Sub-title ~ First Lady to Friend ~ (This was my original title; my friend used the phrase Love Bombardment and I knew it was a better choice.)

Back to first lady, my friend spoke these words over thirty-five years ago.  I remember where we were.  I remember who said them.  Funny the things we remember.  She referred to me as The First Lady of Urbana.

I knew what she meant.  My husband was leading the Navigator ministry at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois.  Even though the word “partnering” was not a part of my vocabulary in those days, we were partnering in leading that ministry.  So as Bill’s wife perhaps First Lady was an accurate descriptor. 

I kind of liked that description.  It sounded important.  But the other side of me didn’t like it at all.  I had a picture of what a first lady did, how important a first lady was and I didn’t live up to my own definition.  I knew it really wasn’t the best definition of my contribution to our ministry. 

One of our friends has wisely said, we don’t know who we are unless we allow others to tell us.  That is both encouraging and discouraging depending on what we are hearing from our friends.  Last week, it was very encouraging!

Bill and I are about to step off The Navigators National Leadership Team.  Since those sixteen years in Illinois, we have served with The Navs for six years in California and for seventeen years in Colorado, the last thirteen on our National Leadership Team.  It’s been a good ride.  But, it’s time.

So last week our peers toasted us royally with gifts and their words both written and spoken.  It was overwhelming and quite humbling.  Some of these dear people I’ve know for only a year.  Most I’ve known for seventeen years or more.  There is a lot of history among us.  As the evening came to a close Bill and I were given the opportunity to respond.  Through my tears, I said the most consistent concept I heard was friend.  How wonderful it was to hear the same thing from our one year old co-laborers and seventeen plus year old co-laborers.

Friendship is a high value for me.  Our friends could not have given a better gift.  And it is so very encouraging to believe that these friendships are going to continue even as we leave the team; they are greater than our job title.  Having friends is better than being a first lady.

“No longer do I call you servants …I have called you friends,”
John 15:15

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

We often ask this question to young children; right now my five year old GRANDson wants to be a tow truck driver.  And often I hear my peers asking this question about themselves or asking it on behalf of their adult children.  Even though I understand, something doesn’t feel right about that.  We (and our adult children) are grown up; we should know what we want to be.  But often the being and the doing gets confused.

I’m a school teacher by training but I haven’t had my own classroom of third graders for over 35 years.  Currently ~ besides being on the staff of The Navigators ~ I’m a consultant (a saleswoman) with The Longaberger Company.  Although those three identities play into what I do today, none of them accurately define my heart’s desire.

Last fall I was struck by Psalm 33:13, 14, and 15, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.”

“… he who fashions the hearts … observes all their deeds.”   The questions came quickly:  Are my deeds in line with the heart God fashioned in me?  Am I living out of who God created me to be?  What is dying in me?  What is coming alive?  Do I like who I’m becoming?  Does God like how I am living out who He created me to be?

As I pondered the Scripture and my questions, that morning I drove a stake into the ground and this blog was born.  I knew I wanted to live out who God created me to be and help other women to live out who God created them to be too.  This was one way to do that.

Author John Eldridge said in his book, The Sacred Romance, “There is no escaping your identity.  You will not live beyond how you see yourself, not for long”.   For many years even though I knew what I wanted to do, my picture of myself held me back from being that.  As God transformed me and my picture, I was set free to know the heart God gave me and to begin to live out of it.  The key for me was I needed God’s picture of me first, then I could confidently live out of who He fashioned me to be.  The being came before the doing.  The doing naturally follows the being.

“…the church of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you to make the word of God fully known,”
Colossians 1:24 and 25

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Ministry That Didn't Happen

I met my new friend in our knitting group. Sitting next to her on Tuesday mornings, we soon learned that we had more in common besides creating with yarn; although that was what fueled our friendship.

Another commonality we discovered was we both attempted to read through the Bible in a year.  Neither of us had been successful.  But in that conversation, she had my attention.  She was knocking on the door of my heart; journeying with friends pursuing God excites me.  I love ministry to women.

We began discussing reading the Bible together and inviting others to join us.  She talked about getting a program for us to follow.  I am all there ~ except for that little twinge in my heart that I didn’t understand.  Why was I hesitating?

The easiest answer was time.  Did I really have time to add another regular event to my calendar?  Probably not, but I knew that was the easy answer, not the real answer. 

Trust was the real answer.

  • Did I trust God enough to work in her life even if I didn’t read the Bible with her?
  • Did I trust that little twinge ~ that it might be God’s voice to me?
  • Did I trust that our friendship was not based on having the Bible between us?
  • Did I trust that knitting together could lead to truth being shared?
In the end, she pulled the plug.  She thought if we were going to read the Bible together, we should really have a “professional” leading us.  I smiled.  God led through her decision and I was at peace. 

In his book, Ruthless Trust, Brennan Manning suggests that the faith that animates the Christian community is less in believing the existence of God and more in the practical trust of His care no matter what the circumstances.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, …”
Ephesians 3:20

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Best Birthday Present

It is a bookmark. But not any bookmark, it is fashioned like a glove and neatly fits over the corner of my page.  I never saw one like it before.  And I am enjoying it a lot.

It’s not just that I’m enjoying a folded piece of paper and the value it offers me; the best part of the gift relates to the giver – my friend.  My new bookmark communicates to me more significant realities – realities that go beyond the gift itself. 

We know each other through church.  I was delighted, surprised, and honored to receive a birthday card from her; and I was even more delighted, surprised, and honored that the gift of the bookmark was tucked inside.  Thank you, my friend.

Time – a very precious commodity – was given to me in that gift.  She used this precious commodity for my benefit.  Both in the making of the bookmark and in the writing and mailing of the card, she invested time.  Thank you again.

Talents and gifts were incorporated in my gift.  Her creative genes shine as she works with the lovely paper to form the bookmark.  Thank you, God, for giving her these talents. 

It was a small gift (it could be mailed in an envelope with a $.44 stamp) that spoke volumes to me.  It challenged me to be more generous with the talents God has given me, especially with my knitting.  I wonder if my friend has a stash of these bookmarks ready to give away.  So often I think of a gift when the need arises; I’m not ready ahead of time.

I’m not even sure if my friend knows that I love to read.  I do; I usually have two or three books going at once.  A bookmark is a very practical gift for me.  I bet God whispered in her ear, Sue would really enjoy a bookmark.  I know she listens to God.

I plan to copy her pattern and make more of these bookmarks.  Thanks for the idea, my friend.

With her gift to me, she is living out who God created her to be and in the process she blessed my socks off!  Isn’t that so often the way it works?!

“His (her) master said to him (her), ‘Well done, good and faithful servant….”
Matthew 25:21

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Boasting and Contentment ~ The Connection

Although the details elude me, the bottom line amplifies the connection between boasting and contentment.  Another ah-ha moment for me.

Those high school years, those years when acceptance or rejection communicates worth, are the setting for my memory.  In the short time of a month, not only my name but my picture made our local newspaper ~ all for good reasons, reasons that I could boast about.  In my mind, those pictures proved I had worth and camouflaged the insecure me.  I cut out the pictures and showed them to friends and family – I boasted.  For a short time, I was content.  It felt good.

But the good feeling soon shifted back to reality.  The pictures were forgotten; my worth reverted back to tenuous; and reality validated my thoughts about me.  I was not good enough!  And definitely not content.

My boasting and my contentment centered on a costume – something I donned for a short time in order to play a part; it was never the real me.  The newspaper pictures were not boasting about me; they were boasting about the costume I wore, the part I was playing.  Back then, I didn’t get it.  The connection was faulty.

II Corinthians 12, Paul’s testimony includes this ~  “… I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses …”  Whoa!  My boasting centered on perceived strengths; those things that were noticed and applauded by others; weaknesses were something to hide.  Paul says the opposite!

And as if to add insult to injury, not only does Paul set an example of boasting in his weaknesses, he goes on to say, he is content with weaknesses!  Content – at home with, ok with – with that which was weak.  Other versions of the Bible translate content as takes pleasure in.  That amplifies contentment – sets the bar even higher. 

Boasting, contentment, taking pleasure in weakness.  That’s a vulnerable life!  He is vulnerable before the Lord and all who read his words.  And in his vulnerability with his weaknesses he is hearing that God’s grace is enough; he is experiencing the power of Christ resting on him; and he is learning that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

I am beginning to experience these truths.  I am learning that it’s not what is printed on my business card that opens doors of ministry for me; it’s my life resplendent with all its weaknesses that gives courage to others.  And that’s ok.  I’m content … most days.  I'm understanding the connection. 

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belong to God and not to us.”
II Corinthians 4:7
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
II Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Maybe I'm Too Wounded

She desperately desired like-hearted friends; friends with whom she could be vulnerable and they wouldn’t run in fear.  But they seemed non-existent.  Maybe I’m too wounded was the only explanation that made sense to her.

Our friendship was rather new – and long-distance – but we knew each other well enough to know we were on the same page.  I heard her sadness.  I shared her desire.

And I looked up to her.  She seemed to have lots of friends.  She seemed so wise and so spiritual with the quotes she posted.  I longed to know her better.  (Can you tell that our communication was mainly through Facebook?)

Then those words, maybe I’m too wounded spilled out.  Something was different.  Something very personal was shared; something very vulnerable.  She cracked the door of her heart.  It was a turning point.

Several states away sitting in my home, I too desired those like-hearted friends.  Sure, I had plenty of friends, but who really understood my heart and me theirs?

I phoned my new and long-distance friend.  We talked.  We shared.  We understood.  We hung up closer friends than before I dialed.  And we learned some stuff:  like-hearted friends don’t have to live in the same town, vulnerability aides friendships, knowing who someone is is far more friendship building than knowing about someone.  We hung up encouraged.

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
Genesis 2:25

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dead Branches, Thorns, and Contentment

As I was resting on our new hammock, enjoying the blue sky and the white fluffy clouds through the branches of the old Ponderosa Pine Tree last weekend, I was contemplating the beauty of the evergreen even though several of the lowest branches were dead.

That tree pictures life for me.  I’m growing.  I’m green.  And there are also traits about me that are non-productive, but they are still there.  Yuck!  I wish they weren’t. 

The next day in the same hammock, the dead branches were not as obvious.  The angle of the sun created a different picture.  Those bare brown branches were more a part of the whole gracefully merging into the full of life green branches above.

I’m thinking that there will probably always be traits of me that I don’t like; I wish they were not a part of me.  But they are.  Could it be that those are the things that make me more dependent on my Maker?  Could it be that being vulnerable with those things is what will encourage my friends on their journeys?  Could it be that those dead weaker branches are a source of strength?  Hmmmmm.

My mind shifts to the Apostle Paul and his thorn in the flesh.  I grab my Bible and looked up the passage in II Corinthians 12.  I was reminded that according to Paul, the purpose of his thorn was to keep him from becoming conceited.  Definitely a good thing.

But that good purpose didn’t stop Paul from pleading with God to take away that thorn.  God’s answer is familiar, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.  II Corinthians 12:9 

So Paul concluded:  “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses … I am content with weaknesses …”  parts of II Corinthians 12:9,10

Paul’s second conclusion is what stops me in my tracks.  He is content with weaknesses; with dead branches.  My immediate question, how can that be, is quickly answered, “so that the power of Christ may rest upon me … for when I am weak then I am strong.”  Again, parts of verses 9 and 10

So now I’m forced to ask, do I want the power of Christ to rest on me?  YES!  Then I must believe that those dead branches, those thorns in my life have the fingerprints of God all over them.  I, like Paul, can be content with weaknesses.  I’m working on that one.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4

You may want to read some of my additional thoughts on contentment from my 10/25/10 post.