Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mary's Words

This is the first in a series of Advent posts on some of the best gifts I have received.

A huge artistic flare flows through my friend Mary. I use ‘flows through’ purposefully. She uses her art to bless others. It manifests itself when she sits at the piano sharing the beauty of her music, or when she excitedly tells you of her son’s mission trip while turning pages of the photo-journal she created to savor the memories. You quickly notice her standard of excellence; it is one of her motivating factors; with her art she honors God.

God also gifted Mary with a heart to serve. For many years she employed her piano skills for public school music competitions. Her music formed the backdrop for the flutist or the trumpeter to shine. She often presses through physical pain to create and to bless others. And all the while she prays for those linked to her creations.

I’m a distant cousin of Mary in my desire to create memory albums (my work does not qualify for the title ‘photo-journal’). Mine record the visits with my long-distance GRAND-children. Knowing I enjoy this, Mary has facilitated my efforts by gifting me with ideas, stickers, tools, and her time. Her gifts to me make my scrapbooks more artistic than I could have created without her help.

Mary serves in another way too. She generously serves with her words. She often uses her words to respond to my words—this blog. This gift of affirmation encourages me to keep processing, to keep writing. I appreciate this gift a lot.

With her scrapbook related gifts, Mary is gifting me with her strengths.
With her gifts of words, Mary is gifting me according to my strengths.

I know another Mary too. Her story is recorded for me in the gospels. Mary, the mother of Jesus, gave a phenomenal gift with her words in Luke 1:38, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” With these words, Mary submitted to delivering the greatest gift in history.

She did it for God.
She did it for you.
She did it for me.

Mary, my friend, your gift of words bless, encourage, and challenge. Thank you for
emulating Mary the mother of Jesus with your words—submitting to God and offering life-giving gifts to others.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer”.
Psalm 19:14

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Walk

The sky is Colorado-blue; the air crisp; the breezes gently capture the golden Aspen leaves and escort them to the ground; they skip across the road barely connecting with the surface—the perfect fall day.

My pace quickens on the downhill slope. Maggie, our Golden Retriever, enjoys the walk too, and trots contently by my side. As the slight wind caresses my face, and the aromas of this day delight my senses, I smile, I relax, I enjoy.

Thanksgiving invites thankfulness. The list forms in my mind around questions:
·        What am I observing?
·        How do my observations picture God’s character?
·        How is God’s character speaking to my current circumstances?

The anxieties of my life melt; the fears evaporate; the unknowns are livable. God reality seen from God perspective makes all the difference—at least for today. I promise myself I will take more walks.

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.
I Thessalonians 5:18.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chronos and Kairos Time

Several years ago we invited a new couple attending our Sunday School class to join us for dinner. They arrived promptly on the appointed day. We enjoyed (I think) our dinner together; then retired to the living room to continue the conversation. The clock on the wall read 7:30. Several times the husband glanced up at it. Finally realizing the clock was not running, he checked his watch, jumped from the sofa, grabbed his wife’s hand, and exited with a mumbled excuse that they had another appointment. Were we just an appointment to them? Were they really with us? Their obvious obsession with chronos time did not allow them the possibility of our dinner being a kairos moment.

Kairos and chronos, two Greek words commonly translated “time” in the New Testament have different meanings. Chronos is the source of our English words chronology, chronological like calendar time and clock time.

Kairos refers to time appointed by God; sometimes translated, “the day of the Lord”. Brennan Manning defines it as “… when His love flashes into my soul and when I am overtaken by Mystery, it is kairos—the decisive inbreak of God in this saving moment of my personal history”. (Abba’s Child, p.59)

This past summer the white erase board that chronicles our month remained blank. The tan of my left arm showed no evidence of a wristwatch. A new freedom. I knew I was programmed by chronos time; I desired to experience kairos time.

When tied to the calendar and the clock, I’m so aware of what is next, I don’t live in and enjoy the moment. The word revel leaves me clueless. I crave more inbreaks of God.

Grocery shopping last week, I heard Dana call hello. We stopped and visited for several minutes. We parted ways; within two minutes Debby and I made eye-contact. I hadn’t seen her since May. We too stopped and chatted. I was living on kairos time; it felt right. With my grocery receipt tucked in my purse, I headed for the parking lot with a smile on my face.

Our sabbatical has ended; I am wearing my wristwatch again; our whiteboard calendar now reminds me of commitments. But the freedom continues. Kairos time and chronos time can work together. They are both necessary and good.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”.
Psalm 90:12

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Arranged Friendships

Hiring a match-maker or arranging for the marriage of your children (still common in some Asian and African countries) is not practiced in the US—but the concept lives all around in our culture. I call it arranged friendships.

Kappa Delta Chi, the sorority I affiliated with during college, provided an identity, a sense of belonging, fun, formals—Bills and my first big date was the KDX formal—and  friends—arranged friendships. We were loyal to each other. Forty years later I am thankful to still be friends with some of these women.

Arranged friendships are common on sports teams. Not only do the team members play together on the fields, often those are the people they choose to socialize when the game is over.

In the business culture, arranged friendships are forged around departments or projects. One of my colleagues calls these, functional friends.

Arranged friendships are forged in volunteer organizations or in a Sunday school class or a neighborhood. Arranged friendships abound in our culture.

There is security and identity—good things—in these arranged friendships. But what happens to those friendships—those relationships—when college days are over; sports no longer fit your lifestyle, the business department changes, the project comes to an end, or the Sunday school class dissolves, the neighbor moves away? Often the friendship terminates.

I wonder, was friend ever the right identifier?

For someone for whom friendship is a high value, the fall of an arranged friendship hurts. Ouch, I am there. Actually I don’t believe in arranged friendships, I believe in friendship.

How do arranged friendships morph into friendships? I’m learning that …

  1. The friendship needs to be greater than the arrangement. Friends create opportunities to be together apart from whatever it was that brought them together.
  2. If a friendship is to survive and thrive, I need to initiate. Loving hospitality works in my favor.
  3. C.S. Lewis says, “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, “What, you too? I thought I was the only one”.

“A friend loves at all times, …”
Proverbs 17:17

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Waldo Canyon Fire ~ Five Months Later

The calendar pages turn; the shock is history; decisions multiply; rebuilding starts; grieving continues.

The ground is soaked with rain. She struggles to walk on the dirt road. The mud clinging to her shoes gluing them to the ground at times, and other times turning them into skate boards tumbling her to the ground. Her hands now encased in mud as well. Will she ever arrive? She struggles on.

Another walks the same road. She too experiences the sucking, sloshing, muddy reality. Her progress is slow, very slow; she too falters and falls. She looks around for help. She sees hands—dry hands—at the side of the road under the protection of the tall pine trees. She reaches; they reach; they connect.

A third travels that muddy pathway. The oozing of the ground is a nuisance. It saddens her to think of the sunny days just a week ago and how all has changed in the short time in the reality of the storm—the reality of now. Life is very different but must be lived. She plunges ahead.

Three dear friends traverse the same road, three different responses to the storm they endure.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so we should walk in them”.
Ephesians 2:10

Father, help me to honor how you created each of my friends. Please help me to not try to fit them into a box that I understand. Please allow me to love them well in ways they can receive. Amen.