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Think Critically

Who among us really must have some kind of mental stimulation at all times in order to have an experience? Is it not possible to "just be" and find satisfaction? Like sitting in a swing on the water's edge ... is this not enough to say, "t'is very enjoyable."

Things That Last

April 24, 2011

By: Carole Hicks (April 2011)

Today I was washing my cast iron skillet, and I was reminded of how long I have had that treasured kitchen utensil.  I use it often … it’s not like it’s been tucked away in the cabinet. As a “girl raised in the south” (GRITS), I’ve fried many a chicken breast, squash, and okra and stirred up some mighty good sausage gravy in this dear old friend.  This cast iron skillet was given to me as a wedding gift about thirty years ago.

This weekend, I also did several loads of laundry and washed a quilt that I also received as a wedding gift.  This old quilt is now tattered and torn. In all honesty, the maker of this quilt did not do the best stitching job and it started to come undone much sooner than expected.  So, after a while, it was too tattered to use and I have kept it packed away in a chest for the better part of those three decades.  While quilts are often considered great treasures, this one does not rank with my skillet … and is nowhere near as useful.

I guess I was waxing a bit melancholic as well as philosophic as I performed these chores this weekend. You see, it has been my birthday weekend. I’m 48 this year … and while that’s not a celebrated milestone, as I refer to it as my “3rd Sweet 16” — it does cause me to reminisce of times gone by.  AND … due to much promotion about “Earth Day” … as well as “EASTER”  — my thoughts seem to be coming together around things that last or endure … for years … for centuries … for eternity.

Matthew 6:19 says, “”Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” 

The irony in my “waxing” is that those two aforementioned wedding gifts, or treasures, did last much longer than the  marriage for which they were intended to celebrate and support (a disappointment that hurts me to this day).  While cast iron skillets and even tattered quilts can stand the test of time … relationships of any nature tend to be more susceptible to rust, and mold and other things that corrupt.

I have to wonder … is this why we are so prone to “invest” in things rather than people?  We do that in every aspect of our lives (home, work, church, “relationships”) … I am afraid that I do — and for this I am deeply convicted.

I also came upon another tidbit of wisdom (and perspective) these past few days, while reading a book titled, “Last Child In the Woods” by Richard Louv.  Where I stand here today relishing these enduring treasures of the past, I also have a bent toward cutting edge technology that helps me learn and accomplish many new and exciting things in my life.  The perspective is that we don’t have enough balance between the two.  We live in a world of extreme-isms … where it’s all or nothing. Shirk the past, embrace the future  … or get left behind.  The saddest part is that in pressing onward, we are not accepting or acknowledging valuable, (extremely valuable) lessons from days gone by.

Personally, I feel very, convicted about things in my life that should last but don’t — as well as things that do little more than cause clutter without much use.  At the same time, I am conflicted about the “expendables” in life … the things that seem useless, tossed aside or dismissed from lack of perceivable value.  We’re bombarded night and day with advertisements and incentives to embrace the “next big or new thing” to improve our life.  What really bothers me, and the question at hand is, “Does our life really get better … or do we just get more things.”

I think this is a profound reflection of our value system.  In the Western world, (in our homes, our churches, and our businesses), there is “an almost religious zeal” for technology and new gadgets with bells and whistles.  Why who wouldn’t rather have some brand new Paula Dean Cookware over this old cast iron skillet that my Granny gave me.   And I should probably just throw away this old tattered quilt, since in reality it’s not getting much use compared to the comforter I bought last Spring.

All this got me to thinking and wondering … about how much money, time and effort are spent on things that we know from the get-go are not going to last.  We buy for convenience more than longevity. We purchase instant satisfaction, rather than putting any personal effort into an experience. And these ills have filtered over to every aspect of our lives — home, work and church.

In this age of information, we are only a few clicks away for knowing anything and everything about anyone, any place, and any object in the universe.  Remember back in the day when you hated to do book reports and research papers because it required reading and learning —- but NOW … it’s just a matter of copy and paste, and VOILA’ … your paper is basically done. (and you can move on to the next thing to entertain and occupy your mind)

The need to sort all this out, came about when I was confronted by my son’s struggle with trying to figure out “how the world was going to come to an end.”  Evidently, with current events involving disasters around the world, wars and rumors of wars, and various television specials on the Mayans and their 2012 predictions, he is quite anxious about the pending doom.

I tried to explain to him that according to Holy Scriptures, we don’t or can’t know the time, but we can trust in the Lord with all our hearts, minds, strength and soul.  I explained that throughout time there have been disasters and people predicting doom and the end of humanity … and we are still here.  He cited the recent events in Japan and other worldly occurrences, and I told him that there have always been these type of events, it’s just that now technology brings news of it on a daily (even minute by minute) basis.  Still, God wants us to trust Him … to know that He is in control, and if some tragic event takes place, as His children we will spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

Much to my surprise, his reaction revealed to me just how dangerous and devastating this obsession with the “new” and “cutting edge” has become to our society. 

I thought that Heaven would be a comforting aspect for his anxiety … when actually, (while I know he’s just a little boy and must reconcile this for himself), he was concerned about being bored … for an eternity … in Heaven.

My heart sank. My conviction ran deeper.  And I knew then that I absolutely must come back to the basics of life and faith and … experience.  I tried to recall what my perspective of Heaven and eternity was when I was eleven-years old.  I do remember being anxious about the same things that he is now. I had grandparents who loved to sit around and ponder on “the end of times.”  It all seemed quite morbid and frightening to me.   In all honesty, I did not give much thought to eternity or preserving things in my life to last past the sunset.  I could not even begin to imagine what Heaven would be like, and had not a concept of the word eternity.  My only concern was “what will happen to me — physically.”

Some forty years later, I can see that of all the things that do last … my physical aspects are the least of these.  In fact, that old tattered quilt may last longer than my body.  This I understand and I am searching for the grace to embrace it.  I do know, and told Jack as well, that a lot of time can is wasted trying to figure out such things … trying to control such things.  This time is better spent “investing” in the present, and the preserving matters of life that will last for many years … even if we don’t.

If I should die before I wake, the truth is someone will come into my house and find some treasures. They will find a cast iron skillet and a few old tattered quilts. They will find a library of books that are both dusty and worn … and they will find some that are brand new and never been read.  There are gadgets on the counter, computer and cutting edge technologies with cords and gizmos to make them work better, and televisions in each room.  There are fat clothes and skinny clothes and shoes to match them all.

Depending upon who comes in and does the rummaging and packing … most of it will probably go to Goodwill.

The truth is … I don’t need all this stuff.  I’m quite tired of this stuff. What I really need and what I really want is only what will indeed last for an eternity.  AND THIS  … is what I hope my son will find.

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Something Radical! After the “but”

January 9, 2011

Lead like Jesus!

Live like Jesus!

Act like Jesus!

Think like Jesus!

As followers of Christ, those are our goals and objectives!  To emulate Him is what we should be striving toward. In our heart of hearts we know, we will probably fail, but …     That’s it!  It is what comes after the “but” that determines how seriously committed you are to faithfully following your Savior.

I was just sitting here thinking, and observing the various Facebook posts about the pending snowstorm.  Some are praying for it to divert our area; some are advising about potential loss of power and to “stock up” on necessities that don’t require electricity; others are complaining about the cold and looking forward to a fireplace or snuggling up with hot chocolate with the family.  Then I read a post about the homeless guy in New York with the “golden voice.” 

With just a little bit of attention from the Today show, this man’s life has been suddenly transformed. He’s received job offers and even a place to live.  HE gives the glory of this to God because he said that every day he woke up, he prayed and thanked God for another day to live; HE thanked Him for providing for him just one more time.  Sure does tug at your heartstrings!

I’m sitting here now thinking … that we have homeless people all over Cleveland. The Cleveland Emergency Shelter can only house so many (about 20) … what about the rest? 

In thinking about the homeless, Holy Spirit reminded me of what Jesus said about himself …  “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  Luke 9:52

And automatically, I recalled Jesus’ reference to judgement and the Sheep and the Goats:

The Sheep and the Goats

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Now … don’t forget what He says to the ones on the left!

   41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

   44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

   45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

   46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Back to the matter of leading, living, acting and thinking like Jesus … how committed are we to following Him? Would you go share your evening meal with a homeless person?  Have your ever used your leadership skills in your church or family to coordinate serving food at the Emergency Shelter?  If some folks are turned away tonight, (and they will be) would you make arrangements for someone to stay in a local motel or better yet, stay in your home? 

As a church … why are our doors not opening up tonight for anyone who needs shelter from the storm?

Is there a “but” that’s keeping you from radically surrendering to the call of our Father and His Son … to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, might and spirit, and to love your neighbor as yourself?

Hmmm?

Years ago, there was a mantra that people “spouted” out as a challenge when making decisions in life. “WWJD — What would Jesus do?”  Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter!  “What are followers of Jesus going to do?”

Imagine the impact on this community if we abandoned the “buts” and did something “RADICAL” like “taking up our cross and following Him.”    Better yet, don’t imagine … Experience it for real!!!

The number to the local shelter is 423-478-1458.   They open at 4:30 PM … people must leave at 8 AM.  Where will they go in the snowstorm???

Lord God, forgive me for my ignorance and my arrogance when it comes to following You. Forgive me that I am so self-absorbed in making my own preparations for the storms ahead that I disengage from the world around me.  Forgive me Lord for the times that I’ve driven past someone who needed just the simple necessities of life. Forgive me for the judgement that I have passed … when I have no authority or even a gavel to do that.  Forgive me for not showing the grace and mercy that I have been shown.  Forgive me, Lord, I beg you.

Today, this day … show me how to lead, live, act and think radically like your Son, Jesus.  Help be live out the TRUTH of Who and Whose I claim to be.  Help be not be afraid of “what might happen” or to be thwarted by the “buts” … and not follow your direction in Matthew 25.

God, I’m sorry … I really am sorry for my own lack of follow-through. There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Your Word in Matthew confirms this.  Not for my sake though, Lord … instead for YOU and for the person who needs to know that YOU ARE REAL and YOUR LOVE and MERCY are REAL … use me this day! 

I won’t pray for you to open a door … I know that all I have to do is walk out my own door and find that the field is WHITE … White today even before the snowstorm cometh. 

As Jabez cried out in 1 Chronicles 4:10, I too cry out … “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me …”

I pray these things in the Precious Name of Jesus. Amen.

Are You Leading … or Just Taking A Walk?

January 3, 2011

In a sermon today, the pastor said, “A leader with no followers is just someone taking a walk.”

Now, not all of us are leaders in the sense that we have a following.  But sometimes, I think as followers of Christ, our approach is that we may “follow” like He is just taking a walk.  So sad!

And … to be quite honest, as followers of Christ, we are also leaders … as we are commissioned to lead others to follow Him.  And therein lies the rub, and point of this post.

If someone were “following you to Christ” … would it be a straight and narrow path, or would it look more like one of those maze puzzles in the funny papers?  Shame on us if it is the latter because we have no one to blame except ourselves.

Throughout all the scriptures in the New Testament where Jesus was speaking and interacting with people — HE WAS LEADING THEM TO THE FATHER.  He pointed them in that direction, He went that way himself leading by example.  He urges us to do the same.

On the way to church this morning, I saw a church sign that read, “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, Can you see Christ in me at all.”

Sobering thought, huh? It was for me. Specifically because of the young man sitting in the car with me. It’s not always an easy or coopertive spirit that display with those closest to us.  Jack and I had a bit of heated discussion prior to leaving the house for church.  It’s very frustrating for me and him to have these “exchanges” — but I particularly hate it when it happens on Sunday morning.

Even as we were arguing I thought … “Come on, Carole … just let it go. This is no way to positively influence him or help him prepare for a morning of worship.”

When I got in the car, he was sullen and pouting because we had argued. I felt bad and so did he.  Then I saw that church sign.

Hearing that point in the sermon, led me to the conclusion that sometimes … with the most important person in my life … I’m just taking a walk.  I should be leading … but this little follower may not think I’m going anywhere that he wants to go.  That makes me sad — and I must do better … lead better at home.

I must also lead better in other relationships. God has a way of really bringing a point home … even nagging since I’m so hard headed.  Even on the way home, He would not let me forget His point.  I received a call from someone who wanted to share with me a perspective she gained from church.  As she shared her new-found wisdom regarding “maturity” … not being about age but attitude.  Again, I was convicted of my own immaturity in dealing with my son. Again … not leading — just taking a walk.

So, day two of 2011 —  MY WALK is in the forefront of my mind.  Walking is good exercise, but walking and going nowhere or just wandering around … is fruitless.  I must re-learn to walk with purpose, and influence others to follow (especially this precious and gifted young man that God has blessed my life with).

And, as mentioned in a previous blog … there is a time for everything and season for every activity under heaven … Right now … is the season for me to FOLLOW and LEAD LIKE JESUS … I can take a walk any ol’ time.

Father God, please forgive me for my shortcomings as a  follower of Your Son, Jesus. Forgive me Lord for my shortcomings as a mother, and an example for my son. Thank you for your gentle but stern reminders today of my first and most important priority on this Earth, and thank you for reminding me of my ministry as a mom, sister, friend … the Salt and Light you have called me to be.  I’m sorry for allowing my own immaturity to displace what I truly want others to see in me.

Thank you for GRACE and MERCY — help me to lead by example … exemplifying those very virtues in my life to others. OH HOW I LOVE YOU … and I want to WALK WITH YOU … FOLLOW YOU … LEAD OTHERS TO YOU.  Remind me every day if you must … so that I’m not just wandering around, wasting time and opportunity to be all that  you have called me to be.

In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

Life Lessons From A Storm

July 23, 2008

By: Carole Hicks

According to Wikipedia, a storm is any disturbed state of a body’s atmosphere that especially affects its surface, and strongly implies that severe weather is happening.

Storms are characterized by strong wind, thunder and lightning, heavy precipitation (even ice) or wind that transports some substance through the air, such as dust, snow or hail.

Storms are created when a “center of low pressure develops, with a system of high pressure surrounding it. This combination of opposing forces can create winds, and result in the formation of clouds.”

Incidentally, those small, localized areas of low pressure can form from hot air rising off the hot ground, resulting in smaller disturbances such as “dust devils and whirlwinds.”

 

Yes … that all sounds mighty familiar. That’s what storms are … even the storms in our lives. Somebody, somewhere, along the way was surely a “meteorologist of the soul,” to recognize the troubles and trials of our lives would be like storms.

 

Some people are really afraid of storms, especially children. Back in the early 1970’s, a series of tornados swept the Southeast and for months and months, every child I knew got scared when a dark cloud rolled in. During that spring of 1974 (I think), I remember the whole family gathering at my aunt’s house because she had a small concrete building for us to take cover. Everyone gathered near that building … except Grandpa. He sat on the porch, rocking and smoking his pipe. Granny pleaded with him to “Stop being stubborn and come down to the building.” But he refused, claiming that “if the Good Lord was going to take him in a storm, that building would not stop Him.”

 

We stood in front of the building watching the sky, and then Grandpa pointed across the field to where we saw a perfectly formed funnel cloud crawling along the horizon. “It’s coming up the river.” Grandpa said. And he was right … the next day we discovered through the news and word of mouth that a tornado had touched down along the Hiwassee and many people lost chicken houses, barns and yes, trailers. The tornado we saw was probably about ten miles away and we could not hear the mighty roar that is usually associated with it. But, the sky was completely black, and the atmosphere did take on an eerie stillness, even in the midst of the wind. We were soon rushed into the building as it started to rain and then hail. Then that storm was over.

 

Because storms are a traumatic, they are memorable. I remember another time when I encountered such a storm. My daughters and I had been to Delano to visit their Grandma Poteet. We had started home because it was blowing up a storm and no sooner had we pulled out on the highway than the sky in my rearview mirror turned black. I saw lightning flash and thunder began to roll, and it was like we were being chased by the storm. I was scared. It was coming a downpour behind me, but in front of me it was cloudy but not threatening. The girls saw the storm too and we were all three frightened by it. I started driving faster, trying to outrun it; and we did. Or at least, we made it home where we could get inside. But only minutes later, the skies around our house turned ominous and I was certain that a tornado would touch down. So the three of us got into a closet in the back part of the house and we held each other until the storm passed.

 

And there was one other incident when I was smack-dab in the middle of a storm. It was my birthday and I was driving to Memphis for a soccer clinic. As I topped Monteagle Mountain, the skies began to gray and the radio stations announced that there was a tornado watch for the middle Tennessee area. It got gloomier and gloomier as I drove into Nashville. Driving around Music City, I remember thinking, “Wonder why tornados never touch down in big cities?”

 

About twenty minutes later, I’m stuck in traffic on the interstate, somewhere near Dickson, because it is raining so hard that no one can see the road. I remember driving under a bridge and thinking, I should pull over right here and wait. But I didn’t. I just kept creeping along until all traffic just stopped. Suddenly, the rain turned to ping-pong ball sized hail and the sky was completely black. I started to panic, thinking I should get out of the car and lie in the ditch. I opened the door of my car, but noticed no one else was getting out of their cars … no one was running toward the ditch. Grandpa had always said that’s what you should do … but then again, he wouldn’t get off the porch to take shelter from the storm. So I sat there, frozen in fear. There was a roar and rumble and I thought the car was shaking but it may have just been my “atmospheric surface.” It probably lasted about two minutes, but it seemed like thirty. Then it was gone. The torrential rains turned back to a spring shower and traffic started moving again.

 

About half-hour later, the radio announcer said that a “tornado had touched down in downtown Nashville.” So what’s the rest of the potential life lessons from a storm?

 

Well, storms happen everywhere … to everyone … and can pop up at anytime, even when you least expect them, or even when you are alert and looking for them. Recognizing the nature of a storm, (a disturbance affecting the surface and situation, but definitely coming from pressure within and without), might help one know what’s actually happening. Being prepared and knowing what to do before the storm and during the storm is also wise.

 

Here’s counsel from FEMA and the National Weather Service:

  • When a tornado warning is issued  “take cover” in the lowest part or center of the house.
  • IF you live in a mobile home (a portable or unstable dwelling), LEAVE and get to a safe building.
  • When you are outside with no shelter available … lie flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. (hmmm?) But be aware of the potential for flooding. (That was one reason I didn’t want to get out of the car and get in the ditch).
  • DO NOT get under an overpass or bridge.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado, instead leave the car or truck and seek shelter.
  • Oh, and watch for flying debris!

 

 

 

Storms are going to stir up some emotions in your life. They are liable to blow some junk into your thinking, and turn over a few sheds and lawn ornaments. It might be scary and you might not know whether to run and hide or be still and watch it happen. Either way … it’s best not to panic in a storm. Be sober and keep your wits … and whether you are listening to the meteorologists or the Peace Speaker, know where your Strong Shelter is and go there!

 

On a final note, a friend of mine shared this analogy following a storm this week.

 

Having awakened early after a night of storms, she looked out her window to see all the dead limbs that were down in her yard and neighborhood. Taking in the results of the fierce winds, she came to this realization: “It’s in the storms of life where God tears away the dead/ugly/bad parts of our lives.” (Robin Conn)

 

So there is purpose in a storm!

 

 

 

 

BLESSINGS! AND AN EPIPHANY

December 22, 2014

For several weeks, a memory from about 20 years ago keeps coming back to my mind. There must be a reason but I’ve yet to “work it out.” So I thought I’d just start writing in hopes of an epiphany as to why this particular memory has been resurfacing.

It was about 1995-96 and I was working as Assistant Director at the Cleveland Community Center. I appreciated the job (of course) but it didn’t pay all that well so as usual money was TIGHTTTTTTT!!!! (especially at Christmas)

When I look back on those times, I always feel sorry for Christie because she never received a lot of gifts at Christmas — AND I MIGHT ADD, she NEVER uttered the first word of discontent. She knew we had a difficult time financially and for whatever she received, she was appreciative. She now says that built her strong character and confirmed her mission/purpose in life.

In any event … (and I think I see one epiphany) … this particular year, while working at the Community Center, it was basketball season and one of the volunteer coaches for the Center’s program was a local fireman. I do not remember his name, but I know he coached a team from the Black Fox area. He had dropped by the Community Center to pick up a schedule or reserve time for practice or something like that. He got to talking about the Fire Department’s traditional and annual efforts to provide Christmas for “less blessed” children.

Certainly they went above and beyond to ensure that all the children on their lists received an abundance of toys and new shoes and pajamas and winter clothing. They even made sure there was Christmas dinner for many. He shared with several of us how they even took time to visit the families and find out what the kids REALLY needed and wanted. Of course, most wanted whatever the most popular toy was at that time. But he said that his heart was broken when this one little girl about ten years old made her request known.

When asked what she wanted for Christmas, her response was “I’d like to have my own towel.”

He didn’t think that he heard her correctly so he asked her to repeat it, and she said, “We only have one towel and we have to share it. I wish Santa would bring me my own towel.”

This brave, courageous community servant said his eyes welled up with tears. He could not believe a kid would even think to ask for something so simple, so practical and something most of us take for granted. He said, “I would never have thought about a kid not having a towel to dry on or a family only having ONE TOWEL between them. That’s crazy!”   And yet, that’s what she asked for.

I think he ended up buying a towel for every member of the family for Christmas. He said he was going to get her the biggest, fluffiest, prettiest towel he could find. That’s sweet, huh?

Oh, I’ve said it before … and I guess this memory has been weighing on my mind so much to remind me of the “BLESSINGS” in my life and my family’s lives. I look back on the years of my girls growing up and I see how much time was “wasted” by fretting over dollars spent, or getting just the right gift that will please or feeling like I was letting them down as a mother because I could not provide the “high end” items. Wasted time … like I say … TIME that cannot be regained.

Time wasted by fretting over such things takes away from the opportunity to create good, solid memories of “spending that time” together.

When my girls were little, we received a lot of “blessings” from other people. They were on “Angel Trees” a few times, and truly, it was a struggle (financially and emotionally) to pay high winter utility bills, and other things, and wait it out to see if you’d have any left over for “Christmas.” In retrospect, “blessings” always came through.

We were appreciative … but sometimes I was embarrassed because I was “needy” and had my children in a “needy” situation. I always had my ear to the ground, and I knew that not all “bearers of blessings” came without some degree of judgment. That’s just “people-ness” I suppose.

Perhaps another reason for this “fireman story” is to remind me of how “blessed” he was to be able to “give” what that little girl really needed and wanted. We pass through this season … seeing the “LIGHTS” but not really seeing the LIGHT … that illuminates the human needs around us. Not all needs are extravagant, and shiny, with bells and whistles.   Some needs are very, very practical.

A tank of gas for a mom to get to work another week?

A sackful of good groceries … meats/fruits/staples that will last through the end of the month.

Help with the “LIGHT” bill … or some other payment that’s weighing heavy on the family.

Something sweet … like cookies or cakes or muffins with hot chocolate makings for the whole family to enjoy while watching the parade or driving over to Peerless Church to watch the house with the big light show.

OR MAYBE … A CHILD’S VERY OWN TOWEL.

The Bible says in Psalm 69:33, The Lord hears the needy and does not despise His captive people.

Throughout the Bible, there are references to how the Lord comes to the rescue of the poor and the needy. But in my “neediness” (though I did cry out to the Lord), I could not see His “LIGHT” shining down on me for having my focus on my shame and guilt for “being needy.” In our society, we’re taught (brainwashed more like it), that we MUST BE INDEPENDENT, SELF-SUFFICIENT and it is SHAMEFUL to need or ask for help. This very mind set causes us to WASTE TIME … MISS BLESSINGS … and EXEMPLIFY OUR PEOPLENESS by trying to “BE” Jehovah Jireh rather than allowing HIM to provide and accepting His Blessings through the “hands and feet” of people He chooses to use (like a fireman, or a teacher, or even some stranger in the drive-thru ahead of you who paid it forward).

I know this memory resurfaced for many reasons. God does work in mysterious ways and often has to work in multiple and repetitive ways for me to connect all the dots. A few days ago, I drove my car through the car wash on 25th Street, and before I proceeded into the soap, the attendant handed me a “towel” with a ribbon wrapped around it. “Merry Christmas.” He said.

“Thank you! Merry Christmas to you.” I replied, and then thought, “WOW! What a great gift. I needed this for my car!”

Ahhh, there it is.  An EPIPHANY!

I Have Seen The Light!

December 15, 2014

For the past few days, I have had the concept of “LIGHT” on my mind — particularly as it pertains to “Christmas” light.

We drove by a house last night that had twinkling, dancing lights projected against the side of the house.  I said to my son, “Ahhh, that house makes me happy.”   Driving around “looking at the lights” is a Christmas tradition shared by many.  Decorating one’s home with lights becomes somewhat of an achievement each year to do more and better with lights. (i.e.  Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation”)

It surely seems that we are “drawn” to “light” and “lights.”  We ooohhhh and aaahhhh at the twinkling and blinking of the holiday lights as well as the sparkling, neon lights that adorn showplaces, or even the “Friday Night Lights” of a hometown field.  It just feels good to be near or in the “Light.”  Yes?

Light is something that is obviously held dear by most human beings, and by God.  There are more than 900 famous quotes pertaining to light.  The Bible mentions light more than 200 times (http://www.christianbiblereference.org/faq_WordCount.htm) .

We’re entertained by light; comforted by light; restored by light; guided by light; and yes, very often, we are blinded by light.  The human eye is very efficient in that it can adjust to very bright light as well as very stark darkness.   It takes about 20-30 minutes for the eye to fully adjust “from bright sunlight to complete darkness.”  But it only takes about five minutes for the eye to adapt “to bright sunlight from complete darkness.”     In fact, the body’s “circadian rhythm” (or body clock and many health factors) are greatly affected by light and darkness. ((http://www.emedicinehealth.com/sleep_and_your_body_clock-health/article_em.htm ).

People who work varying shifts will generally attest that they don’t rest as well when trying to sleep during daylight.  Most of us find better health when we “live or function in the light” and take rest in the darkness.  AND, I have a good number of friends who hate to see the autumnal equinox and winter solstice come about because they prefer days that have more sunlight, and less darkness.

From the book of Genesis in the Bible, one of the first acts of Creation was God separating the light from the darkness.  (Genesis 1:3)  And that’s the way it has been through all time … even with the birth of His Son, Jesus … The LIGHT of the World. (John 8:2)  Furthermore, for those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ, we are called to “let our lights shine” … to bring glory to God and fill the purposes of light in what sometimes seems like a “dark world.”  (Matthew 5:16)

Perhaps at no other time in our busy lives is “light” more obvious and prevalent than during the Christmas holiday season.  As I said, we drive around looking at the decorations of lights; the stores are brightly lit; and as a general rule of thumb, the “goodness” of humankind tends to shine more brightly during this season.

Yet still … my mind ponders toward where LIGHT has not reached the darkness.  Not all homes are illuminated.  Some do not have even a light in the window.  And it’s not about having a twinkling tree with tinsel reflecting the shimmer of lights, or presents under the tree or a spectacular showplace that illuminates the whole block.  Some homes and some hearts just do not have nor see “the LIGHT.”

Tracy Grant, with the Washington Post writes, “These are the darkest days of the year, and it’s no coincidence that the flickering flames of the menorah, the twinkling lights on the tree and the Kwanzaa candelabrum all harken to the human need for the comfort of light. But the holiday rush often provides more heat than light, and when it’s over, we are too often let down. We didn’t get from the holidays what we hoped we would. Perhaps it was because we didn’t take the time to see the light.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/advice/celebrating-the-season-of-light/2011/12/02/gIQASYgrtO_story.html

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to have those electric candles in each window of our house.  To me they always made me think that inside the family was cozy, and warm and loving and safe.  The light in the window is traditional in many cultures for different reasons … but for most it’s symbolizes friendship, home, family, trust and tradition.  So much of those foundational aspects of our society are cracked or broken.

Leonard Cohen in his book, “Selected Poems, 1956-1968” wrote, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

“Allowing the light to get in” or fulfilling the purpose of light in this world (comfort, guidance, or restoration) should be a natural part of our everyday life.  But as I also pointed out, we can sometimes be “blinded by the light” and become oblivious to the cracks or brokenness around us.

Such “cracks” are often dismissed or perhaps even provided a “quick fix” without any investment of time or consideration toward what is truly needed for restoration, repair or redemption.

But, the thing about cracks and light and darkness is … you CAN see the smallest amount of light through a crack (even if the LIGHT is being provided for some other purpose).

In this “SEASON OF LIGHT” — I pray that the windows to our hearts and souls are illuminated by not only the lights that are twinkling, sparkling and adding the “ooohs and aaahs” to our holidays … but that we also peer through the “pane” to see where we can be LIGHT not only during December, but throughout the whole year as well.

Merry Christmas.

O’ I Need Thee!

September 6, 2014

Independence and self-sufficiency mean a great deal to us … for the “us” who are created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27)

The desire to have independence, and then the assumed outcome of self-sufficiency are firmly rooted in the basic human condition called “pride.”
Pride … for all intents and purposes … is nothing more than a ploy of the enemy [Satan] to distract us from our need for God in our lives. Pride causes us to miss (and dismiss) the Hand of God working in our lives. Instead of PRAISING GOD and giving Him honor, pride causes us to “beat our own chest” and point our thumbs towards ourselves and proclaim, “Look what I’ve done! Look at me!”

This world and the “cultures and standards that WE’VE created” is “hell-bent” on everyone being SELF-SUFFICIENT. Those who are not feel ashamed … and quite frankly, are shamed by those of us standing in the wings witnessing their shortcomings.

Many years ago, as a young single mother of two young girls, I struggled in so many ways — financially, emotionally, spiritually and even logically. It was just an impossible and futile feat to ever “get ahead.” In every sense and means of desperation, I was LITERALLY doing everything I could to make money to take care of my children. At one point, I worked 4 jobs: I got up at 4 a.m. to go milk 150 dairy cows (my mother would get up to come stay with the girls while I did this); then I would rush home and shower/re-dress for work … take them to school and I worked for local government (for $5.00 per hour) from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.; then I would rush back to the dairy barn to do the evening milking. On two nights a week, I taught aerobics at my church charging $1.00 per participant. Then on a few other nights or weekends, I worked at a local pizza shop. I barely saw my girls and when I did, I was so worn out and hateful — I’m certain they wished I had one more job to do.
I could not keep this up even at a young age … and all the running about profited me nothing. I desperately wanted to “do better” and have a better life, but I felt like a complete failure because I just could not seem to keep it all together.
 I cried out to God for help but I don’t think I really expected Him to do anything. That idea that I was a failure caused me to think that God could surely have no use for, nor any desire to help someone who could not make ends meet in her own life. The Devil had plenty of agents around to confirm that thought process too.
 One incident is forever and firmly etched in my mind. It was the holiday season between November-December. Every financial responsibility I had was in arrears — I just did not make enough money to meet all the obligations that I had. I was sick with worry but too ashamed to talk to anyone about how desperately in need I was. I did pray, but again I did not really expect much to come from that.

I had been attending a new church for a couple of months and the girls and I were so happy to be there and be involved and accepted by this church family. It was the night of the Christmas program and in addition to a Christmas message, they had a fellowship afterwards where Santa came and gave all the children gift bags (orange/apple/candy/small gift). It was a joyous night! I was sitting in the fellowship hall, watching my girls open their gifts and everyone was having a good time … when a young man came up to me and handed me a white envelope, and said, “Jesus loves you.”
I opened the envelope to find money and a note that said, “Merry Christmas to you and your girls. Your utility bill has also been paid in full.” I was overwhelmed with this gesture and wanted to thank someone … Someone! There was enough in the envelope to pay my house insurance and house payment.
In addition to this gesture, a few days later, after a long-time friend had placed my children’s name on an Angel Tree at K-Mart, she delivered a box of gifts for me to put under our tree so the girls would have Christmas presents (for surely, I had not been able to buy one thing for them to that point).
I was completely blown away by God’s blessings on us. I sat the girls down and made sure that they knew what God had done and that we needed and wanted to give Him the praise … the credit for this great blessing. In their “child-like” minds/hearts, they agreed.

 Unfortunately, Satan was bound and determined to continue battle. My girls evidently shared the story of our dependency upon God, and how He had blessed us with their father during their holiday visit with him. Upon returning them to our home, he made sure to let me know that he knew “what a beggar” I was … didn’t understand why I “had no pride” and raised his kids like “white trash.”

All the joy I had experienced was defeated by his words … and that he had also shared his sentiments with the girls. My oldest daughter told me that he told her that “your mother only goes to church to get stuff.” My heart was shattered — it truly was. And I hated that he had that kind of impact or control over my emotions or thoughts toward myself.
The result turned out to be an even stronger resolve to be SELF-SUFFICIENT. I continued to try in my own strength … my own strategies and logic … my own energies and efforts to do everything I could to “not be so desperate” and need help from other people, the government, a church or any one. And I failed miserably … and I lived in guilt and shame because I just could not survive without some degree of assistance — no matter how many jobs I had. So, in addition to paid work … I volunteered (A LOT) with my girls’ school, with the church, with the YMCA, with local youth sports, at 4-H camp — whatever came up so my girls could also experience some good things and I could “redeem” myself for being “poor, white trash.”

I was again stretched so thin mentally, emotionally and spiritually … and all my “good works” and “good efforts” were like “filthy rags” because the one thing that I was able to hold on to was PRIDE!

Trust me when I say that this is nothing less than a “bound up, imprisoned, sad way” to exist. It’s not an abundant life in any way, shape or form. Neither the “circumstances of such a life” nor the “actions and events that made up that life” caused the bondage. This life of bondage … a captive in the enemy’s camp … was created and perpetuated completely by pride and self-sufficiency. It was a result of me choosing to believe the lies of the enemy rather than the Truth of God’s Word about me and to me.
It took me more than a decade … perhaps even two decades to “break free” and embrace that “God intends for me to be dependent upon Him.” It’s a Good and “GOD” thing. From “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, today’s devotional reiterates this Truth. And it’s not that God wants to “force” us to be dependent upon Him. He wants us to “choose” that path … He gives us the “freedom and free-will” to be “God-sufficient” rather than “self-sufficient” and thusly, experience the abundant and peaceful life that comes with “that” resolve.
My heart was broken [back then] that Satan stole our blessing of experiencing God’s presence and provision in that season. But in retrospect, I realize that the one who truly missed out, was the one who refused to even look to see God’s Hand at work … God’s loving provision and purpose in our lives.

 

Matthew Henry once said, “There is none as deaf as one who will not hear. None as blind as one who will not see.”

God’s Word tells us plainly in John 15:5,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”

And in Ephesians 6:10, Paul says,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.”

We should not let anyone or any circumstance EVER rob us of our total dependency upon God.

We need Him … OH HOW WE NEED HIM!  And He’s “good” with that!

The “WE” we’re created to be!

August 10, 2014

For the past days, my heart has been greatly unsettled. I woke up this morning … feeling the Lord tug at my heart to study, pray and work out these thoughts. This may take a minute!

Every day in this world there is plenty of “unrest” for which we should be broken and concerned. There is an overwhelming degree of daily diatribe, and acts of evil-doing — so much of it that perhaps we come to accept that we are powerless against it and/or we “adapt” to living amongst it. God forbid that we have become part of it … and yet, “the only way for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.”

I have been following the horrific situation that is taking place in Iraq. I find it frightening. We have been involved there far too long, fighting against what seems to be “evil-doing” … and with what seems to be futile efforts. Evil seems to prevail. This is not a “new situation” by any measure. These kinds of circumstances have taken place for all time. It’s just that without global media coverage, it was much easier to remove ourselves and dismiss any notion that we have some humanitarian responsibility in such situations.

As I said, there are plenty of situations in this world for which we should be broken and concerned — many just as horrific as what is taking place in Iraq.   Many of these atrocities are fostered out of politics, practices and passions that we can’t and don’t fully understand and it is so very difficult to “know” which side, or even if we should side, with which to associate. We don’t and can’t know everything … but we “think” we know evil and dysfunction when we see it.

Standing back, watching these folks in other parts of the world destroy one another, I question why they cannot come to some common ground. I can’t fathom how horrible it must be to try to function, raise a family, and simply survive with these daily doses of fear and fighting.

I wonder how we, “ ‘mericans” would bear up against such third world problems, especially when I see how we treat each other in our “first world” society. And then a thought came to me … in light of the dysfunction and divisions that we continue to foster or perpetuate through differences in politics, religion and economics … are we giving way for “evil to prevail” in our own culture? Will we one day submit to the oppression and practices of convert or be killed?

This may sound far-fetched in the greatest democracy on the face of the Earth … but in light of how we behave toward one another through one of the very foundations of democracy — free elections — I think we are in serious and dire danger of becoming exactly what we “say” we stand against.   Are you not a witness to this declination as well?

Recently, I was challenged with the perception that I become distraught when people do not think as I think or believe what I believe. I find this “perception” to be unsettling. I don’t want everyone to think just like me … I simply want them “to think”. I don’t expect everyone to “believe” as I believe … no more than I expect to believe or adhere to the same doctrines or dogma as another. I simply desire “respect” for such diversity.   But, alas, I believe that we are too hell-bent on enforcing the practice that “if thee and me cannot agree — then thee and me cannot be we!” This fosters isolation and division … and FEAR.

Evidently, it makes us all feel a lot more comfortable in our skin when we are “vanilla” in our groups rather than embracing the wonders and incredible awesomeness of the diversity in God’s Creation. It would seem that we feel a lot more comfortable when we are able to “control” situations and groups or individual people … so that diversity is limited rather than celebrated.

This need for control is ungodly by itself, but the means by which we try to implement control only comes from Satan — the enemy of God. Such means include intimidation, ridicule, insults, constant bickering, slandering, discrimination, and emotional and physical abuse or assault (even murder).

My heart is broken … and I’m tired of it being broken. I struggle almost daily with feelings of rejection, distrust and loneliness. You might notice that I work desperately to create situations where I won’t feel so lonely … only to experience the manifestations of distrust and rejection. If I guard my heart against rejection by distrusting people, I succumb to loneliness. If I seek out people who share a similar interest with me to lessen the distrust, then I open the door for rejection.   The desire to fit in and pursuit for community greatly impedes (and are impeded by) my innate passion to thrive as an individual, creative, liberated child of God.

Personally, I believe that what this all boils down to is that individuality should triumph over the need to “fit in” or belong to the whole. (The key point being, “NEED TO FIT IN.”) Certainly, no one wants to be ostracized, rejected or dismissed. While it might seem natural to have control, no one wants to feel “controlled” with their individuality being compromised. I believe strongly that we are “created for community,” but much like the “Body” was created with many different, diverse parts … so should be the community. We CAN be different and function more efficiently and effectively than if we are all exactly the same. I shudder at the thought of every person being exactly the same … cookie cutter, test-tube created, cloned and manufactured.

It is very frightening to me to know that there are people and factions in this world who want such control that everyone MUST BE EXACTLY THE SAME in their beliefs and behaviors. It is very frightening to me that we Americans … are letting ourselves become so distracted by our own pursuits of this “homogenizing” of our society, that we cannot see that we are contributing to the problem.

THINK LIKE ME!!! BE LIKE ME!!! ACT LIKE ME!!! DRESS LIKE ME!!! LOOK LIKE ME!!! BELIEVE LIKE ME!!! SPEAK LIKE ME!!! EAT LIKE ME!!! LOVE LIKE ME!!! SPEND LIKE ME!!! DO LIKE ME!!! VOTE LIKE ME!!!

I’ve seen diverse groups of people rise up and accomplish great things in situations like natural disasters or combat. We pull together to build barns, put out fires, stamp out cancer, and send shoeboxes of necessities and other gifts to children in third world countries. WHY … WHY do we let our diversity come between us and create such dysfunction in our daily lives and specifically the operations of our government, economy, and worship? Why do we divide ourselves into tribes and war against each other rather than recognize that WE TRULY NEED EACH OTHER and those incredible wide variety of thoughts, skills, gifts and talents to help us THRIVE as individuals and a community will only help us THRIVE AS THE HUMAN RACE! Without each individual … there can be no “WE.”

When I see those poor people in Iraq suffering, starving, fearing for their lives … chased and stranded on that mountain-top —

CONVERT or DIE! BE LIKE US or suffer the consequences!

If we are not there yet … is this where we are going? Do we really want to accept a world and mentality where CONFORMITY is deemed as UNITY and the only means of survival?

Who will be on that mountain-top when it comes to you and me? Who will be doing the chasing and wielding the weapons, inflicting the oppression and destroying the diversity and awesomeness of God’s Creation?

Will it be you? Will it be me? Will we stand together embracing the worth of each individual … or will we chase away anyone who is different … who does not think, speak, vote, act, eat, breathe, sing, dance, love, dress, work, worship, live like … you, or me … US?

Will WE find a way to unite in our diversity … or shall we continue into the oblivion of comfortable homogenization fostering [and fostered by] fear, oppression, and the destruction of the “WE” that we’re created to be?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74U4FCrsfjI

 

 

 

 

 

WORD!

August 3, 2014

Word!
I started reading today’s devotional from “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, and once again, it hit home … a needed salve on just the right day. Not all folks put stock in words, but as many who know me will attest, I am a wordsmith, and I do value words — spoken and written.

There is an old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

It’s a little ditty that children are taught to say when someone says something hurtful. But it is not true. Sticks and stones can indeed leave bruises and breaks, but generally those can and will heal. But the damage from ill-used words, or even the lack of use of a kind or necessary word batters and leaves scars that may never heal.
Some will say that actions speak louder than words. I agree that this perspective has merit. But some actions only serve to disguise or over compensate for a heart that is unwilling to be authentic and/or foster an environment that fosters more open communication, honesty and trust.
I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies, “Lonesome Dove”, when Captain Call is about to leave the ranch in Montana to carry Gus back to Texas. He is leaving his illegitimate son, Newt, in charge of the ranch. He’d promised Gus that he would tell Newt that he was his daddy. When the time came to do it, he could not get the words out. So he took action instead … he gave Newt his own father’s watch, and his horse.
Newt longed to hear the Captain say, “I’m your daddy.” The actions meant nothing to Newt … as it all remained very shallow and on the surface.

Words are important.

From today’s devotional, it reads, “This ability to verbalize is an awesome privilege, granted only to those I created in My image.” It is indeed a POWERFUL responsibility of which too many of us take for granted.
I tend to have a quick wit in conversation, and seemingly a way with the written word on occasion. I have found over the past 50 years that if I am not mindful of the impact of my words, or without prayerful consideration of the audience, the interpretation of my words can be misconstrued. Just the same, because we all have a “faulty grid” that we use to “sift” communication, words can unintentionally hurt or cause damage. AND THIS, may require more words … sincere and authentic … to help heal the wound and the relationship.

In Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages,” he explains that “words of affirmation” are one of the five love languages to which people respond. Others are: 1) Acts of Service, 2) Receiving Gifts, 3) Quality Time, and 4) Physical Touch. Many times we try to “love” others with “our own love language” when they are actually more prone to appreciate and respond in a different language.
Just like in the Lonesome Dove scene, Newt’s language seemed to be “words of affirmation.” He didn’t get much of that in his life as was portrayed in the movie. Gus seemed to understand that, where the Captain did not. Woodrow seemed to think the “gifts” sufficed for his lack of ability to “affirm Newt” with the words he needed to hear.

Perhaps because my language is “words of affirmation,” I struggle to understand how a “gift” or “act of service” or “physical touch” or even “quality time” cannot be accompanied by a soothing, affirming word when the intent is to express love. I mean, what good is a gift or physical touch, if you never hear, “I love you.” But just same, what good is, “I love you,” and there is never any tangible means of proof such as taking out the garbage or going for a Sunday drive through the mountains together. On the contrary, words seasoned with sarcasm, bitterness or diatribe greatly overshadow and demean any gift or attempt at service or physical touch. Such only serves to confuse the languages altogether.

Bottom line is … WORDS are necessary and vital to healthy relationships. So many problems in our lives, our families, our workplaces, our communities, our country and our world could be solved with us just being mindful and diligent of the awesome privilege and responsibility of communication.

 

{Discover your love language:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/}

 

I AM — My Father’s Child

June 15, 2014

One obstacle, or pothole, that I have come upon A LOT in my spiritual journey involves TRUST and  understanding the concept of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God offers. I was never even introduced to the terminology of “unconditional love” until I was about 32 years old. It came from a song I sang in church titled, “Unconditional Love.”

“Unconditional love. Lord, I never thought I’d find, unconditional love.

Through both good and troubled times.

You knew me way back when, still you take me as I am.

And you always give to me, unconditional love.”      

I knew only enough then to think that it was an elusive dream … perhaps not even for me given my life’s experiences of rejection and “conditions” for acceptance or tolerance. Understanding the love of “God the Father” was beyond what I could grasp because I had no positive earthly reference for the concept of “unconditional” love.

Spiritual mentors would encourage me to “trust” people. And I so wanted to be able to do that … but it never proved effective. It made me feel even more “defective.” I would ask God, “What’s wrong me? When other people can be and experience unconditional love (or just everyday love) … what’s wrong with me?”

I tried all kinds of ways to “earn” or prove myself “lovable” and “acceptable” to no avail. I could not give enough or be enough for love to last. When I withdrew and built up defensive walls around my heart, I only felt lonelier and certainly not protected.   I convinced myself I was more “merely tolerated” than truly loved … and for most of my spiritual journey as a “saved” Christian — I figured I was just lucky to be around “good Christian folk.” It was the best that I could expect.

Then, about the age of 40, I came upon a new and different concept (which I had never heard of) — spiritual warfare. God’s enemy, Satan, goes to great extents to make sure that we don’t “get it.” Worst of all, he often uses people we are supposed to be able to trust with our hearts, minds, lives, as his agents to keep us from knowing and understanding just how great the Father’s love is for us!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYV7hpD9JTI&feature=kp

It’s too much to expect earthly fathers and others to be able to love to this extent. Many fail in their trying. And we must recognize those honorable efforts. They are special men. Perhaps those who don’t even try were never exposed to the concept of “unconditional love” themselves, thus perpetuating generational damage. Don’t you know … Satan loves that — he’s been successful.

As a matter of fact, if you look at our world today … it’s a world desperate for “unconditional love” — and all we are hearing from each other are … conditions.

“I will love you if you think, behave, speak, and look like me.”

Millions of people have no idea what unconditional love is or what it would look like or how it would feel. Hearts long for it … but each and every one of us is prone to settle for second best, or quick fixes. That is until we’ve had enough hurt, pain, disappointed and disillusionment … and we harden our hearts, build up those walls and resort to only surface, or worse … virtual relationships.

The Lord and I have had numerous conversations about this matter. He brings me back to a few other words in the song I sang …

            “I’ve spent most of my life, just trying to fit in.

            I was wanting to be like everyone else, but losing myself.

            Finding out that people would tend to let me down … “

People do let us down. We let each other down. We’re fallible, broken, imperfect, mostly selfish, self-centered, frightened people. WE CAN’T BE GOD … we can’t be omnipotent, omniscient, and certainly we don’t have the capacity to be “unconditional” in our feelings or affections toward each other.

I don’t like it but I can accept it as it is relative to “people-ness.” But, it’s a bit hard to swallow when it comes to family and those with whom we declare to have loving relationships.

I once told a male acquaintance who was worried and struggling with choices that his 15-year old daughter was making, that I thought the most effective and valuable tool that a young girl should/could have in her life is a HERO DADDY who loved her unconditionally. She needs a daddy who defends and protects her … who demonstrates to her how a man should care for a woman by loving and respecting her mother, and demonstrates a godly work ethic at home and in the marketplace and a daddy that appreciates creativity, critical thinking and that she knows will help her find out who she is, and reach her dreams. That’s a daddy anyone could be proud of and would call a HERO. I told him, while she might (most likely will) make some bad choices, they won’t be near as devastating if she’s not trying to fill a void where an earthly father never was and if she knows he loves her “unconditionally.”

But alas, no one is perfect and  we ‘lose ourselves” in the quest to fill voids that earthly relationships were truly NEVER MEANT TO FULFILL.

And that’s what the Lord says to me.

            “Let Me be enough. Let Me be your All in All.”

            “Stop settling for and trying to obtain second best … and LET ME BE GOD!”

Another part of that song says that I’ve been so busy trying to “make life as it should be” that I’ve “put Him on a shelf.” No truer words have ever been lived or sung!

This is Father’s Day and generally it’s never been a good day for me. For many years, I’ve “tried” to go through the motions of making contact with my earthly father, buying a card with some mushy words that have no tangible meaning in our circumstances. I have longed for years for something “real” … and certainly something “unconditional,” only to have my heart broken again.

At best, our relationship is all pretense … and I believe that satisfies him.

But, I don’t believe that My Father, God, accepts “pretense.” Matter of fact, I know and have experienced the elation of an “authentic and transparent” relationship with Him. I know it “can be” — it can exist.  That’s why when I cry out and ask Him, “What’s wrong with me?” I can trust and accept His admonishing response,

“I have loved you with an everlasting love…” (Jeremiah 31:3)

My heart also hears Him saying to stop seeking the approval of men regardless of who it is.

 “Seek first the kingdom of God and His Righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33

I hear Him telling my heart that I AM enough … I AM all you need, if you will only accept and “rest” in that Truth.

As much as I sometimes tend to wallow in the self-pity brought on my loneliness, rejection, and distrust, and basically chasing ideals that seems elusive in earthly terms, I am reminded that no one longs for unconditional love more than God, my Heavenly Father.

I’m reminded of the sacrifices He made to demonstrate His Great Love toward me and all other humankind …. Only to be mocked, dismissed and rejected over and over throughout all time … Only to hear those same words, “I will love you if you think, speak, behave and look like me.”

And then I think … not “what’s wrong with me?” But, “Who Am I?”

I AM my Father’s Child … I AM loved unconditionally!

Happy Father’s Day … to all … but especially to my Heavenly Father.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU_rTX23V7Q

In the PITS: Me vs. Self-Pity

February 23, 2014

Some people call it a “Pity Party” … I’ve rarely heard it called a PIT but from Miriam-Webster’s definition, a “pit” is more befitting.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pit

From a devotional that I recently read, (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) … she admonishes to “be on guard against the pit of self-pity.”  She suggests that when one is weary or unwell, this can be a demonic trap that indeed poses a dangerous edge that will easily crumble and cause one to fall deep into the pit.

And from experience, I know … we should all know … that it is very difficult to get out of a pit.  Much harder than simply keeping a safe distance from that edge.

AND YET … each of us is prone to visit that edge … to have moments of self-pity … as we have all fell into that trap at one time or another.

It is true that out of weariness, frustration and sometimes moments of desperation, our “critical-thinking skills” and our “discernment” are often compromised.  I’m not for certain that it has been this way for all time, but I know in my lifetime, “quick-fixes” are standard operating procedure for most human beings.  We are an impatient lot!  We want what we want when we want it and we are not good at waiting or investing for the long-haul.  So, in our “people-ness” — we strategize/connive/manipulate to make a way in our own power and limited understanding.  This rarely works out for me!  Nor does my time in the pit of self-pity profit much.

But from Merriam-Websters list of phrases to define a pit a hole, shaft or cavity … a scooped out place used for burning something … an area often sunken or depressed … a place or situation of futility, misery, degradation … a natural hollow in the surface of the body … a minute depression … an area along a racecourse used for refueling/repairing — there are “some” means for pits that could prove useful (as long as one recognizes that and does not stay too long in the pits).

For example, an “area along a racecourse used for refueling/repairing,” is a necessity in a long race (which life should be).   Sometimes, that is exactly what happens when I’m in a “self-pity pit.”  Like a race car driver, I don’t want to stay there too long or else I WILL get behind in the race.  Obviously, in this instance, one knows why they are in the pits, and the idea is to quickly get out and back on the track to finish the race. 

Another good use for a pit is the “scooped out place for burning something.”  I have a little pit in my backyard that I use for small bonfires and roasting marshmallows/wieners from time to time.  We do throw some garbage into the fire (such as paper/some wrappers or such).  However, I try not to put anything toxic on the fire because that can cause other problems.  Just the same, with a self-pity pit … burning things that are toxic might remove them from sight, but can also emit toxicity to the atmosphere and cause problems to others and to oneself … later on.  These are generally shallow pits, but still warrant caution when near them … so the fire doesn’t spread, toxic items are not burned or simply melted down into something else, or you don’t get too close to the flame.

That a pit can be a “natural hollow in the surface of a body, or a minute depression,” confirms to me that it is part of our “make-up” to have those moments of feeling sorry for ourselves when things are not going our way.  Even the most “godly” cannot escape this bent in the human perspective.  So, we should each understand when a friend or loved one is “in the pits” … and do what we can to help them get out. 

But it is the other phrase defined as an “area often sunken or depressed … a place or situation of futility, misery, degradation” that poses “grave” dangers. “WALLOWING” in such a pit of self-pity is of no use, and we can get trapped or even “buried” there.  It is suffocating.  It is debilitating. And while in that place we can look up and see “Light” … it simply seems elusive and out of reach.  In fact, the pit seems to get deeper and deeper regardless of what’s being said from those standing at the edge trying to “encourage” you out of the pit.

So yes, Sarah Young is correct.  One does need to guard herself from the pit of self-pity.  Self-pity can become a “strong-hold” that binds up the ability to think clearly and process logic and life in a positive way.  The Apostle Paul strongly urges to “take thoughts captive to bring them into the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5), but he didn’t say it was easy, and from other writings we know he also struggled with edging toward the pit.

I have spent a good majority of my life “busy-ing” myself so that I don’t dwell on matters that lead me to the “edge of self-pity.”   Most days, I can be on guard … most days, I can take those thoughts captive.  But “some days” — I am weary … and I am frustrated … and I slip into those moments of desperation.  Thus, I am vulnerable to those “fiery darts” of the enemy and the passions and creativity of my own “people-ness.”  Next thing I know … I’m in the pits.

So … how does one turn a deep pit into a place for “refueling and repairing?”  The first step and most effective and efficient step that comes to my mind is from Philippians 4:8:

 “… whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”

Now just prior to this passage in Philippians 4: 6-7, Paul writes,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Reading this causes me to pause … and ponder … about what exactly causes me to be “anxious,” and knowing that on many, many occasions I have “made my requests known to God.”   Matter of fact, the Lord and I have discussed it on numerousoccasions.  Yes … I do experience moments of peace … and yet, this same source for anxiety rears its ugly head again and then again … and there I am dealing with this “beast” that keeps causing great angst.

Seems far too cyclical to me.

But I reckon I’m not alone in this “consternation.”  For even the Apostle Paul was plagued with a “thorn in the flesh” and he said that he pleaded with the Lord three (3) times to remove it, to which the Lord replied,

“My Grace is sufficient for you, for My Strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Paul obviously worked his way out of that pit and finds resolution as he tells us,

“Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

However, there is another story from the Bible that intrigues me about weaknesses, strengths and pits.  It is an obscure, brief mention of a fellow named Benaiah in 1 Chronicles 11:22.   He was one of David’s “mighty men.”  His brief mention in this account is that he “had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day.”  Mark Batterson wrote a whole book on this minute detail pulled from King David’s story. (In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day)

He chased the lion into a pit … and killed the lion therein.  When reading this book, my first question was “why?”  Was he simple or “off” in some way?  Were he and the lion being chased by something else?  Obviously, he came out of the pit because after this and other adventurous shenanigans, King David appointed him over his “guard.”

Could it be … that Benaiah had grown weary of the anxiety that the “lion” was causing … that he threw logic and caution to the wind, chased that beast for the sole purpose of “dealing with it” once and for all? 

Could it be that in order to truly become a “guard” of one’s own heart … you have to be willing to run into the pit with whatever causes you to feel weak/weary/frustrated/afraid/desperate … and like Paul indicated, in dealing with “the lion” you become strong?

Maybe … it’s not a “self-pity pit” as a “noun” in the definition, but rather more of an action verb where one is “pitted against” the beasts that threaten and hinder us from the promise of peace that is beyond the understanding of our human perspective. 

A pit … a battle … for peace.  Yes, I get it and I’m coming out ALIVE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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